Bet you thought your need for a sunscreen was over for the year once the mercury in your outdoor thermometer took a dive and never recovered. You assumed wrong, specifically if you enjoy winter sports like skiing or snowboarding at higher elevations.
Scientists interviewed some 3,900 adult winter sports enthusiasts at 32 high-altitude ski areas across North America over two years to determine if patients took the proper precautions to protect their skin from UV radiation outdoors in the cold.
During the winter, average UV levels were generally lower but differed substantially based on clear skies, hours of daily sunshine and proximity to the noon hour. Unfortunately, adult sun protection behaviors necessarily didn't change for the better in the presence of more UV light.
Generally, patients, particularly males, knew it was necessary to apply and reapply sunscreen on clear days and more likely to wear goggles and sunglasses as UV levels. Unfortunately, the choices winter sports enthusiasts made for protective outdoor clothing were based on protecting their bodies from colder temperatures, not increased sun exposure, according to the study.
That's why scientists urged people enjoying their winter wonderland on the slopes and elsewhere to wear a sunscreen even on cloudy days, because sun conditions can change rapidly and their need for UV protection may be high despite the cold air temperatures.
The real trick: Finding a safe sunscreen.
Archives of Dermatology, Vol. 146, No. 11, p. 1241-1247, November 2010
healthfinder.gov November 16, 2010