Myths and truths: Sunscreen for skiing
Did you know that the intensity of UV radiation increases by 4% with every 300 metres you go up? And that sunscreens can be divided into chemical and mineral? Neither did I, until I heard the lectures by the leading London dermatologist and expert in the field, Dr Sam Bunting.
Ladies, it is a waste of time applying SPF 15 several times over because the number of layers does not mean more protection. Read on for more myths and truths about protecting your skin from the sun, even in the mountains.
- “Applying well once a day first thing is enough.”
You should apply ski suncream and lip balm with SPF every two hours, regardless of the level of protection. The only difference between factor 70 and factor 30 is how many rays are blocked from reaching your skin. Both are only effective for two hours. The amount of cream used is also important. They say you should use 5 ml of cream (i.e. 22 mg per square centimetre) on your face, neck and chest. Always apply to cleansed skin after applying your day cream.
- “Only the UVB rays are harmful.”
Whilst the UVB rays that reach the Earth’s surface in medium waves only reach the outer layers of the epidermis, the long-wave UVA rays go through to the subcutaneous tissue. This type of radiation can go through clouds or glass, for instance. UVA rays also make up 90% of solar radiation, whereas UVB and UVC are in the remaining 10%. UVB rays cause an acute reaction in the skin, such as redness or the synthesis of important Vitamin D (an hour a day is enough). However, the longer-term reaction is dangerous, causing skin carcinoma, i.e. cancer. UVA rays are more responsible for later reactions, such as the disruption and subsequent ageing of skin cells.
- “I don’t have to use sun protection if the sun isn’t shining.”
Clouds can only reduce sunlight by 20%, so we still need to use protection even when it is cold and damp out.
- “Sunscreens belong on the beach.”
The strength of UV radiation depends on the altitude, surface reflection (sand vs. snow) and geographical location. It has been proven that for every 300 metres above sea level, the sun’s rays become 4% stronger. This means that if we go into the mountains up to an altitude of 1500 m, they are 20% stronger than by the sea in Croatia. It is true that we are protected by a thick layer of clothing that the rays cannot penetrate, but we should not underestimate protection of the face, lips and eyes. You’re sure to like the Swiss mountain sun cream by Piz Buin, for instance, which offers complete skin protection from the mountain winds and sun.
- “It doesn’t matter which sunscreen you buy, as long as the SPF is high enough.”
It is definitely true that you should consider skin type and activity when choosing a sunscreen or the best lip balm for skiing. When skiing, you don’t need a sunscreen with as high a level of water resistance as you might for a seaside holiday, but you will also need protection from wind and frost in your ski sun cream. In general, the oilier your skin, the better it responds to sunscreen in a lotion over an oil or cream. Because of its lighter consistency, however, sun lotion cannot handle such a high SPF. The exception to this rule is Anthelios AC protective matte facial fluid in SPF 30 by La Roche-Posay. Nowadays it is also possible to buy sunscreens designed for wrinkles, atopic skin conditions or extremely sensitive skin.
- “Sunscreens do not absorb well and leave a white film.”
Sunscreens, aka UV protection, can be divided according to the way they actually protect us from the sun. Chemical sunscreens work on the principle of absorbing the sun’s rays and converting them into heat that is then released away from the skin. Physical or mineral sunscreens reflect or scatter the sun’s rays. Both types have their advantages and disadvantages, so the best protection comes in the form of creams that combine the two.
Chemical sun creams often contain harmful substances such as oxybenzone, ethylhexyl or benzophenone, which decay into free radicals and carcinogens and are dangerous when inhaled. They are not suitable for children or people with sensitive skin. However, they are more convenient cosmetically speaking, as they do not leave an oily or white film, makeup can be applied over the top, and they mattify the skin. One high-quality chemical blocker for the face isElisabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream in SPF 50.
Mineral or physical sun creams are suitable for sensitive skin and are generally better for our skin, but for them to work properly we have to apply a generous layer. That is why they form a white, oily film from the beginning and are not as easy to apply. They also get wiped off more easily, so we have to apply them regularly. Whenever we choose a mineral sunscreen, we are interested in having the highest level of zinc oxide, as well as being concerned about the non-nano particles (microparticles) that cannot be absorbed into the skin. Nanoparticles and their impact on the body when they are absorbed into the skin have not yet been properly researched.
Morning skin care in the mountains
Before heading to the slopes, it’s worth taking a few more minutes to look after your skin. These three steps will guarantee your skin is properly protected in the mountain climate:
Step 1: Apply your favourite serum (ideally with vitamin C) to cleansed and toned skin, followed by a moisturising day cream. Use a light cream with SPF as a base for your makeup and leave it to dry completely. I have fallen head over heels in love with Eight Hour Cream with SPF 50 by Elisabeth Arden.
Step 2: Apply makeup with an SPF of at least 30. It is also important that your makeup is waterproof. You might not be swimming in the sea, but you will probably end up sweating! Try Sun Foundation SPF 30 by Shiseido
Step 3: Finally, apply a mineral powder with SPF over the top of your makeup. In that way you are applying a highly effective layer of a purely physical blocker, as well as finishing your look with beautifully even skin. Try, for instance, the great powder Bare Minerals Matte with SPF 15.