Summer Skin Care

By Jessica Graham

My friend grabbed his hat before we ventured outside. I’m used to seeing him without a hat, so this was a little different routine. I must have had a confused look on my face, because he began to explain a meeting he had with his physician, warning him of his increased risk of skin cancer. You see as active sportsmen, we are passionate about the outdoors, and expose ourselves to much more time outside than the average person. As a result, we are reaping the effects of the exposure to the sun: skin risks and skin cancers. As with most health concerns, they are much easier and cost effective to prevent rather than treat skin conditions. Here are some tips to keep you safe and healthy this summer.

Head Protection
As my friend was recently advised, wearing a hat can make a big difference in protecting our head and face from ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Additionally, as we age some of us are finding out our hair is not as thick as it once was. Once the protection from hair is removed, we do not have as much defense. Wearing a hat can shade your head and offer that needed protection. Some people keep “boonie” style hats around. The wide brims offer more protection to the ears and back of the neck than a traditional baseball cap.

Eye Protection
This is the area where I personally fall short. I am the arch nemesis of sunglasses. I break them, lose them, and abuse them. When doing summer tree stand maintenance, I dislike putting them on and taking them off all the time. However, as an avid deer hunter, my eyes are my most important tool. We need to protect our eyes from damage from the sun. When our eyes are exposed to too much ultraviolet rays, we can develop a temporary painful condition called Photokeratitis. This is when the UV rays basically burn our eyes, kind of like a sunburn. Not only are we at risk during the summer months, but also in the winter, when the sun reflects off the snow and ice. For this reason, hunters, trappers, fishermen, and snowmobilers particularly need to be conscientious about wearing eye protection. Long-term issues correlated to sun exposure on the eyes include cataracts and eye cancer.

UV resistant Clothing
The fishing world, in particular, is helping fishermen, boaters, and kayakers prevent skin damage while out on the water with UV Protectant (UPF) clothing. The clothing is designed to be lightweight, breathable, so we can wear it during hot summer weather when the sun is intense. You will notice a lot of these items are made from polyester. Polyester and nylon disrupt the UV rays and offer more protection from the sun than natural fibers, like cotton. They also tend to be lighter weight and wick moisture away from the skin making them more comfortable to wear in the summer months. You can sometimes find the UV protectant (UVP) rating on the clothing tags. The higher the UVP rating, the more protection from UV rays. For instance, clothing with UVP rating of 15 will allow 1/15 of UV rays through the clothing to the skin. For this reason, you want the highest number (smallest fraction) for protection. Clothing with UPF ratings of 50 and above offer the most defense for the skin.

You’ve heard this from your mom over and over, “Put on your sunscreen”. This may seem like the most obvious way to protect your skin from the sun. Wearing sunscreen does not constitute spending unlimited time in the sunshine. Sunscreen wears off, is rendered ineffective after a certain amount of time, and still does not prevent 100% of all UV rays from reaching our skin. Use your sunscreen responsibly by wearing a high SPF sunscreen with broad-spectrum control, and wearing water-resistant sunscreen when you are going to be in or around water.

UV Makeup
Not everyone wears makeup outdoors, but newer technologies are being incorporated into facial products to aid in protection from the sun. Today, you can find foundations, moisturizers, and concealers with SPF technology used to keep your face protected. The SPF technology also is supposed to help reduce skin damage to the face.

Insect Repellent
Lastly, it is important to utilize some sort of insect repellent while you are outside. Not only are insect bits annoyingly itchy and/or painful, but they can make us feel ill and even spread disease. You should take proactive measures when it comes to repelling mosquitoes, spiders, wasps, and ticks. You can select from natural repellents, such as tea tree oil and other essential oils, or you can leverage artificial repellents, such as such as Sawyer Products or SC Johnson products to keep you protected. Additionally, there are permethrin infused clothing products that bind permethrin to the fibers rather than to the skin.

Whatever activity takes you outside this summer, be sure to protect your skin. Preventative care is easier than reactive treatment once damaged. By wearing sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, UV protective clothing, bug repellent and sunscreen, you can safely enjoy your time outside.