Protecting Your Skin on Outdoor Adventures: The How and the Why

When you are young, that sun-kissed look is desirable—you might be tempt­ed to bare all with­out con­sid­er­ing sun­screen, hats, and shade. The trou­ble comes in your ear­ly 30s when you start notic­ing your very first wrin­kles and age spots. Even more wor­ri­some, you may even devel­op non-malig­nant can­cers such as basal cell car­ci­no­ma that, while not life threat­en­ing, typ­i­cal­ly have to be removed so that they don’t destroy your healthy skin tis­sue. That said, tak­ing care of your skin now rather than hav­ing to repair dam­age lat­er is the best alter­na­tive. Read on for more info.

How Much is Too Much?
You may have heard that some expo­sure to the sun is healthy for your body because it aids in the pro­duc­tion of vit­a­min D which improves your immune sys­tem and may pro­tect you from severe dis­eases such as heart dis­ease and osteo­poro­sis. But how long should you stay in the rays? Depend­ing upon your skin tone, 20–40 min­utes of sun expo­sure will typ­i­cal­ly pro­duce a ben­e­fi­cial amount of vit­a­min D. How­ev­er, if your skin tone is very dark, you may need to stay in the sun for much longer peri­ods of time to reap the rewards. The best rule of thumb is to only stay out long enough to tan but not burn. If you start get­ting pink, it’s time to put on sun­screen or get into shade.

Ditch­ing Harm­ful Chemicals
You may be reluc­tant to wear sun­screen because many brands con­tain harm­ful or skin irri­tat­ing chem­i­cals. If so, there are oth­er ways to pro­tect your­self. Wear a wide brimmed hat, sun­glass­es, and light­weight cotton/poly blends for cloth­ing. Make sure that your chest, ears, backs of your arms and legs are cov­ered since these areas are high­ly sen­si­tive to the sun and are often for­got­ten when we apply sun­screen or out­door attire.

There are also sev­er­al brands of sun­screen on the mar­ket that use zinc oxide as an active ingre­di­ent and ditch the harm­ful chem­i­cals. Look for these brands just keep in mind that you may have to apply them more fre­quent­ly than your typ­i­cal sunscreens.

Skin Food
Believe it or not, stud­ies have shown that there are cer­tain foods you can eat that will con­tin­u­ous­ly pro­tect your skin from sun dam­age. So, if you are off on out­door adven­tures reg­u­lar­ly, it might be worth adding these foods to your diet. They include:

  • toma­toes
  • car­rots
  • kale
  • sweet pota­toes
  • water­mel­on
  • apples, straw­ber­ries, oranges, and kiwi
  • sun­flower seeds and almonds
  • dark choco­late

High-Alti­tudes and the Sun 
Stud­ies show that for every 1,000 feet of ele­va­tion gain, UV rays increase 10%-20%. As such, your skin is much more vul­ner­a­ble if you are play­ing in the moun­tains, par­tic­u­lar­ly if you are above 10,000 feet. Make sure to wear sun­screen, cov­er hyper-vul­ner­a­ble areas such as your eyes, lips, and neck and remem­ber that sun reflect­ed off of snow is every bit as dan­ger­ous as direct sunlight.