No one wants to come back from a ski weekend with a goggle tan and flaky nose.

By Rachael Schultz
Updated: December 04, 2017
Photo: Zoom Team/Shutterstock

You know to slather on the SPF and carry around oil blotters all summer long, but winter brings about a whole different kind of suffering for your skin. Whether you're headed out to Colorado to ski or snowboard or are just going down the street for a day of snowshoeing, you need a game plan to tackle cold-weather woes like windburn, sunburn, and skin as dry as the desert.

"The intensity of the sun is much greater at higher altitudes," says Bruce A. Brod, M.D., clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania. "As a comparison, one hour on the slopes in Colorado is like spending an hour on the beach in the summer." Plus, snow reflects the sun, shooting the rays right up onto your skin, and the cool air and wind keep the heat at bay so you never get a warning sign that you're burning.

What's more, if you don't live at altitude or in the cold, your skin will dry out dramatically more going from a humid environment to the dry mountain air, explains Zeina Dajani, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at Colorado Dermatology Specialists in Denver.

Don't fret. Here's everything your skin needs to keep up with your icy adventures.

Drink Up

"Dehydration is especially a risk with high altitude, sun, and exercise, which can directly affect the hydration of your skin," Dr. Dajani says. Drink water throughout the day-and guzzle more than you think, since all these factors tax your H2O stores more than normal.

Pile On the SPF

Obviously if you spend hours in the sun, you need to spread on the SPF. But make sure you're covering everything that's exposed. A recent study in PLOS ONE found when skiers put sunscreen on their face, they missed roughly 10 percent of their skin, usually the eyelids and the bridge of the nose.

"Sunscreen should be applied everywhere that's exposed-eyelids, nose, neck, ears, and hands-though you can skip the eyelids if you'll be wearing sunglasses or goggles," says Dr. Dajani.

Opt for a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or greater with both a chemical and a physical blocker, like EltaMD. "Chemical sunscreens absorb ultraviolet radiation and give it off as heat while physical sunscreens reflect ultraviolet radiation. Together, they provide the best protection against sun," Dr. Dajani says. (Learn more about the difference here.)

Lather Your Lips

The strong sun can trigger cold sores, Dr. Brod points out. Use a lip balm with zinc oxide in it before you head out (or just spread a little sunscreen over your lips).

Cover Up

"The best way to prevent sunburn and windburn is wearing protective clothing that is tightly woven to shield against UV light," says Dr. Brod. (Base layers from pretty much any major snow apparel company as well as a lot of running tops fit the bill here.) Dr. Dajani also recommends a balaklava with a nose covering to shield your face further for long days out.

Goggles are better than sunglasses since they wrap around and keep sun coming in from the sides, Dr. Brod says. (Plus they keep you from looking like a total Jerry on the slopes.) Look for a pair with UV protection to keep your eyes healthy while you're at it, Dr. Dajani says. (We like Smith, which hit both these requirements and come with ChromaPop lenses for better visibility.)

"There's also a risk of frostbite on your extremities, like your ears and hands, so wear thermal protective gloves and earmuffs," Dr. Brod advises. (To kill two birds with one stone, try ROXY's new collection with skin-care brand Biotherm-micro-capsules of shea butter are built into the fabric to help soothe and moisturize the skin.)

Recover Right

After a long day outside, keep your showers short and not too hot so as to not exacerbate the dehydration of your skin, Dr. Brod advises. Limit soap to flexural areas (that's the back of the knees, inside of armpits, elbows, and groin) since soap dries your skin out more and these spots are where sweat gathers.

Once you're clean, slather on a moisturizer with hyaluronic acid and/or ceramides, which are available in most major brands like CeraVe and Neutrogena, Dr. Dajani says. And opt for a cream, which is always more hydrating than a lotion.

Do Daily Maintenance

Pop 500mg of Heliocare and a B vitamin every day, year round, Dr. Dajani advises. Studies suggest oral antioxidants and vitamins like leucotomos polypodium and nicotinamide-the active compounds in each of those supplements, respectively-can help prevent sun damage and pre-cancers, and potentially even certain types of skin cancer if taken regularly, she explains.

"You can also apply a topical antioxidant cream containing vitamins C and E in the morning to prevent oxidative damage from the sun," she adds. (Try Skinceuticals Ferulic CE.)

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