With winter upon us, we hope you will continue to provide your skin with much-needed sun protection. The intensity of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation is not simply linked to air temperature, and while bright, hot, sunny days always pose UV risks, you can damage your skin on cold or cloudy days as well. This is because even when it’s overcast, between 50 and 80 percent of UV rays penetrate the clouds to reach the skin. Unfortunately not every- one is aware of this. In a recent report on the sun-protective behaviors of adults at various ski resorts in Archives of Dermatology, researchers discovered that among the skiers and snowboarders, “more individuals wore sunscreen, reapplied it after two hours, and wore sunscreen lip balm when skies were clear.” As the authors noted, cloudy skies and colder weather actually tend to result in more sunburns, simply because people are less likely to protect themselves with sunscreen, UV-blocking sunglasses, hats, and other protective items when the skies are gray.
Sun protection in the winter is particularly important for winter sports enthusiasts, for several reasons:
Reflection: Snow and ice reflect up to 80 percent of the sun’s radia- tion, meaning that you can be hit by these rays twice, adding to the intensity of exposure.
Altitude: As altitude climbs, so does UV exposure. For every 1,000 feet above sea level, your UV exposure increases by 8-10 percent. At an altitude of 9-10,000 feet, UV may be 45-50 percent more intense than at sea level.
Wind: You’re not just facing increased intensity. Heavy winds also take their toll since they can wear away sunscreen. Be vigilant about reapplying a sunscreen with an SPF of 30+ and some combination of the UVA-blocking ingredients avobenzone, ecamsule, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide every two hours.
In addition, wear wraparound-style sunglasses that block 99-100 percent of UV radiation to protect your eyes and the delicate skin surrounding them, and cover the often-ignored but vulnerable scalp and ears with a winter hat or a wide-brimmed hat. Remember, the more skin you cover, the better.
Have a wonderful holiday season and a healthy, and sun-safe, new year.
Published on December 10, 2010