To zinc or not to zinc?

Risk Matters - Spring 2020

Picture of Karen Ong

Karen Ong

Spot Screen Clinical Director

Spot Screen is one of LGIS' health services partners. Karen is a nurse clinician with qualifications in oncology, primary skin cancer medicine, and demoscopy.

When it comes to sun protection things are a little more complicated than SLIP, SLOP, SLAP, SLIDE, SEEK for outdoor workers.

Outdoor workers have unique challenges in managing their skin protection due to their daily sun exposure. For this reason, it is recommended workers use clear zinc on the face.

In fact, there are four main reasons workers should be encouraged to use zinc.

1. Work environment

Outdoor workers won’t tend to wear any product that sweats off into the eyes or mouth, so often, the compliance rate is poor. Zinc based products tend to remain in place, particularly on the ears or nose.

Additionally, zinc is a mechanical block rather than a chemical block and acts like an umbrella on the skin.

Many outdoor workers have extensive sun damage to the nose, ears and lips, so this would be the best product for protecting those areas.

2. Gender and age

Statistically outdoor workers are most likely to be older men who, generally speaking, are more familiar with zinc products and less trustful of sunscreens. They prefer products, which aren’t obvious and do not leave a white film or feel too greasy.

3. Ease of use

Zinc sticks are small, easy to re-apply and fit in pockets.

Bottled sunscreens are often left in cars to spoil.

4. Likelihood of compliance.

Anecdotally, the Spot Screen team have noticed that when they return to work sites for annual screenings there’s an increase in nose and lip protection when zinc-based sunscreens were available.

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