Even though it’s winter, that doesn’t mean the sun can’t damage your skin. The cold weather, wind and sun can be brutal on the body’s largest organ.
“The ultraviolet light that comes from the sun’s rays is what causes sunburn, skin damage and possibly skin cancer,” said Dr. Michael Brown, a family doctor with Commonwealth Health in Tunkhannock. “Just because it’s colder outside, doesn’t mean the sun stops making those rays.”
And for those winter sports enthusiasts – skiers, snowboarders and those who enjoy a nice winter day — that UV light gets reflected off of the snow.
“You can even be further exposed,” said Dr. Brown.
He said it’s a good idea to take some sunscreen to exposed areas — both face and hands.
Dr. Brown said if you’re noticing a lot of dry skin, you’re not alone.
“In the winter, there’s a lot less humidity in the air,” he said. “And with everyone being inside, there’s a lot of dry heat, depending on what kind of heat you use to heat your home.”
He recommended using a humidifier.
“That will moisture to the air,” he said.
For people like Bobby Morgan, a member of the National Ski Patrol, who spent many years as a patroller at Tanglewood Ski Area and Montage Mountain, he now is a Nordic patroller on the Upper Delaware within Promiseland State Park. “It’s just part of our gear,” he said of the tubes of sunscreen he carries in his backpack. “Otherwise your face will just get torn up.”
He said it’s not just the sun, but the wind that takes its toll.
“Use a good sunscreen — an SPF of 15 with 30 being even better,” he said. “Just on your face before you head out so the skin has a chance to absorb it.”
As someone who spends a lot of time outside, he said the reflection off the snow can be brutal.
“Your face is a target,” he said. “The head is something you have to worry about, especially your nose,” adding that not only the reflection off the snow, but off the goggles, which many people wear while skiing or snowboarding.
Morgan recommends something for your lips too.
“Everybody has their favorite lip balm. Don’t be afraid to use it,” noting that as spring gets closer, the angle of the sun gets stronger.
He said twice this season, he’s seen two cases of frostbite on skiers while getting on the ski lift.
“It was on the tip of the nose,” he said, “and it was pretty obvious because we know what it looks like. And the other spot was on the goggle right where it pinched the skin and compromised the circulation.”
He did say, however many people do a pretty good job covering up.
“You do see the occasional skier who is just unaware of how dangerous it can be,” he said. “It’s not ignorance. They are just unaware.”