High-Performance Sunblock by Z Blok

This sunblock protects against UVA and UVB rays, but better yet, it doesn't sting your eyes. "Gear Up" from our August 27, 2009, /SW eNewsletter/

While Z Blok didn't exactly ace our ease of application test, the sunblock passed our doesn't-sting-your-eyes test with flying colors.

While Z Blok didn't exactly ace our ease of application test, the sunblock passed our doesn't-sting-your-eyes test with flying colors.Www.zbloksun.com

With any sort of protective product-be it sunscreen, seatbelts, or anything in between-effectiveness depends greatly on using it in the first place. A phenomenally safe seatbelt that chafes your neck or forces you into an uncomfortable driving position-and therefore doesn't get worn-is much less effective than a less protective but more comfortable belt that you wear all the time.

With sunscreen, there are two key usability factors. Firstly, how easy is it to apply? Second, how comfortable is it to wear?
I'll be honest; there are sunscreens that are so annoying to apply-maybe they don't rub in easily, or they leave your hands covered in an oily film or sticky residue-that I think twice about using them. And, if the sunscreen runs into and burns your eyes when you sweat, well that can just about ruin your day.

Over the past few months, I've tested Z Blok sunblock a number of times. It's rated as SPF 30 and, according to the website, protects against both UVA and UVB rays. The latter give you that bright red glow that says to all your co-workers, "I know I called in sick yesterday, but really I was at the beach, suckers!" But the former can actually be more harmful in the long run. Here's an excerpt on UVA rays from the Wikipedia entry on Ultraviolet light.

"In the past, UVA was considered less harmful, but today it is known that it can contribute to skin cancer via indirect DNA damage (free radicals and reactive oxygen species). It penetrates deeply, but it does not cause sunburn…Because it does not cause reddening of the skin (erythema), it cannot be measured in SPF testing. There is no good clinical measurement for blockage of UVA radiation, but it is important that sunscreen block both UVA and UVB. Some scientists blame the absence of UVA filters in sunscreens for the higher melanoma-risk that was found for sunscreen users."

OK, I'm sold. But again, the best sunblock won't do a thing for you sitting in the tube.

On the ease of application, I give Z Blok a C. It isn't that easy to rub in, especially if you happen to have a little hair on your arms and legs. It takes a little work, and even then you're likely to have a few white patches-one of the active ingredients is Zinc Oxide.
As for the comfort factor, it gets an A. I've worn Z Blok in all conditions-lastly during the Ida Lewis Distance Race-and have yet to have any stinging or other vision-related issues.

Whenever possible, I go with as much cloth-based sun protection as I can. However, that still leaves some exposed skin-especially in warm weather-and hats tend to blow off, especially when you're trimming the jib. In those instances, Z Blok has proven to be a very effective insurance policy. A 4-ounce tube runs around $15.