How to - The Healthy Gardener

Summer suncare

Protect your skin while digging in your garden with these expert tips

In order to optimize protection for your hands, face and head, Dr. Evans suggests gardeners pay particular attention to photo protection, avoiding midday sun between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. If this doesn’t work for your schedule, she suggests wearing a hat, particularly one that has a built-in SPF with a rim big enough to shade the ears—but this doesn’t mean you can skip the sunscreen! Sunlight is reflected very effectively off light-coloured and shiny surfaces (like grass and water), meaning your face is still exposed. Secondly, remember that sunscreen SPF numbers are not additive, meaning if you use a moisturizer or foundation with an SPF of 15 and then use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15, you still have only a 15 level of protection, not a 30. To maintain the protection level, re-application about every 90 minutes is best.

If you think sunscreen isn’t necessary on cloudy days, think again. The sun’s rays will penetrate clouds, and can burn you. Finally, be sure that your sunscreen protects against both UVB and UVA rays. SPF only measures protection against UVB rays, not UVA. While UVA rays cause less burning, they are responsible for much of the damage that leads to premature aging and have been linked to melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. With a tendency to spend prolonged and repeated periods of time in the sun, it’s crucial for gardeners to protect themselves from both types of UV rays.

On occasion, even when you’ve been thorough with your sunscreen application, a burn is sometimes unavoidable. If so, there is no need to panic. Dr. Evans prescribes the following approach: If there is no medical contraindication, take two aspirin every four hours for the first 24 hours. The aspirin may help to limit the severity of the burn, and may have the side benefit of making you a little less uncomfortable. After 24 hours, they are not helpful in improving the burn itself. Cool compresses and aloe vera can be soothing, and if you have minor swelling, an antihistamine may do the trick. Avoid additional sun exposure and if more serious signs develop, like shaking chills, fever, dizziness, or nausea and vomiting, you should seek medical attention.

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