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Colorado’s summer temps are hitting Rocky Mountain highs. And while it might be tempting to follow Nelly’s rule of thumb when it gets hot out there, resist the urge. Overexposure to the sun has long been shown to have negative consequences, from painful burns in the short-term to wrinkles (and far worse) in the long-term. Coloradans in particular should be wary, notes Jarod Conley, a dermatologist at Boulder Medical Center, since living at mile-high elevation means we’re exposed to 25 percent more ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun than our pals at sea level.
So don’t disrobe when splashing, running, riding, or otherwise recreating outside. Instead, heed science-backed recommendations and cover up. Here are our best quick tips for safe exposure, as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), along with a collection of our favorite sun protection gear and equipment from Colorado-tied brands sure to help you follow them.
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We love a craft brewery-logoed trucker as much as the next person, but when it comes to top tier sun protection, “Wear a hat that has a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck,” says the CDC. The aptly named option from Denver’s Topo Designs provides precisely that. Made from a lightweight polyester/spandex blend, the Sun Hat ($44) has a ray-blocking, 2.75-inch brim. And with an unstructured, three-panel design that promises bounce-back-ability, there’s no excuse not to stuff this cap in your pack.
It’s official: Throwing shade isn’t always a bad thing. According to the CDC, “You can reduce your risk of sun damage and skin cancer by staying in the shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter.” Our pick when the pines, aspens, and Rihanna’s favorite accessory aren’t on hand is the Sunshade with Side Wall ($164.95) from Broomfield-based Kelty. An easy-peasy setup makes it suitable for campgrounds and soccer sidelines, while its tripod construction ensures stability when Colorado’s afternoon gusts hurtle in. A third wall can be lashed to any of the structure’s sides for extra sun protection.
“Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts,” notes the CDC. “They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure.” Preserve eye health and look rad in the process? No need to tell us twice. The Zaldaingerous Polarized FixieMAX ($149) from Boulder’s own Optic Nerve is one stellar choice for sunglasses. Complete with 100 percent UVA/UVB protection and a polarized lens, these peeper protectors also feature a wrap-around frame style that’s not only on-trend but also provides additional UV protection. Optic Nerve’s Kids Wee Peet ($19.99) comes with a lifetime warranty and offers the same UVA/UVB blockage in a smaller (yet just as durable) package.
“When possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts, which can provide protection from UV rays,” says the CDC. But remember, not all apparel is created equal when it comes to blocking harmful rays. Choose tightly woven fabrics, ideally with a clearly outlined Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating.
The B1 Sun Hoodie (available for women and men, $49) from Denver-based workwear brand Truewerk is one such great choice. Breathable, durable, and made with four-way stretch, this UPF 50+ (the highest rating) powerhouse works equally well at the jobsite and the campsite. Don the scuba hood for days on the water when UV rays attack from all angles. Cyclists (and others unwilling to commit fully to long sleeves) should look for detachable forelimb wrappers like the Sun Arm Sleeves ($35) from PEARL iZUMi.
Short sleeves and swim apparel
Even the white coats know that sometimes long-sleeved layers aren’t practical. When that’s the case, “Try to wear a T-shirt or a beach cover-up,” say the pros. People going the distance on two feet should check out Broomfield-based Ultimate Direction’s UPF 20+ Cirriform Tee (women’s and men’s, $54.95). Its simple exterior hides serious tech, namely a body-mapped mesh back, microbial control, and seam-free shoulders that prevent chafing when worn with a backpack or running vest.
Then again, if you want an around-town top that still offers UPF 50+ sun protection and a touch of stretch for comfort, check out the Wild Child Shirt ($75), a Colorado take on the Hawaiian staple from Denver-based Flylow. Planning to lounge poolside at one of Denver’s best swimming holes? Cover up post-plunge with Boulder-based Krimson Klover’s Mandy Sunshirt Tunic ($109), which comes equipped with a UPF 50 rating and striking, stripey style.
Hippos secrete their own sunblock (really!). Humans don’t. So, if the CDC has anything to say about it, we’ll all lather up with “sunscreen that filters out both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF [rating] of 15 or higher.” Colorado’s own Goddess Garden Organics and Rocky Mountain Sunscreen offer a broad (spectrum) selection of SPF levels, including reef-safe options. Whatever you use, remember to check the bottle’s expiration date and reapply every two hours and after time in the water.