Summer is a wonderful season filled with lots of fun in the sun – weekend parties, barbecues and gatherings of all kinds. But what if your job requires you to spend several hours outside each and every day?
Our ranch is located in the heat and humidity of Texas, and our days are filled with outside chores such as working cattle or repairing fences, gardening or mowing pastures. Sun protection is important, but I shy away from using sunblock whenever possible. Why?
Although sunblock is marketed as safe and effective, I just don’t know how I feel about slathering chemicals on my skin several times each and every day. Sunblock has its place in my skin-protection arsenal, but today I’m sharing seven easy ways I’m able to protect my skin from the sun’s harmful rays without resorting to sunblock.
Time of Day is Important
The sun is at its most intense level and UV is at its strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If I have a choice, I plan my outside activities around those times. Our workload doesn’t always allow us to pick and choose when we start and stop our tasks but we always keep this in mind if we have any flexibility at all.
Because we’re not held to a rigid 9-5 workday, we typically try to complete the bulk of our outside chores before 10 a.m. When the sun starts getting high in the sky we come inside during the heat of the day to perform our inside chores such as house cleaning, financial planning, cattle record maintenance, etc.
Sometime after 4 p.m. we’re back outside to finish up the mowing, fencing or cattle working and can often work until it begins getting dark before finally coming inside for the day. I’ve leaned that the shorter your shadow underneath you, the stronger the UV rays can be. So it’s best to be outside when your shadow is longer than you are tall.
Shade is Your Friend
Not only will the shade help cool you from the intensity of the sun’s heat, it will help protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun as well. Because I can’t spend the day under a nice cool shade tree, I found a way to take that shade with me while I work!
We purchased a rigid canopy that attaches to our tractor’s ROPS. Not only does that canopy protect me from the sun’s harsh rays, but it cuts the glare and also helps keep me cooler as I work.
We chose this one from Sun Guard because the canopy is very quickly and easily removed for times when we’re working around trees but reattaches in minutes for those times when we’re mowing pastures or doing anything else tractor worthy. When I must be on the tractor mowing pastures, I’m very thankful that I have that shade!
Cover Arms and Legs
Even though the summer months are hot and humid in Texas, when RancherMan (my husband) mows the yard, he wears heavy jeans and a lightweight long-sleeve shirt. He’s mentioned that, although he was initially very hesitant to wear a long-sleeve shirt while mowing, he was actually cooler than he would have been otherwise because that hot sun was not shining directly upon his skin.
I’ve learned that the darker the material and the tighter the weave, the more protection from the sun is received. But for us, it’s a balance between protection from the sun and protection from the heat (which can also be a danger in Texas) when we’re making decisions on desired fabric for a specific outdoor task.
But it’s good to remember: When possible, wear the tightest-weave fabric you can. The more light you can see through the fabric, the less sun protection you receive.
Cover Your Face
A wide-brimmed hat that shades your face and ears (and ideally the back of your neck as well) is a smart move when you are in the garden or mowing the yard.
I have a lightweight straw hat that’s my favorite for quick garden chores and such, but keep in mind, just like the tighter-weave rule for clothing, the tighter the weave in the hat’s fabric the more sun protection you receive. If you’ll be out in the sun for a longer duration of time, a wide-brimmed hat made of a tighter-weave polyester or even heavy cotton might be a good choice.
Gloves Serve Double Duty
I typically wear gloves when doing outside chores. Of course, if we’re repairing fences I’ll wear heavy leather gloves, but most of the time I like to wear lightweight garden gloves with special fingertips to allow me to operate my smart phone without removing the gloves.
Wearing gloves not only helps me grip things more securely and protect my hands from barbed wire or sharp garden trellis edges, but they also shield the skin on my hands from the sun.
Your Eyes Need TLC, Too
I’d never really given this much thought before, but according to the American Cancer Society, the sun can be harmful to your eyes as well. My eyes have always been pretty sensitive to strong light, so I typically wear sunglasses anyway, but I’m doubly sure to be wearing them now.
When I’m buying, I always shop for wrap-around sunglasses that have UV protection. I found some lightweight sunglasses in the fishing department of a local discount store that had all the features I was looking for, and as a bonus they cost very little!
Advancements in Protective Clothing
While shopping at a sporting goods store recently, I discovered a shirt made of an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) 30 material to help protect your skin from the sun. Touted primarily as a fishing shirt, it’s made of with vented cape back and also vented above the front pockets to allow the heat to escape from around your body while still protecting your skin from the sun’s rays.
I was quite enamored with this concept and immediately purchased one to try — I’m thinking this may be the best of both worlds — covering the skin and still staying cooler! Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s care recommendations to assure you have a good product for years to come.
Although there are still times when a good sunblock is appropriate, these seven skin-protection tips get me through most days of our work outdoors.
Tammy Taylor lives and works on a Northeast Texas ranch, where she writes about home cooking, gardening, food preservation, and DIY living on her ~Texas Homesteader~ blog. Connect with Tammy on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.
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