Why I Stay Covered Up In The Garden

By Mary Ellen Ellis | June 20, 2022
Image by Zbynek Pospisil
by Mary Ellen Ellis
June 20, 2022

Gardening days are often hot days, and I love them. My skin, on the other hand, does not. The sun is damaging, even on cloudy days, and skin cancer is in my genes. For these reasons, I cover up religiously when spending time outside, especially when doing gardening chores. 

Sun Protection Options

I have a few strategies I utilize in the garden to keep my skin safe: avoiding doing work between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is most intense, doing chores in the shade as much as possible, wearing sunscreen, and wearing more clothing. There are a lot of choices and using more than one is best but covering up is the best in my opinion. 

UPF Clothing – What is it? 

I swear by my UPF gear. It stands for ultraviolet protection factor and it’s similar to SPF for sunscreen. It is a rating that tells you how much UV light fabric blocks. I aim for UPF of 50, which means that the fabric blocks 98% of sunlight. SPF is a different measurement, the time it takes for skin to burn in the sun.  

You can find UPF gear in all types of styles and pieces. Since most people are looking for sun protection in the warmer months, much of the clothing is suitable for hot days. I like to wear a loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirt with a collar I can flip up for neck protection and loose pants with pockets for garden tools. You can even find hats and gloves with UPF, perfect for gardeners. 

Clothing vs. Sunscreen

Simply put, covering up is best. The skin cancer foundation is firmly on the side of using clothing as the most effective way to protect against harmful UV light. I like UPF clothing for that reason, but also because it’s easier. 

Slathering on greasy sunscreen every few hours is a pain. It’s messy and uncomfortable. I tend to end up with dirt stuck to my skin and washing it off is an extra chore. Other people may prefer sunscreen because the idea of covering up on a hot day is unappealing. I can tell you from experience though, the best UPF clothing is light, loose, vented, and very comfortable. 

I cover up when I go outside to work in the garden, but I still use sunscreen. Any exposed skin gets a layer of SPF 45 or higher, including my face. On the hottest of days, I might put on shorts and use sunscreen on my legs. There’s definitely a place for sunscreen, but if you want the best protection, go with clothing.

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