Ditch the Sunhat: Sun Protection Tips You Probably Haven’t Heard Of


Hold up, don’t report me to the Melanoma Society just yet. You probably shouldn’t actually ditch your sun hat.

But if you’re like me and have never been able to get into wearing hats while gardening, here are two odd things I do to get a bit more protection than the average “slather self in greasy sunblock” strategy most of us use. After all, sunblock lotion doesn’t really stay put all that well in the part of your hair or the crinkly parts of your ears, now does it?

Commence weird tips:

Eat more tomatoes, blueberries, and pink flamingoes

FlamingoesNew research has been coming out every day showing the beneficial effects of antioxidants, vitamin D, and omega-3 fats in protecting your skin from the negative effects of the sun. These nutrients can actually keep you from getting a sunburn by protecting your skin from damage at the cellular level.

Astaxanthin is one such nutrient. It’s an antioxidant found in algae, shrimp, salmon, and animals that eat a lot of those things (mmmm… flamingoes). You can buy supplements of astaxanthin to provide protection if you’re in the sun a LOT (like me), or you can just eat more of these foods for some extra insurance.

Lycopene from tomatoes has also been found to be helpful. Participants in one study ate three tablespoons of tomato paste per day (that’s 16 mg of lycopene) and saw a huge drop in sunburns. Mark’s Daily Apple has some great info here about which foods help the most.

It’s not totally proven and standardized, so I wouldn’t rely on nutrition and supplements as your sole protection, but it seems like a smart backup plan for those days you forget the sunblock or miss a strip on a delicate patch of skin.

Powdered mineral sunblock

peter thomas roth sunblock powderThis stuff is insanely cool. It’s a sunblock, so it blocks all the different kinds of rays, and it’s powder, so it’s non-greasy and settles into the oddly-shaped parts of our ears and face easily.

Here’s how it works: there’s a little tube of powder with an applicator brush attached. You take off the cap, dab the brush wherever you want to apply sunblock (you dab with varying degrees of vigor to get a lighter or heavier application), then you pull the bottom of the tube down to suck the bristles back into the body of the tube, so you can put the cap back on easily.

It sounds messy and weird, but it actually works brilliantly. This is some seriously good design innovation.

If I’m going to be out all day in the sun, I’ll apply sunblock lotion to create a sticky base for the powder, then dab powder anywhere that’s particularly sensitive (snoot, ears, etc.) so that I have a double layer of protection. For gardening just a couple of hours, I’ll use the powder by itself on my most burn-prone spots and call it good.

This is the only sunblock I can get my manly other half to wear, since it’s unscented and doesn’t leave a yucky greasy layer on his skin. If you’re a lady, you’ll be happy to find you can apply this on top of your makeup without smearing everything. (I mean, that’s assuming you garden in makeup. I’m sure I’d look goofy if I tried such a thing, but surely some of you lovely ladies have the attitude to pull it off!)

How do you stay sunburn-free?

Share your tips and favorite sun protection products in the comments below. God knows I could use the help!

Sun hat photo courtesy of the lovely kat reckling on Flickr, flamingo photo courtesy of wwarby on Flickr.

10 responses to “Ditch the Sunhat: Sun Protection Tips You Probably Haven’t Heard Of”

  1. I’m pretty fair-skinned so the only way I avoid getting sun burnt is by trying to garden under trees. I’m with your manly other half . . . sun tan lotion is gross.

    • Gardening under trees is good as far as it goes… but Chad, def. pick up some of that powdered sunblock stuff. Really, you’ll still be very manly! 🙂

  2. I’ve heard of the tomato suggestion, and that it works when you have them with olive oil (which helps you absorb the Lycopene). I wonder if basil and bocconcini also help? Mmmm.

  3. All great information. Also keep in mind all sorts of medications will work the other way reducing your ability to stay in the sun. Particularly antibiotics.

  4. I’ll definitely go with eating more tomatoes and blueberries! I believe in going natural, and vitamin D and omega-3 can help prevent problems instead of just curing it. But of course, staying out of the sun in the afternoon is still the best way to prevent sunburn! (I try to garden in the mornings instead.)

  5. Great tips, Gen! I’m ashamed to confess that most of the time my main defense against the sun is the 50% of my genome that is southern Italian. Nine hours in the sun gives me a nice tan and running head-start on skin cancer! I think I should probably try some of your suggestions instead . . . .