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  • Oars + Alps

When we think of SPF, it usually involves beaches and bathing suits. But the sun’s rays are still the biggest threat to your skin’s health, even in the coldest months of the year. Sure, the overall amount of UV rays in winter is slightly less because they hit the earth at a less direct angle. But the risk is still significant—and your skin’s chance of sunburn increases when there’s snow on the ground. 

The good news is that using a daily SPF (like those in our daily SPF moisturizers) is an easy, effective way to protect your skin in winter. Here’s everything you’ll need to know about preventing sun damage in the winter.

Can You Get a Sunburn from Snow?

The short answer is yes, you can get a sunburn from snow. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, ice and snow can reflect up to 80 percent of UV rays that reach the ground. That means in the snow, the UV radiation is hitting you from above and then again from below, significantly increasing your skin’s risk of sunburn

Your risk of sunburn increases when engaging in activities such as skiing, snowboarding, sledding, or hiking because at higher elevations, the Earth’s atmosphere is thinner. That means, the UV rays will be even stronger. So, it’s even more important to use SPF on all exposed skin and reapply about every two hours. 

Here's a little visual of some of the key information you should know about how your natural surroundings influence your UV exposure, with snow being a big one:

Environmental risk factors for UV exposure

Sources: 1, 2

What Causes Snow Sunburn?

Sunburn is caused by increased radiation on unprotected skin. Snow reflects UV rays because its crystal structure has refractive qualities, leading to increased exposure to radiation. Therefore, any exposed, unprotected skin is more likely to get sunburned even though it’s winter.

Sunburn vs. Windburn: What’s the Difference?

Sunburn and windburn from winter conditions can often look similar. They both cause redness, dryness, and discomfort after being exposed to the elements. They can also happen at the same time, but they are quite different. 

Sunburn occurs when the sun’s UV rays burn the skin, which can cause long-term damage from deep within the dermis. Windburn, on the other hand, damages just the outer layer of your skin and is not likely to cause long-term damage.

How to Prevent Sunburn from Snow

There are easy ways to prevent sunburn while in snowy conditions. Here are the best ways to protect your skin from a sunburn in the snow. 

Use a daily moisturizer with SPF of at least 30

We all know SPF is the best way to protect your skin from UV radiation. But perhaps the easiest way to protect your skin is to use a daily moisturizer that already has SPF built in. That way, you’ll be covered after your morning shower until you need to reapply.

Our 100% Mineral Anti-Aging Face Moisturizer with SPF 30 has an effective Zinc Oxide formula that reflects UV rays before they ever have the chance to harm your skin.

Man putting sunscreen on while skiing

Wear a sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater

If you know you’re headed outside for a long time, apply an SPF product with a factor of at least 30. That way, you can go slightly longer before reapplying, increasing the product’s effective time frame. 

For advanced protection, try our Everyday Anti-Aging Face Moisturizer with SPF 37. It goes on smoothly with no sunscreen smell and has a slightly higher protection factor, so you’re even more covered against the sun. 

Skier holding sunscreen made by Oars + Alps

Wear extra sun protection on face and lips

It’s also important to consider all the types of skin on your body when applying SPF. The skin on your face is very thin, and therefore more susceptible to UV radiation. So, be sure to apply SPF generously and reapply often. 

Also, don’t forget your lips. They’re a special kind of skin that requires a balm. We recommend our SPF-18 Shine-Free Lip Balm Kit. It protects your skin without the shine, so you can avoid sunspots and other signs of premature aging. 

Skier applying lip balm with SPF

Reapply often

Over time, sweat, water, and friction can all make your sunscreen wear off, so don’t forget to reapply often. This means, you’ll need to plan ahead and bring a small SPF product with you. 

We recommend a highly portable product, like our Go Stick Clear Sunscreen. It’s solid, so it’s easy to throw in your backpack without fear of a mess. And it goes on clear, so it won’t leave behind any residue. 

Cover exposed skin as much as possible

All skin is susceptible to UV radiation, so keep yourself safe by applying SPF to all exposed skin—not just on your face. Your hands, ankles, neck, and other areas also need sun protection in the winter. 

Try using an easy-to-apply product like a spray to quickly cover all exposed skin. Our Hydrating Antioxidant SPF 50 Spray both protects from UV rays and helps fight against cancer-causing free radicals. 

How to Treat Sunburn from Snow 

So, you overexposed your skin and got a sunburn. Luckily, there are time-tested sunburn remedies out there to help salvage your skin and reduce damage from UV radiation. 

If you’re not sure what to put on a sunburn or how to treat windburn on your face, start by looking at the ingredients. Aloe Vera is an age-old ingredient that instantly cools and soothes sunburned and windburned skin. That’s why we’ve included it in our After Sun Cooling Spray, which gives you immediate relief and smells great too. 

Protect Your Skin in the Winter With Oars + Alps

Now we know: Winter is not a time to let your guard down. So fortify your skin from the sun by using SPF products every day. 

You can’t go wrong with the our line of SPF Essentials, made with safe, effective ingredients and designed for outdoor activities like the ones you enjoy in the snow. Try them today and face your next adventure knowing your skin is protected from head to toe. 

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