Utah’s Dry Air Is a Blessing for Skiing, But Hard On Your Skin
Utahns know that they have some of the best snow in the world. And what causes that fluffy, weightless powder to fall with such regularity? Easy: moisture (or the lack of it, actually.)
Utah has some of the driest air in the country, ranking as the eighth driest state in the U.S. There’s less humidity in Utah than in the Sahara Desert, which is why Utah skiers rarely have to worry about being weighed down by heavy, wet snow. But what’s good for the slopes isn’t good for the skin, as anyone who’s spent time outdoors in the winter knows. Dry air can lead to severe skin woes likely to hamper your outdoor fun. Here are four of the most common conditions caused by dry air, and how to combat them and keep your skin stay healthy all winter long.
This one’s a no-brainer. Skin gets dehydrated in dry air, which is why you may find your skin itching and even cracking after a few days on the slopes. Fortunately, a few preventative steps can help avoid the issue.
Chug, chug, chug: Not thirsty? Too bad. Forcing yourself to consume more water than usual helps replace the moisture your skin loses while outdoors. You may not feel as thirsty in cold weather, but you should still drink at least as much as you do on a typical summer day. Most experts recommend 64 ounces a day, so consider generously increasing that number on days where you’re spending hours doing outdoor cardio like skiing or snowshoeing.
Sunburn: Winter sunburns can often be more painful than summer sunburns; it’s never fun to pull a tight baselayer on over burned skin. Unfortunately, winter sunburn is more common than most people realize. Snow is extremely reflective, and since many people don’t think to apply sunscreen before skiing, it doesn’t take long to gain a goggle tan. Anyone serious about skiing knows that damaging your skin is no way to start the season, so be sure to apply sunscreen to any exposed part of your body on the slopes. Reapply every two hours and potentially more often if you’re sweating in the backcountry. Remember that SPF ratings are determined based on people wearing a lot of sunscreen. You need to put on a thick coat to get the SPF value promised.
Windburn: It’s no secret that whipping winds can leave your face feeling windburned and raw. Being windburned feels a lot like being sunburned and comes with a red-faced look that isn’t likely to help you pick up a new ski buddy during après. Avoid windburn by wearing a light Buff or balaclava and using moisturizers and gentle products, like aloe, to relieve any pain or redness after a day spent outdoors. Sunscreen can also help prevent windburn; in fact, many skin experts think the two may be different versions of the same epidermal injury. And don’t think you need to be flying down the slopes at 30 MPH to get windburn. Runners and snowshoers can experience it just as severely as backcountry skiers and riders.
Dry eyes, throat, and lips
All three are subject to becoming extra dry in the winter, and a sore throat can lead to colds and nasal issues. Here’s how to fight each one:
Dry eyes: Aside from using eye drops, try to protect your eyes whenever possible. That means sunglasses even when it’s overcast and goggles while skiing or riding.
Dry throat: A dry throat can be a major issue as your throat connects to your entire nasopharyngeal system. A dry throat will quickly lead to dry eyes and a dry nose, mimicking the symptoms of a cold. Avoid it by drinking lots of water, investing in the aforementioned humidifier, and using calming throat sprays. Ginger and sore throat teas can also help once you realize you’re dehydrated. If you’re the type of person who looks forward to après-ski afternoons, try to remember to drink one glass of water for every beer to help stay hydrated, especially at higher elevations.