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January 23, 2016 / pleinairman

Plein Air Painting Essential Tools: Sunblock or Sun Gear

If you’re part of the average demographic for plein air painters, you probably already have skin damage from sun exposure.  According to PleinAir Magazine’s media kit for advertisers, 95% of its  readership is over 40 and 54% over 60.  Who didn’t spend all summer vacation as a teen working on a tan?  And each time you go out with your painting buddies, you’re most likely getting at least another two hours of sun on your hands and face.

But “melanoma” and “squamous cell carcinoma” don’t have to be part of your plein air painting vocabulary.  Using sunblock or wearing clothing that gives UV protection can go a long way to minimizing unsightly wrinkle build-up and visits to the oncologist.

There are two types of sunblock.  One contains a metal product—titanium or zinc oxide—that reflects light, while the other contains an organic chemical—usually oxybenzone—that aborbs the skin-damaging wavelengths of light.  If you do the research (see this Wikipedia article), you’ll find that all of these work to some degree, but have pros and cons.  A few years ago, it was learned that one of these organic compounds actually becomes carcinogenic upon exposure to sunlight.

I do use an SPF 50+ sunblock, especially on my hands if not wearing nitrile gloves.  But an option I like better is clothing that blocks sun.  I have a hat from Coolibar that is rated in the UPF 50+ range, and there are protective shirts available, as well.  Here’s the Coolibar site:  http://www.coolibar.com/

And don’t forget that you can burn on a foggy or overcast day, too.  A good deal of ultraviolet radiation penetrates cloud cover.  You’ll still want to wear sunblock (or a sunhat and gloves) on these days.

Okay, now I’ll stop playing mother hen.

You can find more helpful tips and tools in my book, Backpacker Painting:  Outdoors with Oil & Pastel, available at Amazon from this link.

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