While the sunny days are fantastic, and the extra Vitamin D is great, it can’t be ignored that the sun takes its toll on our skin.  With longer days and warmer weather, we’re outdoors more, increasing our exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.  The easiest ways to protect your skin are to cover up and wear sunscreen.

Simple, right?  Well, almost.  Unfortunately, not all cover-ups and sunscreens are equal.  The optimal choice for covering up is clothing treated with UV protection.  This type of clothing has a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating from 0 – 50+.  The higher the number, the more protection you get (1).  An easy way to determine the protective value of your clothing is to hold it up to the light.  If you can see light through it, then the sun’s rays can get through it.  The tighter the weave of the fabric, the more protection you get (2).

All sunscreens are required to have an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating on the package.  The higher the rating, the more protection the product provides.  However, sunscreens are created differently.  Some are “mineral containing,” and have zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as ingredients.  These products reflect the UV rays and provide very long-lasting protection.  They do not need to be re-applied as frequently but can be greasy and difficult to wash off.  The other type is chemical-based and actually absorbs the sun’s UV rays.  These are easy to wash off, and must be re-applied more often to be the most effective (2).

So, my skin is protected: What else do I need to do?  Drink lots of water.  Warm weather and a more active lifestyle can lead to dehydration.  How much water should is enough?  A basic guideline is to take your body weight (in pounds) and divide it by 2.  This is the number of ounces of water that you should be drinking each day.  Divide that number by 8 to get the number 8-ounce glasses of water you should drink (3).

Also, although the mountains and wildflowers are gorgeous, the sun’s rays are more intense at higher altitudes.  Cover up, slather on the sunscreen, carry a water bottle and enjoy the sun!