Landon Donovan, David Beckham and, of course, the soon-to-be Bachelor, Juan Pablo - soccer players have the sleek physique we love to look at. But one thing all that hard work in the sun is doing (besides giving them chiseled abs)? Wrecking their skin. So Donovan, one of the top pro players for the LA Galaxy, teamed up with The Skin Cancer Foundation to help spread the word and prevent the red (Seriously, his pose to the right is cute, but we prefer less color). After years of sweating on the field all day without protection, one close-to-home diagnosis became a critical wake-up call. Find out what it is, and how he suggests getting the special guy in your life to slather on the sunscreen without being a nag.
Tell us a little bit about why you got involved with this initiative. A few years back, my dad developed skin cancer. That was a little bit of a wake-up call for me, considering being out in the sun is something I do every day. When it all happened, my girlfriend at the time asked me bluntly, “You wear sunscreen every day, right?” And I hadn’t been. My whole life I had been outside playing in the sun and I had neglected something so important. So after my dad's diagnosis, I became someone on the team who wore sunscreen regularly. There are a lot of people who are not educated and if we can help even just a few, it’s worth it.
Recent statistics say that 70 percent of men don't know what skin cancer signs to look for, and half don't wear sunscreen. Why do you think that is? It’s a macho thing, an unaware thing. I don’t think people fully understand the dangers. It’s one thing if you go out once a week and you’re in a little bit of sunshine. But for me and many of the people I know, we’re out in the sun playing soccer every day, and it’s constant. It only takes a couple minutes to apply sunscreen and it can save your life.
Do the numbers surprise you? On the surface, it’s a surprising number. But when I think about people I know and guys I play with, it’s not all that surprising. I think for the most part it’s an ignorance thing where people don’t really understand the danger involved. And for some people, I don’t know if it’s a lazy thing, or if they just really don't think anything can happen to them. Like, "Oh, I don’t need it, I’m not going to be outside that long." It’s a lack of action, so bringing up awareness will hopefully move them so that next time they go outside, maybe they’ll spend two minutes and put sunscreen on.
As a soccer player, you have to be out on the field a lot. What's your sunscreen regimen? I put sunscreen on about a half hour before I go out. For people that sweat a lot, it’s necessary to find sunscreen that is water resistant because if you put it on too late, it’s dripping in your eyes and that doesn’t feel good. If I'm not going to be outside for a long time, then I at least put on a hat and sunglasses and make sure I’m covered so that I’m not exposing myself directly.
Do you have a favorite brand you find works really well while you're out being active? I’m pretty easy as far as that stuff goes, so as long as it doesn’t go in my eyes, I'm good. I prefer the spray, but it’s easier to get the lotion in the locker room. The spray is nice because you don’t get it on your hand and it’s not greasy. I don’t want it to be greasy.
How can women help the men in their lives get more educated about skin safety? Continue to push it so that they understand. I don’t know, by nature, men are just not as concerned or aware. Women are a lot more nurturing, I think, and want to take care of people, and understand inherently the dangers involved. So use that and make them be informed. I know it can be difficult, but I think being really blunt and letting them know that you care about them and you don’t want to see something bad happen to them would work. There are plenty of stories about people who get skin cancer and it goes undetected and you can die from it. If men can see that that’s a real possibility, it might get them to stop and think about it. Just continue to nag them because in the end, that part doesn’t matter. Saving their life does.
To get a little more sunscreen 411, we checked in with Joshua Zeichner, M.D., spokesperson for The Skin Cancer Foundation.
More skin-saving advice:
How soon should you apply sunscreen before heading outdoors? Landon mentioned applies a half-hour before - Is there a time period you should wait so that you’re getting full protection once you step outside? The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends applying sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside, so the sunscreen has time to bind to the skin. Reapplication is just as important as putting it on in the first place, so remember to reapply the same amount (about the size of a golf ball) every two hours, or immediately after swimming or sweating.
What are some great recommended active sport sunscreens, and why do you recommend them? We like to get sweaty! For those who are active and spending an extended amount of time outdoors, a broad spectrum sunscreen - which covers UVA/UVB - with SPF 30 or higher is preferable. Any product holding the SCF's Active Seal of Recommendation meets the specific criteria for safe and effective sun protection during extended outdoor activity, so keep an eye out for that. Banana Boat’s Sport Performance sunscreens all have the seal, so those are great.
Any other quick sun safety tips to remember? Sunscreen is just one part of a complete sun protection regimen, especially for people who spend a lot of time outdoors. Remember to seek shade between 10am and 4pm, and cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.