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Healthy Living for Women

Why Less Clothing Isn’t Always Best for Summer Workouts

Keeping your skin safe from the sun should be a top priority while you get your sweat on.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

When looking for summer workout clothes, many athletes opt for “less is more” because of the intense heat. Some people may not even think twice about what to wear during outdoor workouts or long runs because it’s as simple as a sports bra and shorts.

However, selecting the most protective summer workout apparel may just save your life in the long run.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. Even the smallest amount of exposure may lead to precancerous and cancerous (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma) lesions or sores. Basal cell and squamous cell make up 95 percent of diagnosed skin cancers and are highly curable if treated early. Melanoma is the most serious because it can spread to other organs. It’s responsible for 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths.

Another well-known side effect of too much sunshine is that the ultraviolet (UV) light emitted by sun damages elastin fibers in your skin, leading to sagging and wrinkles.

Rebecca Baxt, M.D., FAAD, board-certified dermatologist, says that all your skin is equally able to get sunburned, but “certain areas are higher risk due to the angle of the sun when it hits the skin, such as the top of the head, forehead, nose, chest, top of shoulders and tops of feet.”

To protect yourself, you need good sunscreen and proper clothing. Here are some go-to strategies for protecting yourself outdoors.

4 Clothing Tips to Protect Your Skin During the Summer

Wear a hat. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends starting to layer protection from the top by choosing a quality, tightly woven hat. Choose a 3-inch brim to cover not only your face but also the tops of your ears, shoulders and even your upper back. Popular brands like Athleta, Coolibar and Patagonia offer sporty workout hats in lots of designs and colors.

Wear UV clothes. UV clothing has ultraviolet protection in the fabric and is labeled as such, so check the tags for confirmation before buying. To be considered protective, UV clothing must have an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of 30.

Choose colors wisely. Dark colors absorb more UV rays, so less is absorbed by your skin.

“If you are not wearing an SPF fabric as described above, then dark or bright colors work best to absorb the rays, such as black, navy blue or bright red,” Baxt says. “Lighter colors, pastel colors or white do not do as well for sun protection.”

Wear sweat-wicking material. When shopping for summer workout clothes, look for words like dri-fit, quick-drying or breathable. Researchers from Western Michigan University found that synthetic polyester shirts retain less sweat and increase ventilation during workouts. Polyester, a synthetic material made from a combination of ingredients all melted down to produce polyethylene terephthalate (PET), is hydrophobic, meaning it doesn’t absorb sweat.

And your skin isn’t the only part of your body that could use some pre-sun prep. Check out other ways you can “summerproof” your body before your next outdoor workout here!