Summer Sun Protection

The sum­mer months are made for being out­doors. It’s the sea­son for swim­ming, hik­ing, climb­ing, pad­dling, exploring—and sun­burns. Do you know how to pro­tect your­self dur­ing the long days outside?

Most of us are used to being told to wear sun­screen when we’re in the sun, but it’s extra impor­tant when we’re trav­el­ing in the moun­tains and near water. Here’s why: the sur­faces we often trav­el on, like ice, snow and water, have a unique­ly high albe­do. Albedo—which is the Latin word for “whiteness”—is a new term for most peo­ple. But the con­cept is sim­ple: it’s the amount of light that a sur­face reflects. A sur­face with a high albe­do (like snow or water) will reflect the major­i­ty of the radi­a­tion that hits it, where a sur­face with a low albe­do (like dirt or dark con­crete) will reflect only a small per­cent­age of the radi­a­tion that hits it.

Here are some sim­ple ways to make sure you’re pro­tect­ed while you’re out­side this summer:

  • Apply sun­screen before you’re in the sun. Sun­screen takes 20 min­utes to absorb into your skin, and stud­ies have shown that it’s much less effec­tive if it isn’t applied well before you’re exposed to the sun.
  • Look for lip balm with SPF 30+ and use it reli­gious­ly. Most expe­ri­enced out­doors­men car­ry an extra tube of lip balm on long hikes, just to be safe.
  • In addi­tion to a tube of sun­screen lotion, con­sid­er also bring­ing a sun­screen stick. Expe­ri­enced guides swear by them, because they fit in a pants pock­et, they’re easy to re-apply while you’re walk­ing, and they don’t get sticky if you start to sweat.
  • Invest in good sun­glass­es. Believe it or not, your eyes can suc­cumb to sun­burn, too. It’s called pho­tok­er­ati­tis, and it’s not fun. But it’s easy to pre­vent: look for wrap-around sun­glass­es that fit well, stay on your face, and offer 100% UV protection.
  • Cov­er up! Wear long sleeves, and look for cloth­ing with built-in SPF pro­tec­tion. Even when you’re in the water, it can be smart to wear a syn­thet­ic long sleeve shirt. Bring a wide-brimmed hat and a buff or ban­dana to cov­er any exposed skin.
  • Don’t for­get that fur­ry friends can get sun­burned, too! Dogs can get sun­burned any­where they’re not cov­ered in fur—eyes, noses, ears. Find a shady spot for Fido when the sun is high­est in the sky.
  • If you’re out on the water, don’t con­fuse being cool in the water with stay­ing safe from the sun. Make sure you apply an appro­pri­ate amount of water­proof sun­screen before tak­ing a dip.