Saturday, July 29, 2006

I Can't Live Without. . .

My Wide Brimmed Sun Hat!

Forget Botox. The secret to keeping your face (and the rest of you) looking young is to stay out of the sun. I cringe at the thought of the endless hours I spent during my 20s wandering around flea markets with the summer sun blazing down on my totally unprotected face (and arms and legs). Then there were the teenage sun worshipping years when I fried my skin with (gasp) baby oil for the sake of the beloved 'tan' I'd been convinced is so beautiful. Not to mention countless childhood sunburns (including on my face) that were so bad my skin peeled off. There's nothing like growing up in sunny California.

I think you get the idea--I long ago soaked up my lifetime allotment of sunshine. Add in the fact that my mother had a brush with skin cancer a few years back, and, well, I'm just a teeny bit nervous. I've also become super-protective of my skin.

You won't catch me outdoors on the farm without my sunhat--even if I'm just running to the garden to snip some chives or snatch a tomato. And that's all year round, not just during the summer. I also keep my arms and legs covered up. It might be 98 degrees in the shade, but I'll still be wearing a long sleeve shirt around the farm. (Yes, for a heat-intolerant person like me, it's practically unbearable being outside in so much clothing this time of year, but it beats skin cancer any day.)

For me, the most important thing in a good sun hat is a wide brim. A hat that barely covers your face might make a chic fashion statement, but it's useless from a skin protection point of view. And while a baseball-style cap is certainly better than a bare head, it's doesn't completely cover your face and neck. My "lifeguard style" hat has a generous 5-inch brim that I absolutely love, but I do have to point out one drawback. A hat like this will not only block out the sun, but part of your line of sight as well. This means that you need to be very careful around things like low hanging branches, short-sided barns with stout wooden ceiling beams, and even forehead-level doorways attached to aging log cabins that are sinking into the earth. Yes, I've been bonked badly on the bean by all of the above while wearing my beloved hat. But don't let that keep you from wearing one--I'm sure you're not as absentminded as I am. (Joe has threatened to make me start wearing a hardhat, and I will as soon as he finds one with a wide enough brim.)

The other thing I require in a sun hat is an adjustable chin strap. Mine is a simple, shoestring-like affair that keeps my hat firmly planted on my head on even the most blustery of days. I bought two of these hats a couple of years ago after someone at the feed store obviously went on a springtime hat-buying frenzy. There were hats of all shapes and sizes and styles stacked and hanging everywhere. These were less than $8.00 apiece and will last for many more years. I even wear mine during light rains.

If you can't find a local source for a hat, there are literally hundreds of varieties of sun hats available online. A quick search at turned up this natural straw hat similar to mine for $10.50 and this lifeguard straw hat from Columbia Sportswear for $7.00. You can even buy sunhats for kids that are UPF 50+ rated and made from UV protective fabric that blocks 97.5% of UV rays.

Of course even the best hat and shirt do not provide complete protection from the sun. My second line of defense is sunblock, and I slather it on every single day of the year. Again, there are all kinds of sunblock to choose from. For several years I have been happily using Neutrogena UVA/UVB Sunblock Lotion with 45 SPF. It includes the ingredient Parsol 1789 which protects against the sun's skin-aging UVA rays and was recommended by my dermatologist. Once my current supply is used up, I'm probably going to switch to another Neutrogena product I recently discovered--Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock.

My face and neck receive a daily (and sometimes second) dose of Neutrogena Healthy Skin Face Lotion (SPF 15), and Neutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Eye Cream (SPF 30) goes on the delicate area around my eyes. (Short haired people--don't forget the back of your neck.)

If you aren't able to shop at a small, locally owned pharmacy, all of these products can be found in the new Grocery store at You really can't beat the prices (not to mention the convenience), especially if you take advantage of the $10 instant rebate now being offered on purchases of $49 or more. (Click here for details.) And don't forget the free shipping on all purchases over $25--and no sales tax.

Don't need $49 worth of sunblock? I did a little poking around in the new Grocery section today and discovered that included in the 14,000+ items they offer are many from some of my favorite companies--such as Celestial Seasonings (91 items), Newman's Own Organics (47 items), and even Wild Oats (110 items). There are also 55 different Seventh Generation products available. I noticed that many items are sold in multiples (the sunblocks all came in 2-packs), which simply means that you'll be able to shop less often--and that will help save valuable natural resources.

So this pale-skinned Irish girl may no longer be the bronze beauty she once was, but since I'm pushing 40 and still getting asked for ID when buying wine at the supermarket, I figure I must be doing something right. I definitely don't see any Botox in my future.


  1. Pushing 40?? How about 50? I am guilty of using baby oil too. I have had countless sun burns as a youngster and am now no longer laying in the sun and haven't for years. I live 7 miles from the ocean and never go down there. The hat is cute. Every gardener should have a signature hat to wear.

  2. My dermatologist recently told me that an SPF 30 sunblock is adequate, but it's essential that any sunblock has zinc in it. At least that's the professional thinking at the moment ... tomorrow they may tell us something completely different!

  3. Take comfort in the fact that back in the day when you (and vlb5757) were slathering on the baby oil, the ozone was far less depleted and there was natural protection from sunrays in effect for you.

    I garden in long-sleeves, too - a white cotton shirt. Another way I avoid getting too much sun, (and too much of this recent heat wave) is to get in as much work as possible in the early early morning when it is still cool. 'Cause the thing about sun-block is this: what is the long term effect of pouring that stuff on my skin every day?

  4. My grandfather always wore a baseball cap of some sort while working out in the fields with the cattle, horses, tractors, combines etc....usually with something like a John Deere or other farming equipment logo on it.

    The only problem with those hats?

    He had to have small pieces of the tops of his ears removed due to skin cancer!

    I've always wanted sunshine and a tan. Fell asleep on a north shore Hawaiian beach during high school summer vacation one year - my friends were all out playing at the beach. My face burned so bad that before it peeled it actually got almost hard and plasticky - you could tap your finger nail on it (ow).

    And nowadays I have freckles all over my back, chest and shoulders from all the sun. I still try to get some sun these days, but if I know I'm going to be out there long, I try to convince myself to be smart about it. And yes, I've actually considered getting one of those big wide brimmed hats (straw, cloth, whatever)...

  5. Yes, i too used baby oil, grown and raised and still live in CA ( northern) I think you're the neatest gal on the web, I love your recipes and even though it's hot I am making the bean garlic soup.I love your animals too.

  6. I am a gardener who hasn't hit 40 yet, but I need a big straw hat. I haven't been sunburned this year, but you are right about being in the sun for hours.

  7. Did you know that Vitamin D deficiency is on the rise (mainly children and women) due to the public push to slather on sunscreen and avoid the sun.
    Apparently Vitamin D deficiency can cause the following issues;

    Many forms of cancer
    High blood pressure
    Multiple sclerosis
    Rheumatoid arthritis

    I guess in the end it's all about moderation.

  8. I'm determined to go out like Don Corleone, face down in my tomato patch so I'm not so worried about the skin cancer.

  9. I love love LOVE that Neutrogena Dry-Touch sunblock. And they now make it in SPF 55, too. It's the only thing I will use on my face and neck because it doesn't make me break out or feel greasy. I generally use cheaper "No-Ad" stuff everywhere else, though, and wear pants and long-sleeved white Tshirts when I play in the garden.

    On a daily basis, though, I don't put on sunscreen before I go to work or if I'm going out to snip herbs for supper. I figure that helps me get my Vitamin D for the day.

  10. Hi Vickie,
    Well you certainly don't look like you're pushing 50. : ) Oh I don't think I'd be able to stay away from the ocean if I were that close. Though my favorite time to be at the beach in Northern California was always in the winter anyway.

    Hi Claire,
    I, too, have heard talk that higher than 30 SPF doesn't make much of a difference, but I haven't really looked into the claims. I did see that the Neutrogena 'all over' sunblocks came in various SPFs. And I think the 30SPF was slightly less expensive.

    When I read your comment about the zinc, I looked at the Neutrogena UVA/UVB Sunblock Lotion ingredients and was surprised that it doesn't contain zinc. Something else I should look into more. The Neutrogena contains these active ingredients (one of them is the Parsol): Avobenzone 2.0%, Homosalate 15.0%, Octinoxate 7.5%, Octisalate 5.0%, Oxybenzone 6.0%.

    Another sunsblock we use that I forgot to mention is Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus. It's an insect repellent (DEET free) with 30SPF as well. It has the same three "O" ingredients listed above, but not the other two. I mostly use it under clothing, though.

    I knew I used something with zinc at one point, though. It is OLAY Complete All Day Moisture Lotion SPF 15 (sensitive skin version). I used that on my face for years, and Joe still uses it. I just switched a few bottles ago to the Neutrogena. The OLAY has 6.0% octinoxate and 3.0% zinc oxide.

    And yes, you're right--tomorrow we'll probably be told something different. Remember when everything touted that it had PABA and now everything brags that it's PABA-free? : )

    Hi Judith,
    That is comforting news about the ozone (depressing on the one hand, but comforting on the other).

    Early morning work in the garden is definitely the way to go. Although at this time of year it really is already hot and humid here at dawn. I do often water the garden in the evening when it's mostly shaded. And I, too, wear a cotton shirt--usually men's oversized dress shirts that I can quickly pull on over the tee-shirt I wear in the house whenever I step outside.

    Yeah, I, too, wonder about the long term effects of sunscreen on the body. I actually use less than I used to because I cover up more. For example, if I'm wearing denim overalls or a non-translucent long jumper dress, I don't put it on my legs.

    Hi Jeph,
    Oh yes--we call those seed caps, and Joe has a whole mess of them. Definitely better than nothing, but the tops of his ears removed? OUCH.

    Now go get yourself that wide brimmed hat you've been contemplating! : )

    Hi Mare,
    Well didn't you just make my day. Thank you! : )

    Hi Dori,
    I expect to be notified when all of you hatless gardeners buy your hats. Photos may be required as proof of purchase. : )

    Hi Angel,
    Good point about the Vitamin D. Thanks for the info. What I've heard from various sources is that people can get enough Vitamin D from the sun in about 10 minutes each day--and that exposure on your hands or arms is enough. Most people (even me) get that even if they spend the day indoors--just walking to and from the car, etc. Hopefully it's true!

    Hi Steven,
    Yes, but do you want to look 140 years old when you do? : )

    Hi Blackswamp Girl,
    Thanks for letting me know you love that Neutrogena Dry Touch sunblock. I read some good reviews about it on Amazon--people basically saying the same thing you did. It sounds great. I definitely think I'll try it.

  11. Good for you for being that way...most people would say that is "crazy". I had my own brush w/ melanoma a few years ago, and actually have 7 stitches on my back from an excision last week. When I preach about at least wearing sunscreen, I often am faced with rolling eyes. Good for you!

  12. I think you must be my long lost sister!!

    Just kidding, but I grew up in California, and did all the same bad things to my skin. Also pale skinned Irish, or as my Doctor likes to say- I have "cheap Irish skin" lol---

  13. I second what judith said. I work outside before 10:00 am or after 4:00 pm and I don't wear sunblock because I'm worried about the chemicals (some of which are said to be easily absorbed through the skin). But then, I also don't manage a farm!

  14. I am 50 and I too never used any sunscreen and did the baby oil. A few years ago I was diagnosed with melanoma on my arm which required surgery..Since I do not want to join the mole people and live underground all my life..I now use sunscreen and wear a wide brimmed hat..I love being outside and I am not going to let having had melanoma control my life so when I am out mowing my yard or working in flowers..I have a long sleeved shirt on even if its 90 degrees..I am way past what other people might say about me looking like an idiot dressed like that in the hot sun..On thing I do know..I do not want to deal with melanoma again..

  15. Nancy - I love the Neutrogena Dry-Touch 55 sunblock too. My dermatologist reccomended it. The problem I have with it is that it turns my white T-shirts yellow at the neck and sleves. You can see exactly where the shirts have come in contact with the sunblock. I haven't found anything that will remove the discoloration - and I love white T-shirts in the summer! Has anyone else had this problem? Have you found a solution?

  16. I love this wide straw hat...where can I buy one?

    Davona Nonord

  17. I am another user of Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock, and I can report that this product will indeed discolor white clothing, with an orange stain in my case (both cotton and synthetics). Since I have to use this with white dress shirts, I need to find another product...just too expensive buying new shirts!


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