3 ways to protect yourself from UV radiation on a winter sports holiday

Nobody likes a goggle tan or chapped lips!

woman applying sunscreen when skiing
(Image credit: plprod / iStock)

With winter just around the corner, it's the perfect time to pay extra attention to our skin. The colder temperatures can dry out your skin, leaving it looking dull, dehydrated and more prone to breakouts. That, combined with cold winds and harsh indoor heating, can make your skin feel tighter and more sensitive, something even the best moisturisers will struggle to fix. 

We've already covered the five general skincare swaps you need to make for winter, but we haven't discussed winter UV radiation. Many people will be planning snow sports trips to the mountains, a place where the air is colder and the UV is stronger. This can be especially harmful to our skin, and even dangerous for our health.

We spoke to the PayingTooMuch travel insurance team and Dr. Hamdan Abdullah Hamed MBChB, a board-certified Dermatologist, for advice on protecting from UV damage during a winter holiday. Here are some simple steps to think about while on the slopes...

Before you do, check out our guides to the best ski pants and best ski gloves so your style will look as good as your skin does. 

1. Apply sunscreen ahead of time

Goggle burn or burnt lips when skiing is no joke. Applying regular sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you hit the slopes will give it a chance to sink into the skin and give you proper protection. You can also use mineral sunscreen, which works straight away as it sits on the skin rather than being absorbed. Make sure to reapply sun protection every two hours, and use at least one tablespoon of cream with every application. 

You should also think about carrying a lip balm with SPF, so you can protect your lips from sunburn when skiing. Check out this list of hydrating lip balms if you're unsure with which one to go for. 

2. Wear protective clothing

Cover up with appropriate clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, trousers, and gloves. You can also wear specialised snow gear that has built-in UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) for added protection. 

3. Use UV-protective eyewear

There is an increased risk of eye damage from UV radiation during winter sports holidays due to the reflective effects of snow and ice. Intense UV rays in high-altitude and snowy environments can lead to conditions like snow blindness (photokeratitis) or even long-term eye issues, such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

To protect your eyes, wear high quality sunglasses or goggles that offer 100% UV protection. Make sure to also choose eyewear that wraps around the sides of your face for proper coverage. 

If possible, go for eyewear that is designed for snow sports. Just be aware that different light levels might also need different types of lens. For instance, mirrored lenses are good for bright glare, but yellow or pink lenses are better for low light.

Why is the risk of UV damage and sunburn greater when skiing?

When discussing why sun protection is important whilst on a winter sports holiday, Dr. Hamdan Abdullah Hamed said: 

High-altitude environments amplify the effects of UV radiation. At higher elevations, the atmosphere is thinner, allowing more UV rays to reach the Earth's surface. Snow can also reflect a significant amount of UV radiation, increasing exposure to rays. Without proper sun protection, prolonged exposure can lead to sunburn, premature ageing of the skin, and an increased risk of skin cancer.” 

What to do if you get sunburn on winter sports holiday

1. Avoid further sun exposure

Seek shade or move indoors, and make sure to protect the sunburnt skin from any sun exposure until it has healed completely. 

2. Cool the affected area

Apply cold compresses or take a cool bath to soothe the sunburnt skin.

3. Hydrate

Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, as sunburn can dehydrate your body.

4. Use soothing creams

Apply moisturising creams or aloe vera gel to help discomfort and promote healing.

Lizzie Wilmot
Staff Writer, Home

Lizzie is T3's Home Staff Writer, also covering style, living and wellness. She works closely with Bethan Girdler-Maslen, T3's Home Editor, ensuring all the latest news, trends and recommendations are covered. Outside of T3, Lizzie can be found mooching around Bath, attempting (or at least trying to) a new DIY project or spending time with family and friends.