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10 Ways to Protect Your Skin While Gardening

Tending to your annuals doesn’t mean you should neglect yourself!

happy woman gardening in sunhat
Photography by: Tetra Images - Jessica Peterson/Getty

A day in the garden is a day well-spent. But the downside of spending a day gardening, whether you're tending to gorgeous blossoms or delicious vegetables, is that it can have unintended consequences on your skin. It’s not a day at the beach, but it is an activity that takes place outdoors, so precautions should be taken to protect your gorgeous face. Read on to see what derms say should be the 10 commandments of skin love for you to abide by while you tend to your blooms.

 

Wear a Hat

Seemingly obvious, as a hat is the gardener's best friend, but Dr. Francesca Fusco of Wexler Dermatology, explains that it should be a broad brimmed hat. “Sun comes in at all angles,” explains Dr. Fusco, “And even with sunscreen, it’s necessary to wear one.”

 

UV Sunglasses

By the same token, you need to protect your eyes and the skin around your eyes. Dr. Fusco insists that, “It’s impossible to apply sunblock to your eyelids, so wearing sunglasses with UV protection it a must.” We think this is worth it if it means avoiding sunburn on your eyelids because it can happen and it's quite painful.

 

Wash Clothes Immediately After Gardening

Dr. Perlmutter of New York Dermatology Group advises that you always wash the clothes that you garden in, right after you come in from gardening. This helps prevent overexposure to plant oils that could cause skin irritations.

 

Keep Skin at Sock Line and Wrists Covered

 

Avid gardeners are at risk for coming into contact with poison ivy. Dr. Weiser of the NYDG, elaborates on this risk saying, “Whether weeding or planting, exposure to this three-leaf cluster can lead to severe allergic contact reactions ranging from pink irritated patches to large, water-filled blisters.” So, to avoid this, you should always wear socks and pull your sleeves down, and always, always, always wear gloves. Dr. Weiser also notes that one should be mindful of keeping their hands away from their face, “Avoid wiping your face and neck with the back of your gloves or sleeves which may carry poison ivy resin, too.”

 

Don’t Wear Fragrance While Gardening

While your signature scent is no doubt gorgeous, it’s probably for the best that you don’t wear it while you garden. Dr. Fusco explains, “It attracts bugs and it can cause a rash when the sun shines on the area of skin where the fragrance has been applied.” 

 

Wear Insect Repellent

Another obvious one, but for good reason. Insect bites can cause a number of reactions and ticks pose a particular threat to your health. Dr. Weiser explains that it is crucial to perform a head-to-toe skin examination after each gardening session, especially for gardens in highly endemic areas, to remove any freshly attached ticks. “Be sure to look between toes, around your hairline and groin, and underarms,” says Dr. Weiser, continuing, “Ticks that stay in place on the skin for more than 24-36 hours, and have become engorged from blood consumption, can lead to Lyme disease -- a serious bacterial infection that can cause rash, fever, and even eventually lead to neurologic symptoms and impairments.”

 

Wear SPF

This is just a cardinal rule for life, but you need to apply sunscreen -- even on covered areas. Dr. Fusco also explains that you should put SPF on your hands, yes, even if you are wearing gloves. “A T-shirt confers a mere SPF 5-8 protection so it’s necessary to apply sunscreen to chest, back, arms, and wear gloves because your hands are subject to sun damage and trauma. Keep them covered.”

 

Protect Your Knees

Dr. Weiser says that knees are overlooked as an area with vulnerabilities when it comes to gardening. Kneeling can irritate skin and cause thickening and dryness of the skin over the knees known as lichenification, a consequence of chronic skin friction or rubbing. Invest in a good gardening cushion to support your knees and prevent them from rubbing against the ground.

 

Water, Water, Water

You might be watering your plants, but don’t forget to water yourself, as well. Be sure to stay hydrated, and not just because your body needs it to function. “While dehydration can make you feel tired and unwell, it can have similar effects on the skin, making it limp, dull, and lifeless. Water keeps skin cells plump and the skin surface smooth to prevent damage,” says Dr. Weiser. You should also hydrate more when you're in the sun as the heat can deplete you of hydration faster.

 

Lip Protection

Another overlooked skin area is your lips. Dr. Fusco advises you use a physical sunblock, as opposed to a chemical one, when it comes to broad protection. You can also get sunbunr on this highly sensitive area, so be sure to reapply often.

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