Why Even Sunscreen Users Get Burned on Ski Trips

Austria, Salzburg, Young man skiing on mountain

Gerald Imber, M.D., is a world-renowned plastic surgeon with more than 40 years of medical experience and director of Youth Corridor Clinic in New York City. Each month he answers reader questions. To send your own email him at AskDrImber@MensJournal.com.

I put on SPF, so why do ski trips still end in raccoon eyes?

Goggle-shaped pale skin against a very tanned face is not a good look. Worse, it means your skin is suffering. It’s great you wear sunscreen, but it may not be enough. At altitude, the atmosphere is thinner, so there’s less resistance to UVA and UVB rays. For every thousand meters above sea level you are, the sun is 10 percent stronger. Snowboarding in the Rockies is five times harder on your skin than surfing in Malibu. And the reflection off the snow nearly doubles the sun’s intensity. Add in low relative humidity, and your skin can get so parched that it can flake or even crack. This is the basis for sun damage, premature aging, and skin cancer. Combat this with a mountain-specific regimen. Apply a serum containing 15 percent L-ascorbic acid (the active form of vitamin C), vitamin E, and melatonin. Follow it with a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher and reapply every hour, ideally.

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Apply moisturizer to moist skin in the morning, after serum and sunscreen. And combat dryness overnight. Before you go to bed, wash your face, dab it dry, and use a moisturizer to seal in moisture and form a protective barrier between your body and the outside environment. And stay hydrated. If you’re parched, your skin is, too.

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