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Summer is Coming: How to Keep your SPF Game Strong

If you are one of the millions of fans currently obsessed with the final season of Game of Thrones, then you’re well aware, ‘Winter Is Coming’ for the seven kingdoms. But for the rest of us here on this side of reality, it’s the opposite, ‘Summer Is Coming,’ and with it, the fierce summer sun backed by its army of harmful UVA and UVB rays. And while the show’s super villain, the Night King, is certainly the stuff of nightmares, I’m here to help guard you, my fellow equestrians, from an even more frightening and very real enemy, sun damage.

So, unless you want to end up looking like the aforementioned Night King or a member of his own Army of the Dead, you’ll need to arm yourself with some serious SPF. (If you happen to be one of the only humans left on the planet who hasn’t seen Game of Thrones, just Google ‘Night King,’ and you’ll be slathering on the sunscreen with the rest of us).

So let’s get started with the obvious, sunscreen. Ideally you should wear this stuff on the daily whether you are in the sun or not. Just get a moisturizer that has it included, and you’ll be ahead of the game. I know; it’s hard to think you need to worry about sun damage when you are young and have perfect wrinkle free skin. Well let me tell you, it doesn’t stay that way for long if you don’t take care of it. I was blessed with seemingly perfect skin for a long time and thought as long as I didn’t get burned, I didn’t need sunscreen. Wrong. The sun damage eventually started showing up, and insidious little dark marks and uneven skin tone began to emerge. Believe me; it’s a lot easier to just wear some good sunscreen than it is to try and reverse the damage with chemical peels and lightening creams. Here are a few of my favorites: 

Paula’s Choice Skin Restoring Moisturizer

At this point, I’m not messing around. I go for the big guns and wear this SPF 50 moisturizer every day. This brand has several daily moisturizers for all skin types that incorporate varying levels of SPF. The products are high quality and reasonably priced. They also run promotions and sales frequently, which I appreciate. Because let’s face it, I’m more likely to spend money on some pampering for my horse than I am for myself.

EltaMD SPF 50 UV Sport Sunscreen

This is my favorite all around sunscreen. I have done everything, from run half marathons to horse show all day, wearing this sunscreen and have never gotten so much as a hint of pink on my face. It feels super lightweight and stays put even through sweat, eliminating the worry that your sunscreen will start to run into your eyes while cantering to the last fence (taking away that already questionable distance you think you saw).

One last tip when it comes to sunscreen: Don’t forget about your hands. They can start to look old and wrinkly before their time too. Spray sport sunscreen is great for hands. You can spray the backs of your hands with the non greasy formula and not worry about getting any on your palms and fingers, rendering them too slippery to hold the reins.

Moving on to what’s likely already a staple in every equestrian’s wardrobe, the sun shirt. Along with some tried and true established brands, there are also some seriously stylish options hitting the market. However, not all sunshirts are created equal when it comes to actual sun protection. If you’re serious about guarding against the sun, go for ones that have a stated SPF/UPF. And zip that thing up! Your neck and chest need protection too. A wrinkly neck and chest can tattle on a seemingly youthful face!

One the pioneers of the sun shirt market is Equi in Style. They make all kinds of variations and colors of their classic sunshirt and have an awesome UPF of 50.

A relative newcomer to the sun shirt scene, with a chic style and unique technical fabric is, Anique. Their proprietary Smart Yarn really does keep you amazingly cool, and the thoughtfully placed seam lines make for a flattering fit with enhanced ventilation. Did I mention they are super soft? They also boast a UPF of 30.

The Peacock Blue color is currently on sale!

Now that we have you styling in a super cute sunshirt, we are going to throw fashion right out the window with a hideous, yet incredibly effective piece of sun protection, the helmet visor. I remember the first time I saw someone with one on I almost laughed out loud. Now I am that person and I wear mine with pride. There is no better protection against the sun’s damaging rays than never letting them hit your skin in the first place. I suffer from melasma, and no matter how high of an SPF sunscreen I have on, the mere heat from being in the sun is enough to make those terrible dark patches come out. The only defense is a physical barrier. So just wear one ok? There is strength in numbers, and everyone is doing it. Swallow your pride, save your skin.

Ok, so as a reward for suffering the short term fashion faux pas of the helmet visor (in exchange for the long term fashion staple of great skin), I give you headwear that is both fashionable and functional. Behold, the Riata hat. I’m 100% obsessed with these hats. They are beyond comfortable, are super cute, and the wide brim totally keeps the sun off your face and upper body. Now, the really fun thing to do is to contact the owner, Jill Slater, and have one custom made for you. She’ll work with you to create a bespoke hat that reflects your own personal style. I, however, lack creativity and patience. So I opted to find mine in store. Seriously, my main goal when visiting Thermal this year was to get my hands on one at one of the local/mobile tack stores that carry them. I absolutely love mine and I know you will too.

Finally, my very favorite piece of sun protection: My Jasmin Stair Stables hat. My former trainer, co-founder of Equestrian Confidential, and friend, Jasmin Stair, gave this to me when I joined her barn following a 15 year riding hiatus after college. I found the most amazing group of barn friends at JSS that totally reignited my love for this amazing sport of ours. And even though I’ve sadly moved away from the barn’s home base in California, I still wear it with pride and it helps me still feel connected to my old barn mates. My new horse, Marty, has even donned it, being dubbed an honorary JSS barn member from afar. Does your barn have any fun “team” gear? If not, ordering some hats with the your barn’s logo might be a great way to show your team pride and keep all your barn mates safe from the sun this summer.

So time to load up on the sunscreen and update your wardrobe to include these essential pieces of sun armor. Remember: Summer is coming. Consider yourself warned.

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