Did you know that you need to be even more careful protecting yourself from the sun when you’re at a high altitude? UV exposure at high elevations is significantly greater than at sea level.
In fact, there is a 6 to 10 percent increase in UV exposure for every thousand feet of elevation. For example, here in Colorado Springs, which is about 6,000 feet above sea level, the UV exposure is 36 percent higher than at sea level. If you’re skiing on the slopes at around 9,000 feet above sea level, the UV exposure jumps to about 42 percent more exposure.
Unprotected exposure to the sun can cause your skin to become wrinkled, thin, and hyperpigmented. In addition, UV rays from the sun are the primary cause of skin cancer; therefore, it is vital to protect yourself from the sun, especially when you’re at a higher altitude.
Let’s look at some of the simple ways in which you can protect yourself from the harmful rays of the sun when you’re at a high altitude:
Higher SPF at Higher Altitudes
Since elevation drastically affects the amount of UV you’re exposed to, it goes without saying that the methods you use to protect yourself from sun exposure are different than what you would use at sea level. For example, while an SPF of 30 is sufficient in most places, additional SPF protection is needed at a higher altitude.
A study published in 2009 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology had ski instructors in Vail apply two different types of sunscreen – one with SPF 50 and one with SPF 85 – on each side of their face. They found that SPF 50 sunscreen provided less protection than the SPF 85 sunscreen.
More recently, in 2018, a split-face, randomized, double-blind study in Vail found that SPF 100+ sunscreen was significantly more effective in protecting against sunburn than SPF 50+ sunscreen in actual use conditions. Therefore, it is recommended that as you increase in elevation, you increase the SPF.
Tips for Successfully for Properly Applying Sunscreen
Your sunscreen is only effective if you choose the right one and you apply it properly. A water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen is best. Make sure to use enough sunscreen; most people only apply half the amount of sunscreen they need.
That means for most adults, it’s 1 ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) to get sufficient protection for their body. You should re-apply your sunscreen frequently, at least every two hours. Don’t forget areas that you may not have thought of like your feet, ears, and top of your head.
Other Helpful Hints for Protecting Yourself from the Sun
Do not let the higher SPF sunscreen lull you into a false sense of security. Even with a strong sunscreen, you are still at risk for UV exposure; therefore, it’s important to use other methods of protecting yourself from the sun, such as:
- Using physical protection such as sun-protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses to block your skin from the sun.
- Seeking shade whenever possible.
- Protecting your lips with a moisturizing lip balm that also contains SPF.
- Carrying a sunscreen stick that’s easy to use and apply, especially if you’re wearing gloves.
- Wearing sunscreen, even if you are driving or have an office near a window. That’s because ultraviolet radiation from the sun can pass through glass.
- Wearing long sleeves in your car or office, especially when near a window.
Remember that sun protection is just as important during the winter, especially since the rays of the sun reflect off the snow. No matter what time of year, be sure to have your skin checked on a regular basis by your dermatologist.
Dermatologists in Colorado Springs
When it comes to protecting your skin the Colorado sun, the friendly and knowledgeable staff at Vanguard Skin Specialists are here to listen to your concerns and to provide you with the best care possible. We offer state-of-the-art treatment in a warm, inviting, and pleasant environment.
At Vanguard, we offer convenient evening and weekend hours and accept almost all insurances, including Medicare and Tricare. Please call our office at (719) 355-1585 to schedule an appointment at one of our four locations in North Colorado Springs, Pueblo, South Colorado Springs, or Woodland Park. You can also request an appointment online right now. We look forward to serving you.