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Why should I wear sunscreen while skiing?

Arthur W. Perry, MD
Plastic Surgery
While ultraviolet light is definitely weaker in the winter, it reflects 4 times as much off of snow than off of sand.  And as you ride that chair lift, it increases 4% for every 1,000 feet you ascend. So when you ski in Vail, you're going above 8,000 feet, and you get a third more UV light - plus you get a dose in the face from above and a second dose from the snow.

As if that's not bad enough, most light-skinned people have lost their summer tans by the time they ski, setting them up for even more damage.

So, what to do? A number 30 SPF sunscreen with zinc oxide will keep your nose from frying from UV light, even while it is in danger of frostbite. But that's another story.

When you are skiing, the sunlight will hit your skin from two directions. The first is from direct light. The sun shines on your skin. The second is from reflection. Sunlight is reflected off the snow and onto your skin. 

Also, when you are at altitude, there is less of the protective nature of the atmosphere. This decrease in protection allows more UV light to reach your skin and the snow than would occur at sea level. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.