When winter comes, it's time to put away the sunscreen and sunglasses, right? Not so fast!

Sun Safety for Skiers Image - Masterfile

Sun safety is just as important during the winter months—especially if you ski, snowboard, ice skate, or enjoy other winter sports outdoors. During winter, harmful ultraviolet light reflects off snow and ice. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation also increases with higher elevations. So if you're anywhere on a mountain, you’ll need sun protection.

How bad can it get? Sunburn can occur any time of the year—even on cloudy days—and on any exposed part of the body, including, rarely, the eyes. When the delicate tissues of the eyes burn, it's called photokeratitis.

Before you hit the slopes, follow these sun smart tips from The Skin Cancer Foundation and other experts:

Mind the Time

If possible, plan to ski or snowboard early in the morning and late in the afternoon, before 10 am and after 4 pm, when the sun is less intense.

Wear Sunscreen

Check the UV index. Developed by the National Weather Service and the EPA, the UV index indicates the strength of ultraviolet radiation from the sun on a scale from 1 (low) to 11 (extremely high).

Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which protects against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) light, and look for an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 30 or higher. Since wind wicks away moisture from the skin, make sure your sunscreen also has moisturizing ingredients such as lanolin or glycerin.

Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before hitting the slopes. Spread it liberally on all exposed skin—including at least one teaspoon to the face. Don’t forget your ears, chin, neck, around the eyes and hands. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, and immediately after heavy sweating. If you are on the slopes for most of the day, take a few breaks indoors to reapply sunscreen.

Use lip balm with an SPF 30 or higher. Carry it with you for easy re-application.

Cover Up

Wear ski sunglasses or ski goggles that offer 99 percent or greater protection against UVA and UVB radiation and have wraparound or large frames to protect your eyes and surrounding skin.

Cover your head with a hat to protect your scalp and keep you warm. Consider wearing a ski mask to protect skin from the wind and sun. Wear gloves.

With sun safety in mind, you'll enjoy the winter wonderland without the worry of skin damage and skin cancer.


American Osteopathic Association

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The Skin Cancer Foundation

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 06 Dec 2012

Last Modified: 06 Oct 2015