If you have ever worn Birkenstock sandals you know what it means to have a Birkenstock tan line. After spending time in the sun, Birkenstocks can leave odd strap marks on the tops of your feet. The type of tan line you create is determined by the model of Birkenstocks you wear. People who don’t wear Birkenstocks often laugh about the odd tan lines created by Birkenstock sandals. I am here to tell you that Birkenstock tan lines are no laughing matter.
Our feet are exposed to the sun for long periods of time when we wear Birkenstocks outdoors. It’s not obvious, but even on cloudy or overcast days we are exposed to harmful UV rays. According to the American Scientist Magazine, UV rays are most harmful on cloudy days. The American Scientist states that in terms of harmful UV rays, “the U.S. National Weather Service and Environmental Protection Agency…figure 89 percent transmission for scattered clouds, 73 percent transmission for broken clouds and 32 percent transmission for overcast conditions.” People tend to remember to use sunscreen on warm hot days, but the worst burns often happen on cloudy days, when we least expect a sunburn. It is just as important to apply sunscreen to your feet whenever you sport your Birkenstocks, as it is to wear sunscreen on your face everyday.
My “Birkenstock Buddy” and I were talking about Birkenstock tan lines the other day. She mentioned how the top of her feet had gotten sunburnt after spending just a few hours outdoors while wearing her Birks. That morning she had applied a homeopathic oil to her feet in an effort to ease discomfort caused by Guillian Barre Syndrome (GBS). She left the house in her Balis and came home a few hours later with the tops of her feet burned. Her feet, which are already hypersensitive due to GBS, had become even more painful. She realized the homeopathic remedy likely exacerbated the sunburn. In hind sight, she wishes that she applied a layer of sunscreen to her feet, on top of the homeopathic oil, to protect her skin from the sun.
Putting sunscreen on your feet may seem like an odd thing to do, but it is essential to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. I am prone to freckles and at a young age a dermatologist stressed to me the importance of applying sunscreen to my skin every single day. I have applied sunscreen on my face daily since I was 15 years old, but I have not used sunscreen on my feet on a regular basis. The only time I remember to put sunscreen on my feet is when I take a tropical vacation.
Two months ago I knew it was time to make daily sunscreen application to my feet a habit because my dad had been diagnosed with a melanoma inside his ear. If a melanoma can develop on the inside portion of one's ear, I assume a skin cancer could also develop on one’s feet, especially when that individual wears sandals on a regular basis. I now apply sunscreen to my feet on the days I wear Birkenstock sandals. You might be asking, “What kind of sunscreen do you use on your feet, Gina Mama?” I use a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays.
According to Kaiser Permanente, ”Sunlight contains two types of potentially harmful rays — ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburn and skin cancer. UVA rays penetrate deeply into the skin and cause wrinkles and also increase skin cancer risk. You need to use your sunscreen every day, all year round, even when it's cloudy, to protect your skin.” Thus, it is important to use a broad spectrum sunscreen all year round when you are wearing Birkenstock sandals.
There are many different levels of Sun Protection Factor (SPF) available to the consumer. Kaiser Permanente explains that the SPF rating is a measurement of how well a sunscreen will protect your skin from Ultra Violet rays. Kaiser Permanente states “An SPF of 30 is sufficient…While you may be tempted to purchase a sunscreen with a higher SPF, keep in mind that those with a higher SPF are often more expensive, so people make the mistake of using less. Instead, opt for a less expensive sunscreen with sufficient SPF and reapply every two hours.” I tend to carry sunscreen in my bag and reapply every few hours when I am outdoors.
In addition to various SPF ratings, there are many different types of sunscreens available. Sunscreen can be found in cream, oil, spray, stick, or gel forms. There are sunscreens for adults, children, babies, and those with sensitive skin. Whichever sunscreen meets your needs, make sure you opt for one that is waterproof. Waterproof sunscreen is less likely to wear off when you become sweaty or wet.
Kaiser Permanente recommends applying sunscreen generously to your skin, early and often. I suggest you be kind to yourself and follow these recommendations. You can protect yourself from harmful UV rays and avoid embarrassing Birkenstock tan lines.
Birkenstock blogger since 2016.