I’m a huge sun protection advocate – always seeking out new hats, clothing and sunscreens to protect myself from sun damage. I always look for UPF 50+, which blocks 97.5% of the sun’s harmful rays. For comparison, a white t-shirt is only UPF 7; once it’s wet, the UPF is only 3.
Did you know that even on cloudy days up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays still penetrate the clouds?1
In addition to having sun protection while hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, or scuba diving, it’s important to think about the cumulative effects of sun from driving or just walking around.
Did you know there is a scientific study in the U.S. showing more brown aging spots and wrinkles on the left side of the face as a result of the sun exposure through the car window? Alternatively, those who live in countries with right side drivers’ seats have more damage on the right side of their faces.
Sadly, sun protection didn’t become a priority of mine until I was 21. Despite my fair skin, blue eyes and auburn hair, I mistakenly believed that I would someday activate the melanin in my skin since both my parents have darker skin. I laid in the sun for hours lathering myself, not with SPF, but with various oils.
A very bad idea as this only resulted in blistering, peeling burns – at least 50. I even went to tanning beds to try and get a golden color prior to homecoming and prom. This poor judgment has resulted in 20+ mole removals (fortunately all non-cancerous), sun spots, and freckles galore.
Boy, I wish I’d heeded the advice of my dermatologist early on. It was previously stated that 80% of sun damage occurs by age 18. However, it’s actually only 23% of lifetime sun damage by age 18. Therefore, taking precautions against the sun, no matter what your age, is worthwhile.
My 9 Travel Essentials to Protect You From the Sun
My favorite travel hats
Wallaroo hats – I love these fashionable, lightweight, packable hats rated UPF 50+. I always have one with me when walking around – they scrunch down to fit in even the smallest purses.
My favorite is the “Scrunchie” with a 4” wire edge, adjustable brim (I have this hat in grey and blue).
I also have the “Breton” hat in red, but use it less often since it has only a 3” brim.
All are hand washable. And, they have an internal drawstring to secure them.
TIP: If I’m in heavy wind or on a boat, I prefer a smaller hat with a chin-strap to make sure it doesn’t fly away.
My favorite travel clothing items
Athleta Pacifica UPF Top – This long sleeve, breathable, wicking UPF 50+ top is great for all outdoor pursuits – running, kayaking, surfing, swimming and hiking.
While Athleta also sells this top in a short sleeve version, I prefer long sleeves to maximize protection. My one tiny complaint is the neck is slightly lower cut, leaving your neck and a small part of your chest exposed.
TIP: This is a fitted rash-guard, so keep that in mind when selecting your size.
After only six months of commuting 1-2 hours/day in the Bay Area, my dermatologist noted greater sun damage on my hands and left arm and recommended these. The glass in our cars only filters UVB rays (which tan or burn our skin.) UVA rays (which age our skin) penetrate through the glass.
TIP: If driving with a sleeveless dress, these are a great protection combination.
UV Buff – These multipurpose UPF protectors (available in a variety of designs and patterns) transform for a variety of uses – headband, hat, or a face/neck protector against sun/wind/snow. I’ve used it running, hiking and kayaking. On particularly cold days in Antarctica, I pulled it up over my head so that it covered my neck, ears and sides of my face.
TIP: Make sure you purchase one noted as “UV Buff” as not all the Buffs offer UV protection.
My go to sunscreens
Given my fair complexion, I wear sunscreen religiously everyday. To maximize protection, I apply 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every 90 minutes, more often if swimming or sweating. Despite my sensitive skin, I’ve found the sunscreens below don’t clog my pores.
TIP: Look for Broad Spectrum protection and make sure to check expiration dates as sunscreens typically expire and lose effectiveness.
Eye sunscreen – Shiseido Sun Protection Eye Cream SPF 34 (Octinoxate 2.9%, Octocrylene 3.0%, and Zinc Oxide 10.6% ). Given the delicate nature of the skin around our eyes, I have been using this eye sunscreen for 15+ years. I feel it’s made a significant difference in minimizing the fine lines around my eyes. This is specially formulated so that it can be used around your eyes without irritation and is recommended by the Skin Cancer foundation.
Face sunscreen – Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen Broad Spectrum 60+ (Zinc Oxide 21.6%). Recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation. I buy the 3oz so that I can carry it with me in my carry-on liquids bag. It’s hypoallergenic and won’t clog your pores.
Body sunscreen – Coppertone Water BABIES Pure and Simple 50 Sunscreen Lotion 8oz (Octinoxate 7.5%, Octisalate 5%, Zinc Oxide 14.5%). Recommended by the Skin Cancer foundation.
TIP: To cover your full body, you should apply 1 oz – a shot glass full.
Protect your eyes from the sun and reflections from water and snow
Maui Jim Stingray Polarized Sunglasses – I’ve had my wraparound pair for 10+ years and they are still going strong. Although the polarized lenses don’t add sun protection, I love that they cut glare on the water when kayaking/boating. That means you’ll squint less, hopefully resulting in fewer wrinkles! Recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Please note that none of the recommendations given in this post should be deemed medical advice. These are merely recommendations for what I have found to be effective and useful for me. For specific questions regarding sun protection, please consult a medical professional.
1. “Sunscreens.” Date Unknown. Staff writer, American Academy of Dermatology
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