GET COMFORTABLE IN YOUR GARDEN, BUT PROTECT YOUR SKIN AND EYES
Unless a resourceful inventor develops revolutionary technology for skin replacement, we get one skin for life. Even though new cells are made in the deepest layers (where you can't see), the outer "dead" layers of skin cells play a significant role in protection. So keeping it healthy is important. This includes not letting it become dry, irritated or overexposed to the sun, very hot shower or bath water, extremely cold air, and so on.
Besides aging the skin and causing burns that range from irritating to painful, solar radiation can cause skin cancer. It may also contribute to cataract formation.
Gardening, even on a cloudy day, can produce a sunburn, especially when one is unprotected. Don't overlook the value of including a wide-brimmed hat for protection. When tolerable, long sleeves and pants are a good idea. Coolibar.com sells some good sun-protective clothing, so you can dress a little more up-to-date than a traditional Chinese rice-paddy worker to tend your garden. My reversible bucket hat, which I purchased during the late-summer of 2007 clearance sale, gets worn daily. Besides the skin protection, it shades my eyes -- a definite plus for this migraine-prone person.
A full ounce of sun protection creme is recommended for each application to provide adequate coverage. The old saying about an ounce of prevention seems to apply here.
Many lotions designed for sun protection do an excellent job of moisturizing my skin, so I tend to wear them year-round. On my face, I use something with less oil to avoid blemishes that still happen even though I'm 40-something.
In midwinter, the aroma of exotic ingredients (coconut, cocoa butter, and others) is a welcome reminder of summer. Sun protection, or more precisely UV radiation blockage, is beneficial year-round. This includes the use of sunglasses. If you've ever stepped out of the midwinter darkness indoors into a sunny, snow-covered outdoors without protection for your eyes, you probably experienced snow blindness. When the sun reflects off snow, it's beautiful, but can be hard on the eyes. * Imagine the temporary blindness from a camera flash, but with pain, longer-lasting, and from a source much brighter than a flash bulb.
I'm usually itching to get into the garden. Getting outdoors relieves that, but can also generate a physical itch. "Don't scratch," is easy to say if you don't have a persistent itch from "hives" (a rash), inadequately moisturized skin, sunburn or any number of reasons. Like me, if you find that your skin is highly sensitive to plant materials and other triggers, I recommend seeing a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis. The doctor will probably (and should) provide recommendations on how to avoid aggravating your skin.
I choose not to give up gardening, hiking and other outdoor activities in the process of avoiding triggers of my eczema (skin rashes). Gloves, long sleeves and pants are a good barrier. Taking anti-histamine before exposure can help prevent the problem, although I only do this when conditions are really bad.
Gently washing any area that gets irritated as soon as possible after exposure helps. Sweating even irritates my skin if I don't shower or wipe it off soon enough.
If you find that your skin develops something unusual, such as the rash in the photo, a raised area or mole, an area that won't heal or other change in appearance, don't hesitate to get to your doctor, or preferably a dermatologist.
* Snow blindness is not referring to the phenomenon of being lost in a snowstorm because all is white. That's called a whiteout.