Thursday, June 20, 2013

Best Sunblock for Alpine Pursuits

Snow is the ultimate sun amplifier

Summer officially begins tomorrow and I am already feeling sun baked.  After reading up on sunscreen, I have a renewed commitment to wearing protective clothing when I am out in the sun for long periods of time.

That said, I feel that wearing sunscreen when I'm up high in the mountains is an essential part of taking care of myself for the short and long term.  While there is recent debate as to what extent sunscreen helps prevent skin cancer versus the chemicals in it contributing to that and other conditions, it certainly prevents burns and protects my skin.



My favorite sunscreens

There are options that are less toxic to people and the environment.  The EWG has compiled a list of 184 sunscreens that are better for you than the rest.  Below is my top five list of best sunscreens based on their ingredients and personal use:

1) All Terrain AquaSport Lotion: This sunscreen is the most protective I have ever used: it stands up to sweat and long days in the mountains.  It is always best to reapply often, but I'm still pretty protected even on days when I forget.  Best thing is the active ingredient is zinc oxide, one of the safer sunblock ingredients.  Only downside to the All Terrain is that it is very thick, and I don't like wearing it every day.  Ryan just purchased the largest tube they sell so that we won't run out too quickly.

2) Episencial Sunny Sunscreen: This sunscreen is also a zinc oxide based cream, formulated for babies so it is great for people with sensitive skin.  It is not quite as durable as the All Terrain line, but it goes on more smoothly and feels lighter on the skin.

3) Badger Sunscreens:  The Badger line wins out for best ingredients, and they have many options that are zinc oxide based, unlike other brands.  I have not yet tried most of their sunscreens (although badger balm is excellent for repairing skin after climbing), but after reading up on them I am interested to try the Badger Sport Sunscreen.  The last tube of Badger we used was an ointment and too greasy to wear while climbing (it is hard to remember not to rub my arms, etc. all day).  Because of the natural ingredients and preservatives, it is best to store this product in a cooler place; it didn't do so well spending a summer in our hot car.

4) Alba Botanica Very Emollient Facial:  I have to say that this sunscreen feels better on my skin than any others and is less likely to cause break outs, however, it doesn't make top grade for ingredients.  Just because it has some organic ingredients doesn't mean that it is really good for you.  Its main sunblock ingredients, homosalate and octocrylene, are less toxic than sunscreens that contain parabens or oxybenzone.  I will probably buy this product again if I can't find a zinc oxide based sunscreen that feels good enough for light use days.  I am excited to try Alba's zinc oxide based Very Emollient sunscreen.

5) No-Ad:  I love No-Ad's commitment to no advertising gimmicks. It is cheap, comes in large bottles (has anyone ever gone through an entire bottle of No-Ad?), works pretty well, and feels good on the skin.  The ingredients are not great, and do include oxybenzone.  Its other active ingredients include avobenzone and homosalate.  This is what I take on road trips when I will be slathering my body all day everyday, but I don't usually use it other times.

Ryan in his Patagonia Sun Hoody and super cool hat

Better sun solutions

Even better than sunscreens is limiting sun exposure.  Yes, this is nearly impossible during long days outside and we are constantly trying to figure out better solutions.  A super cool hat with a wide brim helps.  And when your buddies (or sweetheart) tease you for wearing a goofy hat, you can know deep down inside that your awesome sense of style is only amplified by your hat's sun blocking properties.

Ryan loves his Patagonia Sun Hoody and wears it most days we spend in the mountains.  The hood is great for protecting head and neck and the fabric is UPF 35.  I am not a huge fan of smooth-faced layers (including silk weight long underwear styles) because they hamper air movement a bit, but Ryan says that if there is a breeze, which there almost always is up high, then the sun hoody is amazingly comfortable even on hot days.  I might give one a try this summer.

6 comments:

Travis Nichols said...

I have tried many, including some of the brands you have recomended. Hands down, the absolute best and safest sunscreen in an alpine enviroment is SOL Altitude: http://www.solsunguard.com/altitude.html

If you have not yet tried it you are missing out. Apply it once at the onset of the day then get out and get after it.

Jen said...

When I worked at Second Ascent in Seattle a few years ago, Sol was THE sunblock they carried. It is a very good product, thanks for adding it to the list!

The website doesn't list Sol Altitude's active ingredients, but it does say mineral based which is good.

Ryan Bressler said...

I'll take a look at SOL but one of my favorite things about the all terrain is that it doesn't make my hands slick/greasy for climbing.

Lauren jonczak said...

I know this sounds weird but you can even try sunscreen for kids. It's really great in all weather conditions, and it always smells good. I have never heard of Sol, I will definitely have to check it out. Thanks for sharing.

Herryponting said...

Sunscreens prevent sunburns, but beyond that surprisingly little is known about the safety and effectiveness of these ubiquitous creams and sprays.
best sunscreen

Jen said...

Lauren, I agree that kids sunblock is good for adults too, especially if you have sensitive skin. The thing to notice is how often you need to reapply and how sweat/water resistant the product is. If I'm climbing, I really don't want to get my fingers greasy with sunscreen every couple of hours but if I'm hiking or at the beach I don't mind reapplying a little more often.