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July is UV Safety Month: How to Stay Safe in the Colorado Mountains

July is the perfect time of year for individuals and families to enjoy the outdoors and Colorado’s beautiful mountains. It’s important to remember higher elevations require increased sun safety.

But a lot of the 82+ million visitors per year forget to take proper sun and UV safety into account. Whether you’re visiting Sylvan Lake State Park, Vail Mountain, Lake Dillon, or other scenic areas, the following UV safety tips can help:

4 Sun and UV Safety Tips to Follow in Colorado

1. Wear SPF 30 Sunscreen

Vail Health recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF 30 rating and reapplying every two hours. Although SPF 60 might sound like the protection of SPF 30 doubled, it’s not. Our dermatologists suggest that it’s better to reapply sunscreen often than to choose a sunscreen with SPF 30+. While higher SPF levels will block more UV exposure, a lot of people will forget to reapply often.

The sunscreen you wear should contain:

  • Zinc oxide and/or
  • Titanium dioxide

Both ingredients provide additional UV protection and will act as a barrier on the skin that reflects the UV radiation. If you have sensitive skin, these two ingredients are also a great choice because they cause less overall irritation.

2. Wear Physical Protection

Physical protection can help block your skin from the sun. If you’re going for a hike through the mountains, don’t underestimate how long and tiring a short hike may be. Slopes and steep landscapes can lead to a short hike taking hours.

Reapplying your sunscreen and wearing the following physical protection can help:

  • Hats
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun-protective clothing

If you have fair skin, a hat will stop the top of your head from getting sunburned.

3. Protect Your Lips

Your lips can become sunburned. Swelling will occur, and you’ll want to apply a cold compress to your lips to ease the pain. A simple way to prevent sunburn on your lips is to use a moisturizing lip balm.

A lot of lip balm manufacturers are offering lip balm with SPF that will prevent your lips from burning.

Men, women and children should wear lip balm and reapply often to help provide additional protection for their lips.

4. Seek Shade

Staying in direct sunlight too long is an obvious concern. You’ll want to do your best to stay in the shade, whether that means walking through heavily treed trails or even bringing an umbrella with you.

The hours of 10am and 4pm are when UV light is the strongest, so aim to go for an early morning or late afternoon adventure through the mountains.

A general rule of thumb to measure how strong the UV rays are is to look at your shadow. If your shadow is shorter than you, the UV rays are strongest. Seeking shade at this time is essential to reduce exposure.

UV rays reach the ground even if it’s cloudy, hazy or raining outside, so be proactive and follow the safety tips above.

UV exposure increases between 10% to 12% for every 1,000 meters of elevation. The higher up you are in Colorado’s mountains, the more precautions you need to take.

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