It’s important to remember that any kind of prolonged exposure to the weather outdoors particularly the sun, is bound to have an effect on your skin and that includes gardening. Therefore, it’s important that you look after your skin and take extra care when you’re out and about in the garden whatever the time of year and whatever the weather’s like.
Most of us are aware of the damage which the sun’s UV rays can do to us. However, if we’re out gardening, we can sometimes forget about the sun’s effects and the length of time we are actually exposed to it directly. We should, however, adopt similar safety precautions as we would if we were out at the beach.
Firstly, you should plan your gardening activities sensibly during hot sunny weather. Try to set aside time to do your indoor or greenhouse/shed tasks between 10am and 2pm when the sun is at its hottest. Remember, in the summer months when it’s warm or hot, you can still burn even when the skies are overcast.
If you are working outdoors, wear the correct sunscreen. You should use one with an SPF of at least 15 and preferably higher. You should also use a sunblock on your face and lips and you should re-apply both this and your sunscreen every hour or so as their effects will be reduced if it’s a hot day and you’re constantly sweating. The types of sunblock which are worn by tennis players and cricketers these days tends to be the best as they are designed to protect even if you are sweating profusely.
Your eyes should be protected too. There has been an increase in the early formation of cataracts which has been specifically related to prolonged sun exposure over recent years. Wear sunglasses with a good quality UVA blocking filter.
Your forehead and scalp are both at risk and even more so if you are bald or have thinning hair. The good old-fashioned lightweight floppy hat which covers your forehead, scalp and ears is usually favoured and wearing one will also protect your hair from drying out and becoming brittle too.
Sunburn, sun stroke and even skin cancer can possibly result if you don’t take care of your skin when out in the sun and, as gardeners tend to be exposed to the sun daily for more hours than the average sun worshipper on the beach, these words of caution apply more to gardeners than most other people.
The Dreaded Mosquitoes
Getting bitten by mosquitoes and other flying ‘biters’ is inevitably going to happen to most gardeners at one time or another. Whilst it is extremely irritating and can have you scratching your skin to bits, there are some precautions you can take to reduce the risk, although you’re probably never going to eliminate it. Clothing is the key here. Wearing light coloured long sleeved shirts and lightweight canvas long trousers will protect you more than wearing a T-shirt and a pair of shorts. Lighter colours also help. Not only are mosquitoes more drawn to darker clothing, light coloured clothes reflect the heat and are usually far cooler when working outdoors. Spraying insect repellent onto your skin also helps deter the ‘midgies’ and you can even spray it directly onto your clothing if you prefer. Even if you don’t like wearing insect repellent, don’t go to the other extreme and wear perfumes or aftershaves as the scent from these attract mosquitoes and other insects.
Protect Your Hands
Even if it’s a hot, sunny day, you should try to get into the habit of wearing gardening gloves whenever you’re at work in the garden. You are more exposed to getting blisters, calluses, scrapes and cuts if you don’t wear protective gloves.
Even in the colder winter months, your skin is still vulnerable to the elements. Use a good moisturiser after each gardening session and apply cream to stop your lips from becoming chapped and to reduce the outbreak of cold sores. Keep wrapped up warm but still wear loose fitting clothing, only extra layers than you’d wear during the summer months.
There has been a large trend towards switching to organic gardening over the past few years. Not only do organically grown fruit and vegetables taste better but your skin will benefit too. In fact, the constant exposure to pesticides can not only cause skin irritation and respiratory problems but they have also been known to cause chronic health problems over a period of time, some of which have resulted in cancer and problems with reproduction so it’s well worth considering ‘going organic’.
The general rule of thumb, however, when it comes to gardening and skin care, is to take exactly the same precautions as if you were heading off on holiday.