I just returned from a fabulous 3 weeks touring the hot and humid Southern Mediterranean and had to be pretty creative about keeping the sun off my skin. As a 50 something, fair skinned dermatologist I know that even a few weeks of sun exposure is going to really age my skin at this point in my life.
My wonderful vacation included touring ancient ruins on treeless hillsides, with the sun beating down from a cloudless sky and reflecting up off marble walls. It was humid and there was often only a slight breeze to dry the sweat. I was also on a cruise ship where the ‘culture’ is all about sun bathing. This meant that I had to improvise. Happily, I was able to totally enjoy myself, and I’ve returned with no tan line and only a faint darkening in my freckles (age spots). Here’s the tricks I used:
- I always applied sunscreen with 5% micro zinc oxide to of my skin that was not covered by a hat or clothing. I reapplied it for swimming and at mid day.
- I wore a hat almost all the time when outdoors. I have crush-able hats which pack easily and they took good care of me on this trip.
- I covered as much of my skin as possible with clothing. I kept cool by using light colored, long sleeved linen shirts. I washed Sun Guard into them for sun protection since light colored linen would normally not provide great sun protection. (I explain how to do this in a previous post on making your own sun protective clothing). I wore thicker, but loose and breezy linen or cotton pants and below-the-knee skirts.
- I wore a rashguard shirt and swim tights over my swim suit if I was going to swim for more than a few minutes.
- I used a light weight travel umbrella in cities like Rome where there is often enough shade from tall buildings. I’d pop open the umbrella when I couldn’t avoid the sun. This allowed me to skip the long sleeves and hat, and just rely on sunscreen, the umbrella and shade from buildings.
- I’d always aim to be in the shade. I’d stand under trees, in the shade of buildings, use deck chairs that were in the shade, ride ferries on shaded areas of their outer decks-anything to be out of the direct sun.
Boy it was hot in the Southern Mediterranean! But, in spite of my hats and clothing, I don’t think I was any hotter than the other tourists who were wearing sleeveless shirts, shorts and bathing suits in the direct sun. A lot of people were bringing sun damaged skin home as a vacation souvenir, and they could have avoided it with just a little creative sun protection. Sun screen’s not enough. You have to physically keep the sun rays from hitting your skin by using shade, clothing, hats, and umbrellas. Mix and match these tricks to suit your activities and the climate-and don’t bring sun damage home as your vacation souvenir.
What sun protection tricks have you found helpful? I’d love to add your experiences to my own, please send me your stories.
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