Hincapie Skin Defense
Considering that the cycling world is selling sun exposure as part of bike riding's appeal, it is surprising that there hasn't been more of an effort by said world to sell sunscreen. The ski world is tiny compared to cycling and skiiers have much less exposure, but sunscreen and lip balm are standard goods at ski shops. Bikedom either takes our participants to be sensible when it comes to skin protection, or just hasn't made much of an effort.
We're leaning strongly to the latter. It's another item to jam the shelves, another thing to worry about, another distributor to go through. Besides, people can buy sunscreen at the pharmacy, supermarket, ski shop, and sporting goods store they already visit, and probably already have several half-empty bottles of the lotion at home. The cycling retailer probably thinks she has other things to worry about. No doubt a small part of keeping the cycling world away from sunscreen is that sunscreen brands don't advertise in cycling mags. Out of sight is out of mind, in racing and in consuming.
Straightaway, we give credit to Hincapie Sports for selling sunscreen. It strikes us as a smart move, introducing a product that is common, but not to bike shops. And their main spokesman, Glamorous George himself, looks great bronzed and is a reputed master of the seamless tan, an impressive trick when most high-mileage types are charred from bicep to wrist, lower quad to ankle, and around the helmet straps but pale just about everywhere else.
Hincapie Sports saw that bike shops weren't selling sun protection, and thus, an opportunity. Rich Hincapie told us, "We realized that most bike shops don't carry a line of sunscreen. Further, most of the sunscreens on the market these days are not providing adequate protection. This is an opportunity for us to give the shops a superior sunscreen that they can sell. It also gives us a Hincapie Sportswear product that can transcend cycling. It is a Hincapie product we can sell in running stores, outdoor stores and general sporting good stores." And with George a highly visible rider with a fairly unique name, they've got a great platform for selling sunscreen. They also saw opportunity when a friend started a sunscreen company. That company is Luca, is located near Hincapie in South Carolina, a company that also needs a way to break into a marketplace that has big companies specializing in screen products jamming the shelves, and those bigs have been gaining new competitors from the cosmetics world for the past few years. Banging heads with Coppertone and Neutrogena looks like dangerous business for a startup.
Fighting for attention and shelf space against space-hogging and big ad budgeting behemoths is hard, but convincing cyclists they should screen up might be harder. Like too many cyclists, we haven't been big sunscreen consumers, despite our high-mileage lifestyle. We like to excuse this behavior on the fact we don't burn easily, and maybe we need all the vitamin D we can get. In the winter, our arms and legs show summer tan lines, despite being covered for months. Once spring rolls around, we only need a few days of one-hour rides for us to start a base that seems to protect us from sunburn for the rest of the season. Still, we've found ourselves playing with protective lotions, as we're afraid of looking like a leather handbag by the time we're fifty. Leathery is not a look we're ready to embrace.
At the same time, we're don't like most sunscreens. The usual complaints. The greasy residue some leave. The thickness of others; some super-high SPFs seem difficult to rub in (on?) and seem to leave a chalky substance on our skin. Maybe it's the titanium in the stuff? We don't like to stuff our travel bag with yet another item. One of our compromises has been using a more-or-less normal skin moisturizer that has SPF 15 sunscreen mixed in by the manufacturer. While not as protective as we probably should be using, the cream goes on easily and doesn't seem to leave a chalky residue or us feeling greasy. It does seem to attract some dirt, which we think is pretty pro.
Another issue for many users is the chemical formulation of sunscreen. We've seen adverse reactions on others. We're lucky here, too, as we've never had a problem with any screening product giving us a rash.
Those that show a lot of skin under the helmet are probably better about sunscreen then us. A roasted scalp can't be any fun. We asked one of America's best clean-headed cyclists, Chris Horner, for advice. He keeps it amazingly simple, "SPF 30 is all I use. Apply just before my ride and go. Have to build up a bit of a tan first by easing into the season wearing caps."
We had been playing with a small sample size of Hincapie Skin Defense, SPF 30, before we got the full-size four-ounce bottle. We had a deep wound that was healing and we didn't want it to become too obvious by turning much darker than the surrounding skin. We used our SPF moisturizer on much of our exposed skin and saved HSD for the scar. It went on lighter than many creams and was easy to rub in. Skin Defense seemed to do a pretty good job of minimizing discoloration.
We've wondered, as many have, why not go with a higher SPF rating? Interestingly, the answer shows that even SPF 15 is very good at blocking UVB rays, blocking 94%. SPF 30 blocks 97%, though 30 is often recommended for four hour ventures in the sun. Luca claims that by going over 30, the levels of active ingredients have to increase, thus increasing the chance that the lotion will lead to skin irritation. For all the worry about UVB, It's UVA rays that turn your skin to rough leather. "Critical Wavelength" is how UVA protection is measured by Luca and some others. HSD is really hanging their hat on how they do at critical wavelength; theirs is rated at a wavelength of 372nm, over the 370nm line, which the FDA says is where a lotion has to be to prevent serious UVA damage. Since we'd rather not turn out leathery for another forty years, we're liking the idea of critical wavelength protection. At the same time, the concept doesn't seem to have much traction with other sunscreen makers. Wikipeida claims PPD, IPD, Boots ranking, and Star ranking are means of measuring protection from UVA rays. Hincapie is either an outlier or ahead of the curve with UVA or both.
Hincapie Skin Defense, regardless of size, comes in a finger-pump spray bottle. The for sale size is four ounces. The sunscreen is a water-based liquid that doesn't need a propellant; the pump should make things more efficient. While some people spray directly onto their skin, we found it easier to spray the liquid onto our palms and then rub it in. The reason being that the spray has a pretty wide range and we seemed to get the liquid on our clothes and on the floor in addition to our arms and legs. Still, the pump is better than a squeeze tube as we're the type that can never get the quantity squeezed out just right.
In a practical sense, it's probably smarter to spray onto your skin and over-do it a bit to ensure total coverage. We recently heard a segment of National Public Radio's syndicated Fresh Air program where the guest, a dermatologist suggests most people don't apply nearly enough sunscreen before going out. Since we rarely burn, the short-term penalty of missing some spots is rarely obvious. But we stuck with spraying onto our palms, especially when applying to our face, both to keep it out of our eyes and to possibly assure more even application.
HSD isn't greasy. It feels like a moisturizer, a thin moisturizer, going on. And just like the stuff we've been using, a leg covered in HSD attracts road dirt in a very pro way. While the lotion comes in a liquid form, the chemical substance that does the screening is encapsulated in a kind of synthetic beeswax, so it stays on top of the skin. This application is supposed to be more uniform than other lotions, though again, experiencing the results is hard. It seemed to take us four to seven pumps to cover the exposed skin with HSD on a single leg. Probably wasn't enough. And then another four or so per arm, also probably not enough. It felt like we were using lots, but shaking the bottle, it seems we weren't. Then again, our region has had rain almost daily for the past three weeks. Lots of overcast days—it certainly doesn't feel like we've been roasting our skin.
Essential features of any sport sunscreen is being sweatproof and water-resistant. While we didn't notice the lotion coming off with sweat, the only way to know for sure is to get burned or have a contrast of not getting burned. We didn't experience that. Another issue with sport sunscreen is the length of effectiveness per application. HSD is, according to Luca, effective for up to five hours. We haven't done too many five-hour plus rides. Interestingly, the maker of Luca, Dr. Karl Gruber (Luca is his son; children seem to experience more allergic reactions to sunscreen), recommends reapplying every two to three hours, "because most people do not apply enough (half) of what they should in the first place."
We're sure most people don't apply enough. This strikes us as an opportunity we're surprised Hincapie didn't capitalize on. The four-ounce bottles they sell, at six inches tall and 1 3/4 inches in diameter, are too big to shove in a jersey pocket. Their sample bottle, at four inches tall and about an inch in diameter, is handy for a pocket. It would be great if they sold a second bottle for riding, not that we've actually carried sunscreen in a jersey pocket yet.
After several weeks with Hincapie Skin Defense lotion, we're pretty happy with it. It seems to do as advertised, though we're not the sort that has had trouble with either burning or irritation. We're the kind that won't notice until it's too late to make a difference. It should make us particularly conscientious. Maybe writing this review will do what years and sun exposure, and exhortations have failed to accomplish.