Do Men Need Their Own Sunscreen?

Even though men’s skin is thicker and tends to be oilier, “sunscreens provide comparable protection for men and women if applied properly,” says Steven Q. Wang, M.D., director of dermatological surgery and dermatology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Basking Ridge, NJ, and author of Beating Melanoma: A Five-Step Survival Guide. 

That’s a big “if,” especially with men, and here’s why: According to Dr. Wang, “Men do not heed the warnings from medical professionals, and they are less compliant in applying sunscreens or wearing protective clothing.” When we do use sunscreen, most of us only apply 25 to 50 percent of the recommended amount, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. It’s important to use the equivalent of one to two ounces, or a shot glass full. (If you use SPF 30 but don’t apply enough, you actually get the effects of an SPF 10.) Don’t forget the ears, the back of the neck and the tops of your feet. Reapply every two hours at the beach, after you get out of the water, or if you are sweating.

Not applying sunscreen properly, if at all, may help explain why men have a higher rate of skin cancer than women. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, approximately 39,000 new melanoma cases occur in men each year in the United States, compared with 29,000 in women. Men also have higher rates of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, the less serious forms of skin cancer, than women do.

This summer the FDA is putting into place new rules that will force sunscreen manufacturers to provide clearer labeling that helps consumers cut through confusion to get the protection they need. For example, to claim “broad-spectrum” protection, sunscreens must now protect against both UVA and UVB rays. For broad-spectrum, look for zinc oxide or titanium dioxide listed as active ingredients. Steer clear of octinoxate, oxybenzone, homosalate and octisalate. The first three are potential hormone disruptors–oxybenzone can lower testosterone levels and cause allergic reactions–and octisalate has been linked to dry, itchy skin. “Waterproof” and “sweatproof” claims are now banned because they are misleading and untrue. And only sunscreens with SPF 15 or higher can claim to prevent sunburn and reduce the risks of skin cancer and premature aging.


Here are our suggestions for great green sunscreens that any man will love:

John Masters Suncare SPF 30 Natural Mineral Sunscreen $32, johnmasters.comZinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the active ingredients, and the rich organic aloe and shea butter soothe the skin.Bonus point: We love the handsome brown bottle.
Block Island Organics Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30+ $34, blockislandorganics.comThis offers mineral-based protection, moisturizing coconut oil and a bracing whiffof grapefruit.Bonus point: Packaging is 100% biodegradable.
Lavanila SPF 30 Body Cream $38, lavanila.comDespite a high percentage of zinc oxide protection (20 percent) this leaves no pasty-whitish cast to the skin. An antioxidant infusion of green tea extract and shea butter protect and moisturize.Bonus point: A subtly astringent cool scent from the cucumber extract.