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Re: Sunblock at altitude

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avatar Sunblock at altitude
July 01, 2013 09:28AM
Hi all, hope everyone is well.

Quick question for you all, if I may.

From July 4th, I am in the valley, and then traversing the terrain between Mono Pass,and Glacier point for a week.

With the current high temperatures you guys have been experiencing, would it be prudent to upgrade my sunblock when high in the mountains? I had SPF25, but was wondering if I should aim higher? I don't generally burn too easily. I will be hiking mostly in long sleeves, trousers, sunglasses, hat, and buff (for my neck). So just my face, and ears to worry about I guess.

Many thanks.

Steve
avatar Re: Sunblock at altitude
July 01, 2013 09:50AM
Steve,
From things I've both read and heard from others, #30 is usually the best you can do. Above that the formulas begin to change and become more of a sealant type of application that bring their own problems. SPF 15 blocks 93% of UV rays. SPF 30 blocks 97%. SPF 45 blocks 98%. You obviously don't gain much above #30.

SPF 25 or 30 should be fine as long as it's a broad spectrum sunscreen that covers both UVA and UVB, two different parts of the ultraviolet spectrum.

I've also read that these percentages of effectiveness need to be taken w/ a grain of salt because nobody actually uses sunscreen the way it is tested in a lab.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/01/2013 09:52AM by tomdisco.
avatar Re: Sunblock at altitude
July 01, 2013 09:51AM
FYI, temperature has nothing to do with the amount/intensity of the sun's radiation reaching your skin.
avatar Re: Sunblock at altitude
July 01, 2013 01:44PM
Quote
JRinGeorgia
FYI, temperature has nothing to do with the amount/intensity of the sun's radiation reaching your skin.

D'oh!
Of course.
Yup, didn't think about that one.

Reminds me of when I was in LA a couple of years back, and got a bit burned, even though it wasn't hot, and the sun didn't come out all day!

Cheers guys. I don't like covering up, prefering to hike in vest and shorts when I can, but at these higher altitudes, I don't wanna risk it, so will be covered as much as I can, at least in the heat of the day.

Sunburn would be a very easy way to ruin a great 6 day hike, on day one.

Steve
avatar Re: Sunblock at altitude
July 01, 2013 10:24AM
Ambient temperature doesn't effect the amount of UV radiation that hits your skin. But in very high temperatures, it's important to use a sunblock that's very sweat-proof. One that doesn't lose its effectiveness with exposed to sweat.

My go-to sunblock in very hot conditions is Coppertone's Sport Ultra Sweatproof 30 SPF sunscreen LOTION (it also comes in a 3 fl. oz travel size).

It's relatively non-greasy yet it will stay on your skin all day and not wash (or sweat) off regardless how much you're perspiring. It only comes off with soap & water in my experience. In any conditions where you might be perspiring a lot, I highly recommend this product.

The only downside is some people have reported that it has stained their clothing with a yellow stain. I personally have not had that problem myself but some other people have.

.
Re: Sunblock at altitude
July 01, 2013 10:29AM
JRinGeorgia is right, temp isn't the issue, it's the density/composition of the atmosphere and how much UV is absobed there before it hits you, and at higher altitudes the UV exposure is greater. I have allergies to a number of the chemical sunscreens/blockers so have been using Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide formulas since the get-go almost 2 decades ago. So far, so good, knock on wood.

Right now I'm using KissMyFace's Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF40 which can be had at REI among other places. 10% zinc oxide, 6% titanium dioxide. Both non-nano particle size.

If I am concerned about wind-chapping, I'll use a formula with lower water content. I used to use Dermatone's Titanium Dioxide blend* and though heavy, once on, if I didn't rub it off with my hankie, it stayed on all day. The KMF is working pretty well. If I need more wind-chapping protection, I'll use one of Badger's 18-22% zinc oxide blends. I like the Lavender scented one. The "unscented" just smells like oil to me. The two Badger's I use are heavier, but work, and prevent chapping.

I usually have my chest covered, but my neck gets indirect UV. I use Kinesys SPF30 Fragrance Free spray for that, since it's not tacky and doesn't feel ikky.

With a physical blocker, you only need to reapply if you rub it off. Chemical sunscreens wear out and need reapplication, and need time to absorb before they are working at full effectiveness. As soon as you apply a physical blocker, you are protected.

I have a number of friends who did not protect their skin over the years and the sun damage is obvious. Deep lines, some have had melanomas, there's a genetic component, obviously to all this, and YMMV, but I do what I can to tilt the odds in my favor.

Wear a hat (with cape or bandanna around your neck) to protect ears and neck and wear good sunglasses. Long bills with black underneath reduce direct and indirect rays. We use glacier glasses with pouches around the eyes to really seal out reflected rays. Sunscreen only goes on exposed skin under the glacier glasses, so we don't need much.

We wear fingerless gloves and even though we put sunscreen on our exposed fingers, you can see the difference.

UV at altitude is no joke, and we spend as much time as possible at 10,000' or higher, so we don't mess around. We see plenty of folks with tanks, shorts and the like. If you know what you are doing and prefer that option, fine, your skin, your choice. But if you don't know how much UV you can handle (and only time will answer that), protect yourself.

Also, polyester is naturally UV resistant, nylon is not. Nylon products that say they have UV protection usually have a coating from the factory that will wash out over time.

*Dermatone got sold, stopped making my favorite tin of goo... Turns out if they were using nano-particles (which I hope they didn't - it was obviously white when on), this could be a bad thing... Search on nano-particle sunblock and you'll see why. So who knows. I'm now more careful reading the labels...

Good luck and have a great trip!

More sunscreen info
Re: Sunblock at altitude
July 01, 2013 02:08PM
I use SPF 50 lotion, although it might be overkill. Bought a decent-sized bottle on sale @ Target. The one time I forgot to apply (trip to Johnson Riff-Raff Farty area), I got baked. I wouldn't say sunburned, but my face/head felt really hot. Used large coke from McDonald's Oakdale as an icepack, applied to my forehead and cheeks constantly during drive back. This was this past Oct, so temperatures weren't so bad in Central Valley. Yet my head didn't cool down. Took a day or so to not feel as warm anymore. The intensity of the rays at high elevation is quite strong.

It's never that bad when I use the lotion. Don't forget/overlook applying something to your lips too, btw.
avatar Re: Sunblock at altitude
July 01, 2013 02:46PM
Thanks for the advice guys. Much apreciated.

Never had problems with my lips. Is that an altitude related thing? Do they dry out?

Steve
avatar Re: Sunblock at altitude
July 01, 2013 05:43PM
Not sure, could be an altitude thing. It's not a matter of drying out, I generally protect them but have had a burn if I forgot to treat them.
Re: Sunblock at altitude
July 01, 2013 06:02PM
I forgot to mention the lip stuff. Burt's Bees and Badger both make physical blocker lip balms I use.

One time, doing RPP on 4th of July weekend after a really wet winter, full snow coverage from Lower Ottoway all the way up and over to Red Devil Lake. I'd eaten, drunk and sneezed, and couldn't easily reach my lip balm... and neglected to reapply. By the time we hit Red Devil Lake, my lower lip was so swollen I could see it and it felt huge and painful! Never again have my lips been that roasted. The summer sun reflecting off the snow at higher elevations can be brutal. If windy, lip balms help prevent wind chapping. In Colorado, the UV and the dry air make lip balms a must. On a daily basis at home, nothing. I'm not a chap-stick addict, like some I know! smiling smiley
Re: Sunblock at altitude
July 01, 2013 08:23PM
I also heard that anything over spf 30 was, how should I say it, not really any more effective.
Re: Sunblock at altitude
July 03, 2013 09:40AM
Good thinking on the issue of sunburn.

The issue with sunscreen, other than UVA and B coverage, is proper application. Almost no one used them effectively, then wonder why they burn.

You need to really slather it on. However, the first application is largely absorbed by the skin, so actually does not provide anywhere near the protection you might think.

A good rule of thumb is to apply half an hour before your hike begins, then repeat just before starting. That saturates the skin in the manner in which the protection is rated. Repeat every 4 hours or so thereafter, although a particular product may specify more often.

Lips are important! !!!!! not all lip balms contain sunscreen !!!!!

I don't play a doctor on TV, but occasionally do so in real life.
avatar Re: Sunblock at altitude
July 03, 2013 11:18AM
Quote
Ken M

Good thinking on the issue of sunburn.

The issue with sunscreen, other than UVA and B coverage, is proper application. Almost no one used them effectively, then wonder why they burn.

You need to really slather it on. However, the first application is largely absorbed by the skin, so actually does not provide anywhere near the protection you might think.

A good rule of thumb is to apply half an hour before your hike begins, then repeat just before starting. That saturates the skin in the manner in which the protection is rated. Repeat every 4 hours or so thereafter, although a particular product may specify more often.


Everyone's complexion is different, so ones mileage may vary, but I have fair skin that can get moderately tanned. Without any sunscreen I'll start to burn after 45 minutes at sea level, within 30 minutes at altitude. That said, I've found that sunscreen that's very waterproof and sweat resistent, like the Coppertone Sport lotion that I recommended above, will simply last all day (if I don't go swimming) with no-need to reapply (even if I had been sweating a lot during the day).

But as you stated, good application is the key. That's why I avoid the sunscreen sprays and just use the lotions. For best protection, I apply it 30 minutes before I go out to the sun. I apply enough of it the first time, so I don't need to a second (or third) application.

.
Re: Sunblock at altitude
July 03, 2013 09:17PM
Sunscreen is on the list of bear smellables. If camping, how careful should you be about cleaning up before hitting the sack -- rinse off with water, or wash w/ soap and water?
Re: Sunblock at altitude
July 03, 2013 09:50PM
Depends on how you feel like sleeping--greasy or not.

Just keep the sunscreen in your canister and you're good.
avatar Re: Sunblock at altitude
July 03, 2013 10:38PM
One can minimize the problem by using unscented sunscreen lotion.

If I've used something scented on my skin (be it sunscreen or bug repellant), then I'll wipe it off (as best as possible) using unscented baby wipes. The Kirkland brand unscented baby wipes from Costco are excellent for this purpose.

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