Spring skiing

Don’t Forget the Sunscreen. Or: I’m a Bad Mother.

I spent a gorgeous Easter Sunday @MtRoseSkiTahoe with my family. We made the decision to skip the crowds at church and instead get closer to God outside —  after all, Mt. Rose is at 8,000+ feet elevation!  It was a beautiful and blessed day in every respect.

In fact,  it was one of those spring skiing days like you read about. One of those sunny spring-skiing days like the one that caused my first blistering sunburn when I was about 10 years old.

As we were driving up the hill I asked Carina to put sunscreen on her face. Turns out she put on a dab when she needed a glob. Her bright pink cheeks are evidence of my negligence.

I don’t think her burn will blister, but the bottom line is that I should know better than to rely on my 8 year old to take care of her own sunscreen! We have a few more days of spring skiing left in us, so I’ll be taking over the sunscreen application from here on out.

My immediate challenge is to figure out which type of sunscreen is the best option for me and my kids?  Understanding what sun protection factor (SPF) ratings really mean and what the various active ingredients actually do once you smear them on your face (and beyond) can be confusing.

What’s the difference between sunscreen and sunblock? Do we really need to apply sunscreen more than once a day? And what do those SPF numbers actually mean?

Most of us assume SPF 45 is three times stronger than SPF 15, but in fact it’s only about 5 percent more potent. An SPF 15 product blocks roughly 93 percent of UVB rays; SPF 30 blocks 97 percent; and SPF 45, 98 percent. This matters because many people wrongly assume that high-SPF sunscreens render the wearer invulnerable to sun damage and need to be applied only once a day.

The bottom line is that we all need to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen — one that is labeled to protect against UVA and UVB rays. And we need to use a lot more of the product than we think. In an environment such skiing or snowboarding, we need to apply that product first thing in the morning and then again at lunch time. Between the elevation and the fact that the snow reflects sun like a mirror, the rays are just too strong. The FDA has new guidelines coming out in June and I’ll write a follow-up post once I see those guidelines.

Have you ever experienced a skiing/snowboarding related sunburn?