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BestReviews skin care expert recommends products for outdoor winter sports enthusiasts

Just because it's winter, it doesn't mean that competition has to be put on hold until spring. From skiing to snowboarding and everything in between, some of the most thrilling sports are played in the winter.

However, wintry conditions can be harsh on the skin. That's why we turned to Dr. Alina Zufall, BestReviews skin care expert, for advice on choosing the best products that soothe skin and protect it from exposure to winter weather. Completing her dermatology residency, she understands skin care needs regardless of the season. 

In this article: Cetaphil Sun 50 Mineral SunscreenSupergoop! Play 100% Mineral Sunscreen Stick and Eucerin Advanced Repair Body Cream.

Effects of winter weather on the skin 

The chill in the air and the excitement of navigating terrain covered in snow or ice are what attracts many people to winter sports. But the weather poses challenges to keeping with looking and feeling your best.

"Winter weather is very harsh on the skin," Zufall said. "With winter air comes low humidity and cold wind, both of which lead to moisture loss from the skin and irritation. This causes xerosis cutis, or excessively dry skin. Dry skin easily flakes off and cracks, leading to itchy skin and painful open wounds. Dryness of the scalp can also occur, making it itchy and painful." 

She added the conditions are even harsher in the mountains, where skiing and other cold-weather sports often take place. 

"The higher-altitude air is thinner and drier, leading to more moisture loss," she noted. "Sun exposure [ultraviolet radiation] is stronger at higher altitudes. The reflection off of the white snow also increases your skin’s exposure to harmful UV rays, especially in areas not usually affected, like under the chin and nostrils." 

Zufall said that those who have skin conditions, such as rosacea, eczema, psoriasis and Raynaud's syndrome (a condition that causes loss of circulation to the fingers in the cold), may also find that these issues are worsened by wintry conditions. 

Winter sports clothing vs. skin

Participating in winter sports requires proper clothing. However, bundling up in layers and warm coats can lead to other skin issues. Zufall explained why clothing plays a role in winter skin problems. 

"During winter sports, we sweat under this clothing," she said. "The clothing clings to your body and causes occlusion of your pores. This can lead to worsened acne and folliculitis of the face, chest, back and any other part of the body where this occlusion [or] friction occurs." 

Should I wear sunscreen when participating in winter sports?

Most people associate skin damage from sun exposure with summertime. However, it's a mistake to think you can put your sunscreen away in the winter. If you've been wondering if you need to apply sunscreen before heading outdoors to participate in winter sports, Zufall has a clear answer. 

"Yes, yes and yes. Don’t let the cold weather fool you," she replied. "As I said before, the sun is still very strong in the wintertime, if not stronger at higher altitudes. If it’s snowy out, then you have the added reflection off the ground to worry about." 

BestReviews expert's skin tips for outdoor winter sports

Dry, chapped and irritated skin in the winter isn't inevitable. Zufall offered some tips to keep it in good shape, even when playing sports that expose it to the elements. 

  • Plan ahead. "If you are going on a ski/snowboarding trip," Zufall said, "I recommend stopping any irritating skin products, such as retinoids or chemical exfoliating agents, a week or two before your trip."  
  • Wear sunscreen every day when doing winter sports. Zufall recommends sunscreen that is moisturizing, mineral-based and water-resistant, and you should re-apply it at least every two hours. "And don’t forget to protect your lips too. A lip cream or ointment with sunscreen will help prevent burning of this sensitive area and prevent moisture loss," she said.
  • Consider sun-protective clothing. According to Zufall, clothes with ratings for their ultraviolet protection factor, along with masks, headware and goggles, provide extra protection from the sun while playing winter sports.  
  • Wash your face and body with gentle cleansers. Zufall said these cleansers won't strip away skin's moisture. "I recommend moisturizing creams or ointments in the winter because they will moisturize the skin and prevent water loss better than lotions," she said. 
  • Wash with a low-percentage benzoyl peroxide cleanser a few times a week to fight acne and folliculitis, especially on the body. "This will help to decrease inflammation. I also recommend changing your undershirt as often as possible or as soon as you are done with your sport because the longer your skin is occluded under your sweaty clothing, the more bumps you’ll get."  

Best skin care products for outdoor winter sports

Cetaphil Sun 50 Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

Zufall likes this mineral sunscreen for its water-resistant formula that is good for sensitive skin and doesn't leave behind a white cast. It won't clog pores and contains prebiotics, vitamin E, ceramides and hyaluronic acid that are moisturizing and good for skin. 

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Supergoop Play 100% Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 50

Because it's made of minerals and resistant to sweat and moisture, Zufall recommends this highly portable stick sunscreen by Supergoop. 

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Eucerin Advanced Repair Body Cream

This rich body cream is made with hydrating ingredients that keep skin moisturized when winter conditions dry it out. The lightweight formula absorbs fast, which is another reason Zufall recommends it. 

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EltaMD UV Lip Balm SPF 36

Zufall said this lip balm provides protection from the sun's rays while it moisturizes. It's water-resistant too. 

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Coolibar UPF Sailing Hoodie UPF 50+

Extra sun protection when playing winter sports is a bonus. Zufall advises anyone playing winter sports to wear clothing with UPF protection, such as this hoodie that also offers face protection. 

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Cetaphil Deep Hydration Healthy Glow Daily Cream

Zufall recommends this rich cream, which is packed with vitamins and antioxidants, for use at night. It provides outstanding hydration for dry winter skin and isn't likely to irritate sensitive skin. 

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Dermalogica Intense Moisture Balance 

Playing winter sports can damage the skin's natural barrier, but this premium moisturizer contains lipids that can help repair it. Zufall also likes that it's made with antioxidants and other ingredients that hydrate the skin. 

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Oakley Flight Deck M Prizm Goggles

Don't forget goggles when playing certain winter sports, Zufall advised. This pair features an anti-fog coating and spherical prism for outstanding visibility on the slopes and in other wintry conditions. 

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Cetaphil Gentle Clear Cleanser

Zufall said this cleanser, made with benzoyl peroxide, is good for controlling winter skin breakouts. The formula is micronized, so it's not likely to irritate. 

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Cetaphil Soothing Gel Cream

This gel is made with cooling aloe and offers a lightweight formula. It also contains allantoin, which, according to Zufall, is soothing and moisturizing to the skin. 

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Skin care products worth checking out


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Jennifer Manfrin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.

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