Living in Alaska · Wednesday Wisdom

Wednesday Wisdom: How to Deal With the Midnight (or Mid Day) Sun

Hey everyone!  Now that the summer solstice is right around the corner, it’s almost officially summer!  Woooohooo!  Now usually I hate summer.  Why?  It is filled with long hot humid days where outdoor activities are impossible and the city smells like trash and I’m constantly sweating at work since I have to work outside.  But this year I am in Alaska where not only is there a total lack of humidity and heat over 90 degrees (there are definitely some days over 80 degrees here!) but there is sunlight almost all night long!  Summer here is going to be filled with lots of running, hikes on high mountains, afternoons of kayaking, and long nights by the bonfire with my friends.

IMG_0758This was taken around midnight.  Notice the bright sky in the background!

Now obviously when the sun is out at midnight it doesn’t pose any real UV threat and you don’t need sunscreen.  But during the day the sun can get pretty hot and even on the cooler days sunscreen is required!  Last summer in Seward I was wearing a coat while kayaking up to Aialik glacier and forgot to put sunscreen on the back of my hands.  Yeah, that was a pretty awkward sunburn line!  This year I’m going to try attempt to not get sunburned once all summer long.  That may not be possible since in case you haven’t noticed, my skin is crazy pale!  I can get burned on days when no one else does.  It drives me crazy because I know how damaging even 1 bad sunburn can be, but just one small lapse in judgement will leaving me in terrible pain for days.  And for the record, I never tan – just burn over and over again!

So I’ve compiled a list of some sun survival tips for this summer, including a few that are only really necessary when you live in the land of midnight sun!

  • Pick a sunscreen that not only works, but is safe to use.  There are a million different kinds of sunscreen out there, so choosing the right one might seem impossible.  Thanks to the help of Environmental Working Group, you now don’t have to struggle so hard at the store!  They’ve listed the top brands that they recommend based on ingredients and other safety measures.  Check out the list here.  I was very sad to see that my current brand (Aveeno) didn’t make the cut based on some sketchy ingredients.  I love how it smells!  But this list has great suggestions for me to try out and even lists how expensive each brand is so that you can find a safe option in your price point.
  • Know how to stay safe in the sun even without sunscreen.  I think we’ve all been there – we somehow get stuck out in the sun without sunscreen.  This always causes me to launch into total panic mode!  But EWG has a whole page dedicated to sun safety and many of the tips don’t involve sunscreen.  Just wearing extra layers of clothing will help, and it’s also helpful to stay in the shade as much as possible!  This page also made me give some extra thought into what ingredients can be harmful when used in sunscreen and what those high SPF labels really mean.  When running you should definitely use a hat to make sure you’re not getting burned when you start sweating!
  • If you hate the sun because of your pale skin, you’re probably not alone.  I think we all know someone out there who generally hates the sun because they’re always sunburned.  My sister is one of those people, and whenever I go to the beach I turn into one of those people as well!  Luckily Buzzfeed has saved all of us from feeling like total losers with this list of 22 Things All People Who Hate The Sun Know To Be True.  My sister perpetually does #1 at the beach every year!
  • Learn what the midnight sun is and embrace it.  It’s definitely weird to go outside at midnight and still be able to see, but that’s just part of life in Alaska.  If I lived above the Arctic Circle I’d literally be able to see the sun, not just leftover sunlight like we do in Seward!  For more information on what the midnight sun is, check out this article.  According to that website, Seward will have 18 hours of sunlight on Saturday!  Here in Seward we continue to run, hike, and hangout way past midnight because why waste any sunlight?  And when we have to go to bed early to work the next day, we just make sure we have blackout curtains or a sleep mask.  Although I’ve now trained myself to not need either of those!  Also, if you’re interested in how midnight sun affects the ecosystem up here I found this article to be really fascinating.  Because our daylight never ends in some places, apparently Alaska can grow some massive vegetables!

What does the midnight sun actually look like?  While the solstice is still a few more days away and it should be a little brighter on Saturday, this is what it looked like between 11:00 and 12:30 last night on a trip back from Anchorage:

 

20140618-005126.jpgAn absolutely beautiful reflection in Summit Lake north of Seward at about 11:30 pm!

20140618-005149.jpgAlpenglow on the mountaintops

20140618-005203.jpgOur view at midnight!

20140618-005214.jpgProof:  by the time we got home from our trip back to Seward, it was 12:13 am and still light out!

I hope all of my southern blogging friends (that is, south of Alaska!) are staying cool in the heat and humidity down there!  Keep on applying sunscreen every few hours and after sweating/swimming, and enjoy your few hours of darkness to cool off!  If you ever want to go for a midnight run up here with me let me know  🙂  I will be doing one next week and I’m so excited!

How do you deal with the crazy summer sun?  If it was still light out at midnight, what would you do with the extra daylight?

 

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21 thoughts on “Wednesday Wisdom: How to Deal With the Midnight (or Mid Day) Sun

  1. I freaking love the sun (as in the start of Daylight Savings Time is literally one of my favorite days of the year), but I can’t imagine trying to sleep in the land of the midnight sun. I can barely sleep past 5 am down in VA, when the sun starts peeking over the horizon.
    I do think it’d make for a fun, pretty much non-stop vacation up there though 🙂

  2. So funny…you’re describing humidity and heat and smelly trash smells and I’m over here nodding because that’s totally Baltimore. Those pictures are AMAZING. Like so amazing that I just called my friend to come over and look at them. Awesome tips for dealing with the summer sun too. My husband is wicked pale and I have to keep reminding him of sunscreen all the time. I swear he could burn with a shirt on.

    1. Yay I’m glad you liked them! And yeah, Baltimore is kinda like Philly in the summer so you know how it is. Also, I have burned with a shirt on. Worst surprise ever.

  3. Keep them pictures comin’!!! Wow, Alaska seems so beautiful. My (awesome) running club is planning a potential group trip for a marathon there next summer. How freaking’ cool would be if I went and met up with you??? I’d die.

    1. I will! And you totally should come up here!!!!! That would be so much fun! The weather in the summer is perfect for marathons – cool and humidity-free!

  4. Wow, your pictures are amazing!!! So jealous 🙂 Also, great post. I am always forgetting to adequately prepare for the sun. I always have SPF moisturizer on my face but forget other parts of my body….I have an awkward triangle sunburn on my back right now.

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