Growing up in Los Angeles I was exposed to the sun all year long. No doubt it was cooler than in the dog days of August, but I was outside as much in December as I was in June. I am sure that those unprotected days in the sun added to the cumulative sun damage that I experience today. The sun doesn’t take a season off. But, what about those of us who are in the frozen tundra during the winter months?
Winter sun, burned face
If you live in the north or in the mountains during the winter months, guess what? You need to protect your skin from the damaging rays of the sun as well. My parents had a winter cabin in the mountains of Southern California and it was not uncommon for my family to head to the cold weather a couple of times a winter. I loved it. Sledding, tobogganing, snowball fights, it was a blast. Invariably I would come down from the mountain with a burnt, red face.
Really burned faces
I didn’t get the worst of it, though. Many of my friends went to Mammoth Mountain upstate for week long ski vacations and they would come home burnt to a crisp. Many wore sunglasses or goggles, which kept the area surrounding their eyes from burning. This gave them an almost “raccoon-like” appearance. Peeling and misery were their lots for a couple of weeks.
Tips for winter sun care
If you are a skier, snowmobiler, snowboarder, or have some odd habit of laying out in the sun on 20 degree days, here are some tips to protect your skin according to Stanford University:1
- Apply sunscreen liberally (minimum one teaspoon on your face) at least 30 minutes before hitting the slopes. The sun’s rays reflect off the white snow even on cloudy days.
- Reapply often as the sun, wind, sweating and precipitation can affect the sunscreen’s effectiveness.
- Apply sunscreen to areas that are often missed, such as lips, ears, around the eyes, under the chin, on your scalp and hands. Better yet, cover exposed areas with clothing. (It looks very cool.)
- (Note to those of you who may have thinning or no hair at all and don’t wear a hat or beanie…apply liberally to your scalp.
- Carry a travel-sized container of sunscreen to apply on the lift after a particularly vigorous run.
- Beware of the glare. Wear sunglasses or goggles with very strong UV protection. You will not only be protecting your eyes, but it may help you see better and avoid mishaps!
- Try to ski earlier in the morning (before 10am) or later in the afternoon (after 4:00pm), or even at night, if possible. This will lessen your overall exposure to the sun.
- Take breaks, hit the lodge, get an apple cider and reapply sunscreen.
At higher altitudes skiers and snowboarders are at a higher risk for damaging UV rays than at sea level. The cold weather may make you feel safe from the sun, but these findings show that you are not. Enjoy the slopes, just like you enjoy the beach, just protect yourself.