How to Protect Your Skin & Eyes From the Sun In The Mountains?

Skin and Eye Protection. Excessive UV-radiation caused by sunshine is an invisible enemy for our skin and eyes. Since many mountain climbers neglect wearing sunglasses and applying sunscreen, it can lead to skin burns and snow blindness. To avoid these and the other more essential health problems caused by the UV-radiation, you have to follow a couple of basic principles described in the article.

UV-radiation and Its Harmful Effect

Ultraviolet (international designation - UV) is a part of the solar radiation with a wavelength from 180 to 380 nm. Three types of ultraviolet:
  • UVA 315-380 nm,
  • UVB 280-315 nm;
  • UVC 180-280 nm, which is the most dangerous for all living organisms.

Why is UV-radiation dangerous?

UV-radiationSignificant doses of ultraviolet not only contributes to sunburn but also destructively affects living organisms. The consequences of excess radiation for a body are horrible. The victims experience sunburns, disruption of the retina and partial loss of vision known as the “snow blindness” among mountaineers and polar explorers. With the height, the intensity of solar radiation effect increases, because the ultraviolet in the mountains is especially harmful to humans. Note that each kilometer upward increases the intensity of radiation by 12%. However, it also depends on the surface, since some surfaces emit much more radiation than others. Let’s figure out which surfaces reflect the most amount of UV-radiation:
  • snow and ice - up to 80%;
  • light sand - up to 35%;
  • water - up to 20%;
  • soil - up to 15%.
Therefore, every mountain climber needs to apply sunscreen and use sunglasses in the highlands above 3000 meters even if there is neither snow nor ice around. And the means of protection are vitally important in case you are walking on a glacier, or it is snowing. Keep in mind that you must protect your body from the solar radiation when hiking across deserts, steppes, plateaus and even in the water. That’s why skin and eyes care is the way more important than we can imagine. Skin burns and snow blindness are only the least inconveniences, causes by excessive influence of ultraviolet radiation. Every mountaineer has to be aware and protected to enjoy hiking without any undesirable aftermaths. Applying sunscreen and wearing sunglasses in the daytime helps to avoid many problems. In the article, we described the reasons and ways of protecting our body against the solar radiation.

Skin Protection

Skin ProtectionSkin as the most significant organ of our body requires particular attention and protection against rays of the Sun. In the mountains, the atmospheric layer is thinner, and the influence of the UV rays is stronger. Don’t be surprised that you get a suntan faster relative to the seaside area.

How Does Suntan Appear?

Suntan Suntan is a protective melanin skin pigmentation that develops under the action of sunlight. The brown pigment melanin, contained in the cell, protects its structures from the damaging effect of ultraviolet. With prolonged exposure to the sun, the amount of melanin in the skin increases. However, with intensive and prolonged exposure to sunlight, the amount and protective function of melanin may become insufficient to protect the human body from damage and might turn to skin cancer at worst case. That’s why you must apply sunscreen when hiking.

Which Skin Protection Does Your Skin Type Require?

The time spent in the sun without damage to health is different for each person. Dermatologists always give recommendations for sunbathing taking your skin type into account.

6 Skin Types

Skin type Skin color Hair color Eyes color Sunscreen factor
One light, sometimes with freckles red or blonde blue or green SPF 50+
Two light skin, sometimes with freckles light or brown blue or green SPF 25-30, but in the beginning SPF 30-50
Three swarthy skin brown brown SPF 15-25
Four olive brown or black dark brown or black SPF 25 or less
Five dark or dark brown black or dark brown almost black SPF 5-10
Six dark, almost black black black or dark brown SPF 5.
1st skin type is susceptible to the sun, as it does not have the right amount of melanin to form a tan. As a result, the reaction to the sun is red and burnt skin. If you belong to this group, use sunscreen with the most significant factor of protection: SPF 50+. 2nd skin type is the most common in Europe. People who are belonging to this type, sunbathe slowly because their skin is sensitive to the sun. Use sunscreen with SPF 25-30, but it’s recommended to use more excellent protection at the beginning of the trip summer, such as SPF 30-50. 3rd skin type allows getting a beautiful and stable tan. Burns can only appear after prolonged exposure on the sun without precautions. It is recommended to use protection with SPF 15-25. 4th skin type allows spending longer in the sun and with a smaller protection filter - SPF 25 or less. 5th skin type requires using a protective device with SPF 5-10. 6th skin type belongs to people who need means with filters, the minimum protection of which is SPF 5. It’s not easy to identify your skin type, isn’t it? If you are not sure, consult with a dermatologist, but do not forget to tell that you need sunscreen for the mountains. As you remember, the means of protection differ depending on the height.

Types of Sunscreen

Sunscreen CreamThe Sunscreen Cream has chemicals that are absorbed into the skin when applied. That is how it reduces UV radiation. This type of sunscreen consists of the following active components Etisalat, Avobenzone, Homosalate, Oxybenzone. Sunblock includes physical or inorganic origin ingredients that block UVA and UVB radiation, while not absorbing, remaining on the surface of the skin. This type of sunscreen is also called mineral. The main disadvantages of sunblock are the possibility of white stains on clothes and poor absorbency. However, it depends on the brand.

Lips Protection

Lip BalmEven if your lips do not require special care, it will change in the mountains. Consider cold temperatures and constant activity; there is a significant risk to become obsolete. Believe us; this feeling is not pleasant. Therefore, every morning during hiking moisturize your lips with a balm. Men can use a colorless and odorless balm.

When to Apply Sunscreen?

  1. Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes in advance before going to a sunny location.
  2. Always apply sunscreen from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when solar radiation is the most harmful for skin.
  3. Keep in mind that every part of the body and face, which is going to be exposed to the sun. And the most important - do not forget to apply sunscreen again after intensive hiking or swimming.
  4. Read the instruction how to apply your particular sunscreen on the package.

A Myth About Sunscreen

Many hikers are sure that sunscreen absolutely protects your skin so that can say goodbye to sunburn. That’s not true! Sunscreen does not give 100% protection from sunlight, and a particular part of it passes and gets on the skin, causing sunburn. Especially often it happens if you go hiking in the middle of the day without hiding in shadows.

Eyes Protection

Snow Blindness is an entirely familiar concept for many lovers, such as alpinists, skiers, and even ordinary hikers. It happens when you look at the Sun without sunglasses or through low-quality sunglasses, which is actually the way more dangerous. Glasses are essential when you go hiking. Except for protection against the UV radiation, glasses also protect our eyes from possible mechanical damage caused by dust, pebbles, insects and small particles.

Fake Protection: How to Identify?

Only using high-quality optics, which ultimately protects against ultraviolet and excessive light, you can completely save your eyes. Do not mix up the concepts of protection against radiation and sunshine! Unfortunately, many beginner hikers believe that the darker the glasses, the better they protect against UV radiation. It is a big mistake! Even light premium quality glasses can completely protect your eyes against the radiation. However, very dark glasses produced by a precarious manufacturer can only serve as an illusion of protection but be harmful indeed. Doctors warn that it is better to be without sunglasses than wearing low-quality ones. The mark UV400 (UV380) indicates that the glasses can adequately protect against ultraviolet. However, it is not always like that. Nowadays most sunglasses have the quality indication stickers regardless of their real quality. Therefore, never buy sunglass of unknown brands or in unreliable places, such as the market. Beware of fakes! For example, there are a lot of scams of well-known companies in Nepal, which quality is very doubtful. So, if you have no other choice, buy sunglasses with glass lenses, since the glass itself protects against ultraviolet radiation almost entirely.

How to Choose High-Quality Sunglasses For a Hike?

  • Consider the Darkening Degree
Lenses of sunglasses are ranked according to the percentage of the sunlight they pass to the retina. Currently, they are divided into five categories - from 0 to 4. Which type should you choose? The most suitable option for hiking in high solar activity conditions are glasses with lenses of 3-4 categories. The third category passes only 8-18% of solar radiation, so that is the universal one. While the 4th category of sunglasses is just perfect in some extreme cases. The sunglasses of the 4th category can pass only 3-8% of the light so that they are suitable just for a sunny day. With these sunglasses, you have to strain your eyesight or even take off your glasses getting into a shadow. Otherwise, it would be difficult to see the intricate relief. Sunglasses of this type are not suitable or wearing before or after sunset. Also, it is forbidden to drive a vehicle in such dark glasses. So, it worth to buy sunglasses of the 4th category if only your eyes are quite sensitive to the Sun or you intend to stay in the mountains for an extended period in a constant snow-ice coverage. Note the tendency: dark eyes are less sensitive to the UV-radiation. So, the lighter human eyes, the less, the more vulnerable are they to ultraviolet radiation. Even though this tendency is not right in 100% cases.
  • Consider the Material of Lenses
Glass or polycarbonate - that’s the most critical question that every beginner mountaineer has to answer before buying sunglasses. However, it is challenging to decide when you don’t know the main difference between sunglasses made of these materials. That’s why we suggest you review the spreadsheet, which is dedicated to the analysis of the most popular articles for sunglasses lenses.
Advantages Disadvantages
  • high strength
  • optical characteristics
  • heavyweight
  • traumatic risk
  • the high price
  • low price
  • manufacturability
  • good optical properties
  • low weight
  • durability
  • safety
  • fragility
  • quickly scratching
  • worse optical characteristics
The glass is applied to glasses for outdoor activities very rarely because of the weight and the probability to be broken. Moreover, quality sunglasses made of glass are more expensive in comparison to polycarbonate ones. Although glass has the way better optical characteristics because any glass protects against ultraviolet radiation almost entirely. Polycarbonate is the most common material for sports models. They are usually cheaper and safer because they will not damage your face if broken. Polycarbonate sunglasses are lightweight and easy to transport. On the other hand, they are less durable and quality because of the material characteristics. If you decided to stick on polycarbonate plastic, you have to be very careful to avoid fake products. Choose only proved brands and tested production. When it comes to high-quality polycarbonates, high-tech polymers are perfect for hiking but more expensive than the other options. Pay attention to the NXT type of plastic, which is used by world-known companies for premium-segment models. This material is durable, optically transparent in comparison with many other polycarbonate sunglasses. The high-tech polymer is excellent for creating photochromic and (or) polarization effect. As you can understand from the article sunscreen and sunglasses are best friends of a prudent and careful mountaineer. Use the instructions to choose appropriate protection for your body. Save your skin and eyes and go hiking a great while gladly.