Preventing skin cancer requires year-round diligence, warns dermatologist, Justin Ko, MD. Both snow and strong wind can wear away sunscreen and reduce its effectiveness, so you have to take extra precautions. Follow Dr. Ko's important sun protection tips, to protect your skin from the bitter cold, heavy winds, and winter sun of the season.
Winter Skin Cancer Prevention Tips:
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 30 or higher whenever you spend extended time outdoors.
- Apply sunscreen liberally and evenly to all exposed skin.
- Use a moisturizing sunscreen with ingredients like lanolin or glycerin. Winter conditions can be particularly harsh on the skin.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours.
- Always wear a lip balm with an SPF 15 or higher – lips are very sensitive.
- Cover your head - it will protect your scalp and help keep you warm.
- Sunglasses 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.
Special Sun Protection Tips for Skiers and Snowboarders:
- Most skiers and snowboarders do not use enough sunscreen; apply liberally. You should apply at least a teaspoon to the face.
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before hitting the slopes. Be aware that the sun’s reflection off the snow is strong even on cloudy days.
- When applying sunscreen, sure to cover often-missed spots: the lips, ears, around the eyes, and on the neck, the underside of chin, scalp and hands.
- In addition to 2-hour reapplication of sunscreen, also reapply immediately after heavy sweating.
- Carry a travel-sized sunscreen and lip balm with you on the slopes. Reapply on the chairlift, especially after a long, snow-blown run.
- Wear items like ski masks, which will leave very little skin exposed to the wind and sun.
- The sun's glare can make you squint, so it's important to wear sunglasses or goggles (with 99 percent or greater UV protection) to clearly see the terrain. Plus, it will increase your enjoyment and may even improve your performance while skiing!
- If possible, ski early in the morning and in the late afternoon, before 10 AM and after 4 PM. This decreases the amount of time spent outdoors in the most intense sunlight and helps you avoid long lines.
- If you are on the slopes for most of the day, take a few breaks indoors to reapply sunscreen.