Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Winter Sun Care December 15, 2010

Just because it is cold doesn’t mean you should put away your sunscreen.  Just the opposite, especially if you are going to participate in outdoor winter sports.  According to an online article in Skin Inc:

… researchers found that while UV levels can be just as high atop a snowy mountain as on a sandy beach in mid-summer, skiers and snowboarders don’t always protect their skin accordingly.  “It’s a little counterintuitive,” lead researcher Peter A. Andersen, of the School of Communication at San Diego State University in California, told Reuters Health. “But there’s an inordinate amount UV at that elevation, reflecting off the snow and coming at you from all directions. Skiers are bathed in radiation.”  … 

Andersen and his colleagues visited 32 high-altitude ski resorts in western North America, where they took a total of 4,000 UV readings—some pointed directly at the sun, others at the sky away from the sun or at the snowy slope of the mountain. On the same days, they interviewed guests on chairlifts and observed their sun-protective clothing and equipment.Not surprisingly, UV radiation peaked at midday, and was more intense during spring than winter, with clear skies and at higher altitudes and lower latitudes. Higher temperatures also played a small role. Of course, avoidance of these peak conditions does not mean absolute UV protection, the researchers say. Although UV can drop by as much as half with cloud cover, for example, there is still plenty of skin-damaging radiation that sneaks through.

“Depending on the conditions, the UV index at a ski resort can potentially be as powerful as Waikiki on a bright, sunny day,” he said, referring to the Hawaiian beach. He pointed out that his team had multiple readings of 10, or “very high,” based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s UV index. But people’s behavior didn’t always match the UV intensity, report the researchers in the Archives of Dermatology.

 

So what can you do to protect yourself from the sun while participating in outdoor winter sports?    Apply a sunscreen with spf 30 or higher every two hours while outdoors or reapply after sweating.  Cover up with gloves, hats with brims, and sunglasses while outdoors.  Any exposed skin should have sunscreen on it so be sure to apply sunscreen to your neck and ears.  And don’t forget your lips!  They need sunscreen as well – always. 

And remember these tips are for everyone even if you don’t spend a lot of time outdoors during the winter.  You still need your sunscreen if all you are doing is driving back and forth from work in your car.   Sun protection is  year round committment – never put your sunscreen away!

 

Sources and Further Reading

 

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