Did you know that the majority of people diagnosed with skin cancer melanoma are white men over the age of 50? Think skin cancer and skin damage are a necessary occupational hazard of the pro or avid golfer? You’re half-right, in that exposure to the sun is compulsory if you want to get out on the golf course and compete — or even if you just want to play the occasional weekend game.
Still, exposure to the sun doesn’t mean unmitigated exposure to its most dangerous rays. Dr. Seth Kates and Dr. Michael Kaminer, both dermatologists as well as avid golfers, told GolfDigest.com that they have reason to believe golfers are much more likely than the average American citizen to get some form of skin cancer at some point in their lives. But this doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to reverse damage and protect yourself in the future.
1. Wear the right kind of sunscreen
First of all, you should always keep sun protection in your golf bag, so you’re never caught without defense. You should apply and periodically reapply sunscreen all over your face, ears, neck, arms, and anywhere clothing doesn’t cover. No sunscreen can protect against every UV ray, but wearing one that says “full-spectrum” on the label is a good selection for protection. This type of sunscreen protects against more rays than traditional formulas.
Choose an SPF of 30 or higher for the best coverage. It’s also a great idea to choose a “sports” formula, which is formulated to be water-resistant (no sunscreen is truly waterproof), and won’t run into your eyes and sting them when you start to sweat out on the course.
2. Choose fabrics that have SPF power
All clothes have up to a certain degree of SPF (sun protection factor) just by nature of providing a physical barrier between you and the sun. Clothes with a tighter weave let fewer rays in, while a looser weave, like a sweater, lets more in. However, some clothes now have a boosted UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) in addition to their inherent physical barrier, in the form of “UV-filtering dyes and other additives.”
3. Choose an early or late tee time
The sun’s harmful rays are at their most intense between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Try for a sunrise start or a late afternoon tee time to avoid the most dangerous kind of exposure.
4. Always wear a hat
Sporty golf hats are not just for looks, or keeping the glare out of your eyes, or even to show your brand sponsor. A standard visor or baseball-style cap can do an effective job of protecting your forehead and nose. Try a wide, 360-degree brim for more coverage of your ears and neck — common targets for dangerous melanomas.
5. Wear protective sunglasses
Did you know that even your eyes are susceptible to dangerous sun damage? Choose a pair that says it protects both UVA and UVB rays on the label. Wear them even when conditions are cloudy, as some UV rays travel right through cloud cover.
6. Use protective lip balm
Yes, even your lips are a target for the sun’s harmful rays. It’s not a great idea to put standard sunscreen on your lips, however, since you don’t want to accidentally ingest it. Instead, choose one of the many over-the-counter lip balms that contain SPF 15 or higher. Bonus: you will also avoid chapped lips from weather conditions.
7. Be a shade-worshipper
Gone are the days when we can innocently luxuriate in the sun unprotected. You have the information about how dangerous going in the sun without protection can be, so you can make an informed decision about your sun habits. There is inevitable sun exposure on just about every golf course, but there is also shade available on most holes as well. Standing around waiting for everyone in your party to shoot? Don’t turn your face to the sun and try to catch a tan. Instead, seek out the shade of a tree, structure, golf umbrella or just the roof of your golf cart.
— C. Pedroja