Jul 02 2013

Effective UV Protection at Altitude


It’s easier to hide the ugly pink of Labiosan behind facial hair.

Years ago Zeke, my tele mentor, turned me on to the most effective sunblock on the planet. It not only prevents skin from burning in sensitive areas like your lips, it can also help with the healing if you were using an inferior sunscreen and didn’t reapply it often enough.

That’s the problem with most sunscreens. They do work, but require constant reapplication to be effective. When you’re climbing a mountain, reapplying sunscreen every half hour can be annoying at the least. The reality is, it is rarely done enough.

Without question, the best sun protection I have ever used is Labiosan. A lot of folks don’t like it for the way it looks and feels. It is an odd shade of pink that makes you feel like a clown, while tickling your lips as it numbs them.

I like it for the way it feels, which helps me to know that it is working, either as a shield to the sun’s harmful radiation, or as a medicated balm. The protective side of Labiosan comes from zinc oxide as a primary component. Rather than take chances with filtering sunlight, the opaque nature of the zinc oxide blocks the sun. This is especially important at altitude and on water, either the frozen or liquid variety, where the suns rays hit your skin from all around, not just above.

Back when neon was the rage, Zinka was the sunblock of choice. Just think, neon is coming back. ;)

Back when neon was the rage, Zinka was the sunblock of choice. Just think, neon is coming back. ;)

Add to that a little menthol and you have a balm that not only protects, but also medicates. It soothes second and first degree burns. Less well known yet more important to those prone to them, it heals cold sores and cracked lips.

The presence of menthol in the Labiosan formula creates a tingling sensation when you first put it on, giving you an immediate sensation of its healing properties. It feels cool, but that is a consequence of it numbing the nerves on your lips. It has been a favorite of alpinists for years, though hard to come by at the retail level.

Zinc Oxide
If you can’t find Labiosan, pure zinc oxide is a good second choice if you prefer to prevent damage from the sun, rather than recover from it. The plain jane variety works for me, though you might also consider some of the other products like Dermatone that use zinc oxide as a primary ingredient, plus a bunch of other stuff. It works great on skin, but I don’t use it on my lips anymore – it has a yucky taste. I’d rather go numb with Labiosan than taste that.

Proof that the use of zinka was not an isolated incident, just an insolated window of time.

Proof that the use of zinka was not an isolated incident, just an insolated window of time.

I can’t and won’t comment on the pros and cons of the many sexy, fruity, wimpy sunscreens and balms available at big box retailers. Suffice it to say I’m leary of anything produced by a corporate giant whose assets include a politician in their pocket, Monsanto controlling any of the ingredients, and a line of good credit from the R&R banksters. A possible exception is Blistex which is good for a quick recovery from cracked and over cooked lips. You need to do your own research for the wimpy formulas that keep your lips moist enough to feel like they’d be worth kissing if you’re able to provoke the interest.

Myself I’m a big fan of simple Beeswax which is a common ingredient in many lip balms. My criteria is to keep the beeswax percentage high with a dab of honey for additional health benefits and improved taste so I don’t mind applying it liberally and often. Just a few days ago I ran across this link indicating that coconut oil is an effective sunscreen. Which may be true and good enough at the beach, but not at altitude.

Which is why I’ve given up on sunscreen for sun protection when I’m on snow and opt instead for a sunblock like zinc oxide for skin and, when available, Labiosan for lips. What’s your fave formulation for protection and restoration?

© 2013
Just learned you can get it at Amazon. Click the image below.