From blizzards to X Games: Your skin vs. winter conditions
While major eastern U.S. cities finish digging out from this past weekend's white stuff, ESPN this Thursday kicks off in Aspen, CO, their annual winter "extreme sports" event known as X Games. Both events involve human exposure to winter conditions that can impact skin to the point of needing medical care.
Here are some of the top competitions with winter weather that your skin could encounter and tips on how you come out the winner:
Sunburn and "Windburn"
Skiing, snowboarding, outdoor ice skating, and even shoveling snow are all activities where parts of the skin may experience extended sun exposure – but because of the chill in the air, you might not even be thinking about the risk. If it's an overcast day and the wind is blowing, you might think a pink or red face (one that doesn't fade in less than an hour) is windburn. You'd be wrong. It's a common misconception that windburn is its own condition, but it's actually sunburn resulting from prolonged exposure to the sun's rays, even when the sun is hidden behind clouds.
Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer. To contend with this formidable opponent, any part of your skin that's not covered by clothing should get an application of a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays (especially between 10 AM and 4 PM, and put on 15 minutes BEFORE going outdoors).
And don't forget the lips! They can really take a beating in this weather, so using a lip balm or lipstick that has an SPF of 30 or higher is best. Be sure the lip balm is not irritating to your lips either; if it stings or tingles after application, try a different one.
If you watched the NFL matchup on January 10, 2016 between the Seattle Seahawks and the Minnesota Vikings, held in Minnesota, you saw a lot of red faces from the biting cold. It was the third-coldest NFL game in history (at -6 degrees F). According to the National Weather Service, even with relatively calm winds, such temperatures would result in frostbite to exposed skin after about 22 minutes.
Frostbite occurs when the skin, and sometimes the tissue beneath the skin, freezes due to prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. Depending on how long and how frozen the tissue, frostbite can result in severe and sometimes permanent damage.
So when you see sporting fans going "shirtless" in sub-zero conditions, don't get any daring ideas. Even shoveling snow can bring it on if you're out there too long and not properly protected.
To emerge a victor against frostbite, there are some tips to follow: Dress in loose layers to trap warm air and hold it against the body; consider wearing more than one pair of socks; cover your head and wrap a scarf over your mouth to warm the air you breathe; wear a very good pair of insulated gloves; and prevent snow from going into your shoes or clothing. It's also important to take a break if you start to sweat… and to stay hydrated.
Blisters can form when there's too much friction against the warm, moist skin. When it comes to winter sports and outdoor duties, this can be caused by anything from boots that don't fit properly to winter athletic equipment. To prevent blisters, it's best to make sure there's enough room between your protective clothing layers and the potentially offending item – and to give your body breaks from the friction. For example, wearing ill-fitting rental boots for two active days on the slopes could be the recipe for some nasty blisters on the feet.
Stay Warm in Your Race for Better Skin…
Those common areas of concern for skin that's exposed at length to winter weather conditions can all be diagnosed and treated fairly easily through online dermatology visits. You can even see such a board-certified doc from the convenient warmth of your own home, 24/7 – even while you're watching the X Games on your couch!
To start a visit now for any of these or another skin, hair, or nail issue, go to: www.DermatologistOnCall.com