Where are you traveling this summer? The beach, the mountains, or maybe a weekend at the lake? Whether your summer travel plans take you on a winding journey up the California coast, or deep into the forests and lakes of the upper midwest, sun safety should be as important as planning your itinerary.
It is well known that exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer, eye problems, weaken your immune system, and give you unsightly skin spots and wrinkles. So what can we do about it? How do we enjoy our summer travels and spend time outside without damaging our skin or risking getting cancer? Here are some tips for staying safe in the sun this summer.
Even on a cloudy day sun damage can occur with as little as 15 minutes of unprotected exposure. One way to avoid sun damage is to cover your exposed skin with a generous layer of sunscreen. Follow these simple tips to get the most protection from your sunscreen.
Apply early and re-apply often.
Sunscreen needs time to absorb into your skin. Apply it at least 15 minutes before sun exposure and then re-apply every 90 minutes to 2 hours. One of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to sunscreen is putting it on the morning and thinking they will be protected all day. Sunscreen is not a magic potion! It will eventually lose its effectiveness and when you find yourself three hours into six-hour hike around Yellowstone National Park without a way to re-apply your sunscreen, chances are good your skin will not be happy at the end of the day.
Don’t be skimpy with it!
The correct amount of sunscreen for an average size adult to cover their arms, legs, neck, and face is about one ounce (a shot glass full). Skimping on screen will make it less effective so don’t be shy when applying!
Choose the right sunscreen.
Have you ever stood in front of one of those giant cardboard displays of sunscreen at the pharmacy and felt completely overwhelmed? You are not alone. Choosing a sunscreen can be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be! The simplest way to choose a sunscreen is by considering how you will be using it.
Will you be paddling around the lake or participating in an activity that causes sweat? Go for the water-resistant sunscreen. Planning to spend a prolonged period of time outside? Choose a sunscreen with a higher SPF (but don’t forget to re-apply). Do you have young kids or sensitive skin? There are many sunscreens on the market these days made with natural ingredients that are safer for both our bodies and the environment.
In short, choose a sunscreen that meets your needs, apply it early, apply it often, and make sure to cover all exposed skin.
Wear Sun Protective Clothing
The rise in popularity of sun protective clothing is a game changer for lovers of the outdoors. Yes, sunscreen is effective when applied properly, but do you know what’s even better? Not exposing your skin to the sun at all! You might be wondering what sun protective clothing is and how it differs from simply throwing on a long sleeve shirt when the sun feels hot.
Sun protective clothing – also known as UV-protective clothing – are clothing items specifically designed with sun safety in mind. Constructed from lightweight, synthetic materials and sometimes treated with a UV-inhibiting ingredient, these are clothes that have been designed for maximum sun protection.
When choosing sun protective clothing there are a few factors to keep in mind:
Seek Out Shade & Avoid the Hottest Time of the Day
Avoiding the sun altogether is, of course, the easiest way to practice sun safety. However, for most people who don’t live in a cave this is nearly impossible. And for RVers who often travel with the specific goal of getting outside and enjoying nature, it’s even more difficult. But…with a little strategic planning it is possible to plan your outdoor adventures with sun safety in mind.
Schedule your outdoor activities to avoid those times of day when the sun is at its hottest. Generally, between noon and 4 pm are when the sun’s rays are the highest in the sky and can cause the most damage. If you want to be outside during those times, find a nice shady spot under a tree, set up a sun umbrella, or hang out under your RV awning. Also, don’t forget that UV rays filter through clouds, so it is just as important to practice sun safety on cloudy days.
Practice Sun Safety While Driving
This tip is especially important for RVers. For some reason, there is a common myth that you can’t get sun damage while in the vehicle. This is NOT true. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, while vehicle windshields are “partially treated to filter out UVA, the side windows let in about 63 percent of the sun’s UVA radiation.” That means a four-hour road trip on a sunny day is more than half as dangerous for your skin as spending those same four hours out in the sun. So while it might feel like you are protected from the sun in a vehicle, the reality is that it’s just as important to apply sunscreen and cover up vulnerable areas while in the car (or RV) as it is while outside.
Be Mindful of Higher Elevations
For those of us who reside at or near sea level (which includes nearly everyone who lives in the east or middle of the country) the idea that we need to be more vigilant about sun safety while traveling around areas at higher elevations can catch us off guard. Some estimates suggest that there is a 6 to 10 percent increase in UV exposure for every thousand feet of elevation. That means if you are out adventuring in Prescott, Arizona, which is about 5,400 feet above sea level, the UV exposure is roughly 30 percent higher than at sea level. And if you spend your summer hiking or biking around the mountains of Colorado around 9,000 feet above sea level, the UV exposure jumps to nearly 42 percent more exposure! In short, when visiting higher elevations, sun safety is critical, and your risk of sun damage increases the higher up you go.
Hydrate & Fuel Your Body for Sun Safety
Finally, while not as immediately critical as all the ways you can protect your skin from the outside, there are ways to increase sun safety from the inside. First, if you plan to spend the day outside, drink plenty of water. Keeping your body well hydrated will not decrease your risk of sunburn, but it will a help increase the overall health of your skin.
Second, did you know that certain foods can help increase the body’s ability to protect from the sun? According to Dr. Patricia Farris, a dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, who is quoted in an article on CNN.com, “There are definitely foods that we eat that can boost our ability to protect our skin from the sun.” While consuming these foods should never be considered an alternative to sun-protective clothing or sunscreen, adding them to your diet can have healthy benefits all around.
In general, look for foods high in antioxidants like vitamin C and Vitamin E to help decrease sunburn and neutralize the free radicals that generate from the sun’s UV rays and cause skin damage. Additionally, foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as walnuts, flaxseeds, and salmon, all deliver anti-inflammatory benefits to skin, which in turn help mitigate the development of sunburn and may even decrease the risk for skin cancer.
Amanda and her husband, Tim, have been living, traveling, and adventuring from a renovated 1998 Airstream since 2012. As life-long outdoor enthusiasts, their full-time RV lifestyle fosters their love of hiking, biking & kayaking, while allowing them to explore new places. You can read more about their adventures at:
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