The Do’s & Don’ts of Sun Protection

Ah, summer is upon us. Well, most of us… especially if you’re located in South Texas. The summer season here is anything but glamorous. Try triple digit temperatures with ungodly humidity and wicked thunderstorms because of it. Learning how to properly protect ourselves from the harmful, powerful UV rays is a science. Over the years, I’ve learned just what to do and what not to do. Allow me to share my do’s and don’ts for surviving the summer sun.

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Cooling Leah out after a morning training session. We ride in the mornings to beat the afternoon South Texas sun!

DO put on sunscreen before you put on your clothes, not after. It is hard to maneuver around necklines and sleeves, so make putting on your sunscreen a part of your pre-barn, morning routine. Plus, if you’re like me and despise the greasy residue it leaves, you can wash your hands before grabbing things like your phone. I opt for SPF 70 or above because I am fair skinned and burn easily. Look for sunscreens that have ingredients you can read, too. The more natural, the better, and your skin will thank you! I also keep a bottle of sunscreen in my tack trunk for reapplication. If you are spending a day at the barn, consider the fact that you will sweat and hosing off horses will result in you getting wet somewhere on your body. Reapplying is very important!

DON’T pick tanning lotion as your form of SPF. Tanning lotions are great, but they are meant to be applied during a leisurely few hours at the beach or by the pool. Most tanning lotions only reach up to 8SPF, which is not nearly enough UV protection for a long day in the sun. My tip? Apply SPF 70+ sunscreen, followed by a thin layer of tanning oil or lotion. You’ll still get color without the high risk of burn. However, let’s just take a moment to accept the fact that equestrian’s arms will always be tanner than the rest of our body… Shrug.

DO pick UV protective clothing. As we know, Kastel Denmark, Ariat, Arista, HorZe Equestrian, and more, are designing and merchandising UV protective, technical riding shirts with mesh sleeves to ensure maximum air flow. These shirts all give the rider an added boost when it comes to blocking out harmful UV rays. Another alternative to these shirts is opting for fishing shirts. Yes, fishing shirts! GameGuard or Columbia manufacture shirts in either short sleeve or long sleeve options. They are designed for fishermen and keep you incredibly cool while riding. I often ride in my fishing shirts, as they keep the air flowing all throughout my training session, even in the long sleeve style.

DON’T pick dark colored clothing. No matter how cute, fun, sparkly, precious the shirt is, if it is a dark tone, don’t wear it. Dark colors absorb heat (leaving you more prone to heatstroke), while light colors reflect sunrays. Unless it is wintertime, you can always find me at the barn in a light colored tank top or short sleeve, if I’m not sporting a Kastel.

DO wear a hat when you’re not wearing your helmet. Protect your face, peeps! If you can, purchase a visor that easily attaches to the brim of your helmet. The skin on your face is ultra sensitive. Wearing a hat will obviously block the sun from burning your precious forehead, cheeks and nose to a crisp. Also, find a sunscreen that is less oil based to prevent pesky breakouts.

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My top pick products for combatting UV rays. I use Lancome BIENFAIT Multi-Vital Sunscreen Cream for my face as it does not lead to breakouts! 

DON’T load your face up with makeup, if you can help it. I know that I used to wear makeup while riding on a daily basis. However, I found that my makeup combined with the sun would leave my face feeling irritated and itchy. Finally, I stopped wearing all makeup to the barn, opting to slather non-oily sunscreen on my face instead. Much better option! Makeup can also subconsciously make you feel hot. When you sweat, your foundation can run into your eyes causing burning and discomfort. Stick to a sweat proof sunscreen and you’ll be feeling so much fresher! And if you feel the need for makeup, try waterproof mascara only.

DO find a pair of sunglasses and stick with them! Your eyes need sun protection too. UV rays are bright! If you can afford polarized glasses, they are the ideal choice for ultimate defense. However, most any type of pair will do. My sunglasses are glued to my face during sunny days. I haven’t quite found a pair that fit comfortably under my helmet, but the hunt is definitely on!

 DON’T forget to drink water and moisturize your skin. This is definitely a given when it comes to surviving summer sun and summer heat. However, the two go hand in hand. After long days in the sun, your skin needs to rehydrate. It is recommended that we drink 3 liters of water a day – that’s what I do! Don’t forget to incorporate electrolytes into your hydration routine, too. As I have written before in my blog, I add different types of cubed fruit and citrus to my water jug, which makes the task of drinking 3 liters far less tedious. In addition to rehydrating from the inside, rehydrate your skin from the outside. Find an after-sun lotion at your local drug store and after your shower, apply lotion to all areas where sun was exposed. It’ll have you feeling fresh and your skin feeling yummy.

DO remember that your horse needs UV protection; especially if he or she is a grey or paint with dominant white markings. Leah’s delicate, pink nose is subject to sunburn every summer. Luckily now, her fly mask has a mesh piece that covers her sensitive area. However, before that came into my possession, I was constantly smearing SPF 100 (yes, human sunscreen!) around her nostrils to prevent burn. I highly suggest this if your pony has delicate features. If you can afford a flysheet, do so, as they also help block UV rays. Just like people, horse’s coats need rehydration too. Shop around and find your favorite coat conditioner spray (I like using Wahna Win Complete Coat Care Conditioner) – they really do help! Some brands of fly spray have SPF built into the formula as well. If your horse has sensitive skin, try turning out during times when UV rays are weakest: the early mornings and/or evenings/overnight.

Living in Texas definitely gives you all the tools you need to protect yourself from horrid sunburn, dehydration, and heatstroke. Be smart about your sun protection and remember that none of us are above the diagnosis which is skin cancer. Remember my do’s and don’ts the next time you head out for your day at the barn!

Happy summer riding!

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