Practicing Sun Safety without Getting Sun Phobic

The other day at the end of yoga, the teacher said she had a couple of spots left in a “Women’s Self Care” retreat in Costa Rica, starting in a few days. She wondered if any of us would want to go for a reduced price. Zoned out from savasana – the period of rest at the end of practice – I walked over and asked her to send me the information.

Before I knew it, I had signed up for a week of yoga, meditation, walking on the beach, hiking, swimming and just plain relaxing. Sounds pretty good, right? So why did I all of a sudden feel anxious?

Planning for a sun-filled vacation with skin cancer

First of all, I don’t usually do things like this. But there was something else in addition to the normal apprehension (mixed with excitement) about all of a sudden deciding to go to Central America. It was concern about what the stronger sun could do to my skin and what I should do to protect myself from it. The other night, I had a nightmare in which I had gone on vacation and forgotten my sunscreen and had to run around to find some, fast.

Aiming for a balance

I’m in search of a balance between being proactive about sun protection and being able to enjoy the outdoors without getting sun phobic. (There is actually a word, heliophobia, for the fear of sun or sunlight. It comes from the Greek "helio", meaning sun, and "phobia", meaning fear).

Packing the essentials

For the Costa Rica trip, I needed to do a little shopping, but not too much. My running and tennis wardrobe already includes long-sleeved shirts, some with, and some without, SPF. I got most from the website Coolibar. A friend said she likes them, but I wish they were more breathable; I am constantly searching for alternatives. Friends said to try the brands that sailors use, but I haven’t looked into that yet.

Last summer I wore calf-length workout pants under my tennis skirt but gave it up when I developed a mid-calf tan line. I tried longer pants but they were so uncomfortable that by the end of the summer I threw caution to the winds and went bare-legged. I’ll at least start with full coverage on my trip.

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Sun protection clothing for exercise

You can feel weighted down when exercising in all this sun protective clothing. Sometimes I sweat so much that I roll up the sleeves, defeating the purpose. The clothing is more comfortable when you’re not in motion. For example, I enjoy wearing a royal blue Coolibar cover-up while sitting on the beach.

I had thought that a regular baseball hat would protect me from the sun until I got a squamous cell cancer on the top of my head. So my purchases in the past few days included a sun protectant hat.

For the outdoor tennis season, I have sun protection gloves with holes for your fingertips, sort of like biking gloves. I bought SPF driving sleeves because my dermatologist said you can get a sunburn through your car windows.

Staying safe and having fun

Seeing me all wrapped up, more than one person has asked what is wrong with me. It doesn’t look stylish, but still, I’m going to pack it all up and hope to stay safe without getting so crazy that I forget to have fun.

What are some sun protection clothing pieces you always pack? Share in the comments!

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