Okay lang umitim: Getting dark skin is not a problem – at least, not medically. But while skin color is a matter of aesthetic preferences, there are medical rationales for protecting yourself from the sun while hiking. Prolonged or intense exposure to the sun can cause painful sunburns in the short term, and in the long term, increases one’s risk of skin cancer, and possibly hasten the onset of skin damage.
Here are some factors that determine sun damage:
– Altitude: The higher you are, the closer you are to the sun, and thus the greater the damage
– Duration: The longer the hike, the longer the sun exposure
– Intensity: Cloudless days make for more sun exposure, although clouds DO NOT block UV rays
– Kind of trail: Exposed trails (i.e. Cinco Picos) have more sun exposure vs. forested ones (i.e. Makiling)
– Skin type: Fairer-skinned individuals are more prone to sun damage
Fortunately, there are some ways to mitigate sun exposure damage:
1. Apply sunblock. Honestly, this is a very tedious thing to do and I don’t like the feeling of sunblock on my skin. But it is highly recommended especially if you’re hiking for long hours or at high atltiude.
2. Wear sunglasses. Sunglasses with 100% UV protection protects your eyes and the skin around it from sun damage. (SPF 30 is already good enough; anything beyond it is unnecessary.)
3. Wear appropriate clothes. This can include wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved dri fit shirts, long pants, etc. Consider bringing a change of clothes to adopt to the changing weather.
4. Use a lip balm with sun protection. Especially for individuals with sensitive or easily-damaged lips, applying a lip balm with a UV rating. (SPF 30 is already good enough; anything beyond it is unnecessary.)
5. Avoid mid-day hiking. Although sometimes this cannot be avoided, having an early start for dayhikes can make a big difference.
6. Keep yourself hydrated. Though not related to skin damage, hydration is related to one’s overall health, which in turn can impact your skin. The sun’s heat can be dehydrate your body quickly and it is important to stay hydrated by bringing and drinking adequate amounts of water.
7. Make special preparations for snow or desert hiking. Don’t expect that all mountains are the same, and when hiking abroad, for instance, research the specific conditions of your hiking destination. Snow hiking, for instance, can damage the eyes more and cause snow blindness – hence the need for good quality eyewear.