Sun protection is very important while traveling in Ecuador – especially in the Andes.
And it is even more important if you are living in Ecuador.
The atmosphere is thinner at higher elevations and allows more harmful UV rays to get through. This puts you at higher risk of burns and other skin problems.
The weather can be deceptive. Don’t allow the cooler temperatures at higher elevations fool you into thinking the sun is less harmful than it would be on the beach. It’s actually more dangerous.
Skin Damage From The Andean Sun
After living in the Andes for around 4 years I developed a sun spot on my face. It was getting bigger and turning red so I went to a dermatologist to get it checked out. It was not skin cancer, but I must admit the fear crept into my mind.
I needed to have the spot removed. So I had a couple of treatments with liquid nitrogen and it was gone.
The dermatologist talked to me about the importance of sun protection. She told me that I needed to be more careful in the sun and use sunblock every day. I had thought that the sun protection in my makeup was enough, but she said that it was not. This was a bit of a reality check.
I have sensitive skin and was worried about what all that greasy sunblock would do to my complexion. The dermatologist recommended a sun block called Umbrella, which has been wonderful. She recommended the spray, it feels a little lighter than the cream. I spray it onto my hands and rub it around before applying it. That way I avoid blotchy tan marks. Applying makeup over the sunblock has not been a problem.
The dermatologist also told me that the “freckles” and white spots on my arms are signs of sun damage. After the visit I wished I had thought of visiting a dermatologist when we arrived in Ecuador because I would have been more careful.
How We Protect From Sun Damage in Ecuador
I am much more careful now, and try to remind Bryan and Drew to be as well. Whenever I spend the day in the sun I wear sunblock, sunglasses and a wide-brimmed sun hat. I also carry an umbrella for those really sunny days (my favorite is the London Fog umbrella – in red).
A sun hat is a really important part of your sun protection gear. Make sure you get one you really like, otherwise you will not want to wear it. I love mine, it’s lightweight, has a wide brim, and doesn’t loose it’s shape when I fold it up, so it travels really well. It’s also versatile, it looks fine for hiking and for something a little more dressy.
Sun protection is especially important from 10 a.m to 4 p.m when the sun is at it’s strongest. The sun is also dangerous on cloudy days, so don’t skip the sun block just because of heavy cloud cover.
It’s important to talk to your doctor and check the warnings on any medication/supplements you may be taking because they could make you more sensitive to the sun. Some kinds of diuretics, antidepressants, birth control pills, and antihistamines are like that. There may be may more medications that could cause problems, so make sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist.
Long sleeved shirts and long pants will provided more protection than shorts and short sleeved t-shirts. Loose fitting, dark colored clothing is also said to provide more protection from the sun than light colored, tight fitting clothing would. Many adventure apparel companies produce shirts and pants with UPF 50+ sun protection. These apparel companies include: Columbia, Outdoor Research, Coolibar, Speedo and Vapor Apparel.
Read my Coolibar hat review.
Don’t forget about your hands! I usually apply sunblock at home, by the time I head out my hands are no longer protected because I’ve washed it all off. I like to keep sunblock in my bag so I can make sure my hands are protected as well.
If you will be spending time in high elevation areas don’t forget the need to be extra careful about sun protection.
Please share your favorite sun protection gear by commenting on this post.