Don’t Shelve the Sunblock - Sunburn Risk Can be Even Greater in Winter

Oct. 7, 2008
If you think now is the time to sideline your sunblock, think again. Head to the mountains this fall or winter and you could get burned twice as fast as you do at the beach.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), UVA rays from the sun increase exponentially with altitude and can be significantly more damaging in the mountains than at sea level.

“During the winter, even cautious outdoor enthusiasts may unknowingly put their skin at risk by leaving it unprotected or under-protected,” said Jennifer Rice, PA, founder and CEO of Sierra Summits, a skincare company based in the Lake Tahoe area in the Sierra Mountains. “Cool weather may lull people into thinking they don’t need sunscreen when, in fact, UV rays are intensified by snow and high altitudes.”

Snow reflects 80 percent of UV rays and UV intensity increases by 10 percent for every 1,000-foot increase in elevation. In the mountains or snow, skin can burn more severely in less time. The AAD recommends applying sunscreen whenever you intend to be in the sun for more than 20 minutes, no matter what time of year it is. Yet a recent study by the Environmental Working Group found that many sunscreen products on the market simply do not offer the level of sunscreen protection recommended to effectively guard against sun damage, including skin cancer.

Rice recommends seeking out a sunblock specially formulated for high-altitude exposure. She worked directly with patients for years in the dermatology community to create a sunblock after hearing patients complain that there was no affordable product on the market that protected skin under intense, high-altitude conditions. She designed the Sierra Summits formulation to offer multiple-hour, broad spectrum, high-altitude and photostable protection against UVB and UVA rays even on the highest peaks.

“People who live and play in the Sierras are serious about sun protection,” says Rice. To keep skin safe in the summer, Rice offers these tips:

  • Don’t go naked! Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen (filters both UVA and UVB rays) year-round if you plan to be outside for 20 minutes or more.

  • Know your burn and don’t assume it’s windburn. Many people mistake sunburn for windburn due to similar symptoms, especially in cold winter conditions.
  • Save the mask for Mardi Gras. Take adequate time to make sure your face is evenly protected throughout the day.
  • When in higher altitudes (or around snow or water), choose an SPF of 30 or above.
  • Don’t forget to protect your eyes; they can get burned too! Wear sunglasses or goggles with UV protection in the snow. You’ll look cool and your eyes will thank you.
  • By the time you notice a sunburn, it’s already too late. Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin early and often.
  • Your scalp is especially susceptible to burn in higher altitudes, so wear a hat.
  • If you are in a profession that demands routine sun exposure, such as a pilot, flight attendant, resort employee, construction worker, landscaper, etc., don’t discount the damage your job may invite. Consider sunblock part of your daily uniform.
About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

Sponsored Recommendations

Free Webinar: ISO 45001 – A Commitment to Occupational Health, Safety & Personal Wellness

May 30, 2024
Secure a safer and more productive workplace using proven Management Systems ISO 45001 and ISO 45003.

ISO 45003 – Psychological Health and Safety at Work

May 30, 2024
ISO 45003 offers a comprehensive framework to expand your existing occupational health and safety program, helping you mitigate psychosocial risks and promote overall employee...

DH Pace, national door and dock provider, reduces TRIR and claims with EHS solution

May 29, 2024
Find out how DH Pace moved from paper/email/excel to an EHS platform, changing their culture. They reduced TRIR from 4.8 to 1.46 and improved their ability to bid on and win contracts...

Case Study: Improve TRIR from 4+ to 1 with EHS Solution and Safety Training

May 29, 2024
Safety training and EHS solutions improve TRIR for Complete Mechanical Services, leading to increased business. Moving incidents, training, and other EHS procedures into the digital...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of EHS Today, create an account today!