There are plenty of reasons to rip on Mark Zuckerberg — from his reluctance to remove hate speech from Facebook to his $100 million Kauai estate that has locals accusing him of colonizing the island. But the ample coat of sunscreen he wore while riding a $12,000 electric surfboard over the weekend isn’t one of them. In fact — beyond the social network that made him the billionaire he is today — that thick layer of SPF on his smarmy face may have been the best idea he’s ever had.
“Zuckerberg wearing sunscreen sets a good example, but the amount that he used and the mockery that ensued may actually serve as a detriment to men trying to do the right thing,” physician Harris Cohen tells me.
Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, is almost twice as common in men compared to women, and it’s the most common type of cancer for men 49 and under. Despite the fact that regular use of sunscreen can reduce the risk of developing skin cancer by up to 50 percent, when it comes to the sun, guys just hate using protection. Less that 15 percent of men actually wear it, according to the CDC, with some believing that their facial hair will protect them. (Unfortunately, dudes can’t grow a protective beard around their wrinkled foreheads and sun damaged eyes.)
Other guys believe their skin is stronger than women’s and less susceptible to sun damage. “As a result, they’re more hesitant to use sunscreen,” dermatologist Jeffrey Fromowitz explains. “Some also view sunscreen to be in the same category as a moisturizer, and therefore, feminine.”
New York City-based dermatologist Adarsh Vijay Mudgil attributes men’s sunscreen problem to their broader struggle with implementing self-care and grooming rituals in general. “Even getting guys to wash their faces twice a day can be a challenge,” Mudgil says. “Men like to keep their routines as simple as possible. But let me tell you, there’s nothing more important than wearing sunscreen daily when it comes to skin health.”
As for the amount Zuckerberg seemingly pasted onto this face, water-resistant sunblock — not to be confused with waterproof, which does not exist — needs to be reapplied about every 40 minutes. So his crusty mask of UV protection, though ridiculous-looking, makes a bit more sense. “For surfing, it’s best to cake it on so it stays on,” Mudgil recommends. “Something viscous and hearty is the best bet, like what Zuckerberg did.” After all, Mudgil adds, “He’s a fair-skinned guy at high risk.”
Fromowitz agrees that “most individuals tend to under-apply sunscreen and get a sun-protective value far lower than they expect based on the product they’re using.” Based on that now infamous photo, he speculates that Zuckerberg likely used a mineral-based sunscreen. “A thicker coating will increase the SPF factor, lengthen the duration of protection and be more resistant to wearing off in the water,” Fromowitz explains.
That said, if you’re just going outside for your everyday quarantine errands, exercise or a little fresh air, such a coating may be a bit excessive. “For daily use, a thin coat that blends into the skin is just fine,” Mudgil says. Specifically, a sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 and which contains titanium or zinc is key. “It should go on every morning, rain or shine, 365 days a year,” Mudgil continues.
So while Zuckerberg might be a clown, looking like one while spending the day surfing is never a bad thing.