Memo to Skiers: Always use a “broad- spectrum” sunscreen with a SPF of at least 30.

Commercial sunscreens are divided into two classes: physical and chemical. Physical sunscreens contain Zinc oxide and titanium oxide. They deflect ultraviolet energy from the skin by scattering ultraviolet light.

All other sunscreen compounds are “chemical,” which act by absorbing ultraviolet light and re-emitting the energy as heat. Most commercially available sunscreens are a combination of two or more active sunscreen compounds.

The best sunscreens have a high sun protection factor (SPF) and are labeled as “broad-spectrum” because they protect against both ultraviolet A (UV-A) and ultraviolet B (UV-B) radiation. UV-B causes sunburn. UV-A penetrates deeper into the skin, causing aging.

Most people don’t apply enough sunscreen. A good rule of thumb is to use a strip of sunscreen about 1/4″ wide from the middle of the tip of the index finger to the crease where the finger meets the palm. That will be about the right amount to apply to the face and neck. If you perspire a lot, use a water-resistant product.

For Nordic skiers, I recommend liberally applying product 15-30 minutes before skiing (it allows the sunscreen to absorb), then re-applying every two hours. For downhill skiers, I recommend reapplying at lunch.

I wear a physical sunscreen combining zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (Vanicream SPF 60). I think it performs better than chemical sunscreens and is less irritating. For more cosmetically aware skiers, I recommend a high SPF chemical sunscreen such as Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch SPF 70 or 85 or 100. Other sunscreens along these lines will probably do the job as long as you apply correctly.

Wearing sunscreen takes a bit of consistent effort, but then again, almost every form of skiing takes some effort. Before your next snow venture, add a finger full of sunscreen to your head and neck. Your skin will appreciate it.

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