Whether it’s a hobby or your 9-5, there is one thing gardeners can’t avoid: the sun (and probably a few thorns in the thumb as well). The right sun protective gear, like the ones we’re going to cover here, can keep you safe from the sun and even a pesky scratch or two.
We can’t overstate how important it is to protect your skin from the sun while you’re outdoors. On a hot Australian day, the UV index (which is the level of ultraviolet radiation being emitted by the sun) can be as high as 9 or more, which means damage will occur within 15 minutes, possibly as little as 7.
Household garden chores can take hours, and gardeners and landscapers can be outside in the sun for almost all the daylight hours possible, putting you in the high-risk category for skin damage and even cancers.
Affordable sun protection solutions
The fastest, most effective way to protect your skin is with sun-protective clothing with a rating of UPF50+, which means it blocks up to 98% of UVA and UVB rays. And no, unfortunately, your t-shirt won’t cut it because cotton has a sun protection factor of about 5!
Let’s look at how sun protection works:
- It’s made from high-quality, stretchy fabric that slips underneath your clothing (or you can use a body shirt).
- You can pick and choose your gear to cover body parts most exposed to the sun.
- Some UPF50+ clothing has the ability to cool your skin and wick away moisture.
- It’s easily washable and hangs dry.
- It’s small enough to fit into a gym bag, glovebox or even your pocket!
- You won’t need to worry about it washing off or feeling greasy like sunscreen.
- Quality gear will last years, making it cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
We see most gardeners opting for arm sleeves as their first line of defence (on top of a broad-rimmed hat and sunscreen for face protection). Here, we’ll also give you a full rundown of all the best sun protection items for gardeners and outdoorsy folks.
Arm sleeves for gardeners
Arm sleeves are typically the go-to garment for outdoor workers and gardeners because it protects one of the most vulnerable and often-forgotten areas of the body. Arm sleeves slip on your arms – literally like a sleeve – and cover your skin from underarm to wrist.
There are also extra-long sun sleeves that come with a thumbhole to cover the back of your hand as well, which is an area we often see sunspots appearing as we age.
As well as arm sleeves, you can consider these other types of sun protection:
- Base layer shirt: lightweight and cooling, long-sleeve base layer shirts can be slipped on to provide seamless torso protection, right down to your wrists. Some base shirts can help keep you warm on chilly days, too.
- Neck gaiters: growing in popularity, neck gaiters are face shields that cover your neck and can be pulled up over the mouth and nose. Even with a wide-brimmed hat, the neck is still one of the areas most likely to see sun damage, which appears as wrinkles, leatherskin and skin cancers.
- Leg sleeves: highly flexible and breathable, leg sleeves are slipped on under shorts and cover your legs from upper thigh to ankle.
- Leggings: Full leggings provide coverage from waist to foot, with a breathable mesh fabric over the buttocks to help with airflow and cooling.
- Gloves: if your outdoor work doesn’t require gardening gloves, you can add UPF gloves to protect the tops of your hands. These gloves are palmless, so you can still grip, cut and mow without loss of feeling.
Sun protection for outdoors is vital
The effects of UV radiation on your skin can be damaging even if you don't see an immediate sunburn. Exposure to UV radiation can cause premature aging, including wrinkles, age spots, and loss of elasticity. Over time, it can also lead to the development of skin cancer which is the most common type diagnosed in Australia.
The Cancer Council says around 2 in 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they’re 70 years old.
That doesn’t bode well if you’re someone who spends time outdoors on a weekly or daily basis. Adding a few simple clothing items such as sun sleeves, leg sleeves and a neck gaiter can make a world of difference in the years to come.