By Eric Bennett

Even though I grew up in sunny southern California, going to the beach almost every day and skateboarding from sun up until sundown, I never put much thought into protecting my skin. I would get bad sunburns from time to time, but as a teenager instead of doing anything to prevent them, I just learned to live with them. Now as a full-time nature photographer living in Utah, I spend even more time outside, hiking all day long or camping in exposed places at high elevation. With my pale white Scandinavian skin I do try to use sunscreen whenever I remember to and I seek shade when possible, mainly to be more comfortable. But everything changed earlier this year once my dad was diagnosed with stage four melanoma. 


With the threat of skin cancer feeling very real all of a sudden, I have been much more conscious about taking measures to protect my skin. If you are an outdoors enthusiast and spend a lot more time outside than most people, it is even more important that you take precautions to avoid too much sun exposure. Because the air is thinner at higher altitudes, if you are backpacking, climbing, or camping in the mountains, even if it isn’t as hot out, prolonged exposure to the sun is all the more harmful. With less of a filter for sunlight to pass through, the UV index increases by 2% for every 1,000 feet. That means that in the mountains that I backpack in the most frequently, where I spend weeks at a time at an average of 11,000 ft, the sun’s radiation is 22% more powerful than at sea level. 

Now, when it comes to sun protection, the first thing that probably comes to our minds is to lather up with sunscreen. However, statistics have shown a steady increase in skin cancer cases climbing side by side with increased popularity and use of sunscreen since the early 1900s. Benzene, a common ingredient you will find in most sunscreens, is also one of the most heavily researched carcinogens there is. Because of this–while it has yet to be proven–many people believe that these sunscreens, the very thing that is supposed to protect us, are one of the main causes of people developing melanoma. 


Of course, with this new research, there are many brands of sunscreen that have emerged, like Sun Bum, Neutrogena, and Hawaiian Tropic, that are heavier in zinc and other protective agents and have no benzene at all. But even then there are people that are still skeptical about sunscreen altogether. An argument against sunscreen is that if the sun is really so bad for us, wouldn’t we have gone extinct many thousands of years ago? What did our ancient ancestors do with even more sun exposure and no access to sunscreen?


While that may be somewhat true, I have another opinion. First off, we have better ways of detecting melanoma than before, thus an obvious increase in cases. Secondly, In the last one hundred years as harmful industries have polluted our planet, we have done enormous amounts of damage to the atmosphere. With holes in the ozone and some of the atmospheric layers now destroyed, the natural protective filter that shielded all of earth’s living things from the sun has been severely compromised. The increase of CO2 in the atmosphere also magnifies the power of the sun, which is part of the global warming greenhouse effect that we are experiencing. The very light that kept everything on this planet alive has now become lethal and deadly. And it was by our own doing. 

So besides lathering up with sunscreen every hour or hiding indoors all day long, what else can we do to stay safe? One of the oldest means of protection from the sun is to cover up with clothing so our skin isn’t directly exposed. However, UV rays can still pass through most t-shirts, so they do not offer full protection. Also, when I am hiking on a hot summer day, the last thing I want to do is throw on a long sleeve t-shirt and heat up even more. 

 

The Suray Sun Shirt fixes this problem by not only offering effective protection, through zinc ions that are embedded in the matrix of the fabric, but also being very breathable and feeling just as cool as having no shirt on at all. In fact, since it shields your body from the sunlight so well, reflecting most of the UV rays since they cannot pass through the fabric, it can feel even cooler than being in a short sleeve shirt or even shirtless. Trust me when I say you don’t need to worry about overheating in this thing.


With zinc being part of the very fabric itself, these shirts are not sprayed with any kinds of chemicals in order to be protective against UV rays like other sun shirts on the market. This means you don’t need to worry about anything that could be harmful to the environment during manufacturing or to yourself while wearing it, and also the protection won’t wash out with water. Instead, it will last the entire life of the product, without wearing off or losing efficacy. This zinc also naturally fights off any odor-causing bacteria, mold, and fungi!


As with all Coalatree products, the Suray’s ergonomic and deliberate design makes this a practical shirt to wear on the go wherever you are. Not only is it very soft, with its four-way stretch material it is also very comfortable and easy to move in during any kind of activity. Plus, this state of the art material also dries off very quickly if you get wet or sweaty. With reinforced seams it is also very durable and you don’t have to constantly worry about ripping or tearing it. It packs into itself which makes it convenient to always have on hand either in your backpack, purse, glove compartment, or luggage. This zipper pocket also doubles as a secure place to stash your car keys, money, or any important items while you are out on a run or hiking on the trail. 


So while applying sunscreen, staying indoors all day, or covering up with normal clothing may not be the most practical or sure answer when it comes to full protection from the sun, you can count on the new Suray Sun Shirt from Coalatree to keep your skin safe and healthy all day long. Your skin will thank you for it.