TRUE or FALSE – you’re more likely to sunburn in a snowy landscape than a grassy plain. Think about it. Ultraviolet rays from the sun reflect off of shiny surfaces such as sand, water and SNOW! When walking into any ski resort chalet you’ll notice bright red faces of snowboarders and skiers fresh off the hill. Now the only question is, are the rosy cheeks and nose from windburn or sunburn?
Snowboarders and skiers have to protect themselves from more than frostbite. UV radiation exposure increases 8 to 10 percent every 1,000 feet above sea level, so if you’re snowboarding down the slopes of Breckenridge Ski Resort in Colorado, you could be starting your descent at almost 13,000 feet above sea level. By 13,000 feet, UV radiation exposure increases 104 to 130 percent! Then add the fact that snow reflects up to 80 percent of the UV light from the sun, and you’ve got UV coming from all directions. The combination of increased elevation and UV rays reflected by the snow puts skiers and snowboarders at an increased risk of sun damage, which can lead to premature aging and skin cancer later in life.
While wearing sunscreen on the snowy slopes can offer sun protection, snow and wind can reduce its effectiveness. Avoid sunburn (and perhaps even windburn) this winter and take some advice from the Skin Cancer Foundation.
- Cover your head – it will protect your scalp and help keep you warm.
- Wear items like ski masks, which will leave very little skin exposed to the wind and sun.
- Sunglasses or goggles that offer 99 percent or greater UV protection and have wraparound or large frames will protect your eyes, eyelids and the sensitive skin around your eyes, which are common sites for skin cancers and sun-induced aging.
- If possible, ski early in the morning and later on in the day, before 10 AM and after 4 PM. This decreases the amount of time spent outdoors in the most intense sunlight and it may also help you avoid long lines.
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Apply 30 minutes before hitting the slopes. Using a moisturizing sunscreen with ingredients like lanolin or glycerin can soothe skin while protecting. Apply sunscreen liberally and evenly to all exposed skin – at least a teaspoon to the face. Reapply every two hours, and immediately after heavy sweating.
- Always wear a lip balm with an SPF 15 or higher – lips are very sensitive.
Wishing you a sucessful and SunAWARE season on the slopes!