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Why Even Sunscreen Users Get Burned on Ski Trips

man wearing green ski jacket looking out over snow covered mountains

Having just spent an epic week snowboarding and seeing some of the worst sunburn I have ever witnessed in my life, I thought it would be a good time to share some tips about sun safety for the snow including explaining why even sunscreen users get burnt on ski trips.

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The reason you are more likely to get burnt on ski trips, even if you are wearing sunscreen is because the sun’s rays reflect off the snow as well as directly from the sun. While direct UV radiation is lower in winter, snow reflects 80-95 percent of radiation thus increasing the burn potential (Deloughery, 1981).

Did you know that?

68% of New Zealand skiiers and snowboarders are unaware of any educational messages specific to sun protection while skiing or snowboarding

You’d think we would all be pretty clued up about the need for SPF however research shows that 68% of New Zealand skiiers and snowboarders were unaware of any educational messages specific to sun protection while skiing or snowboarding (Price et al. 2006). 

How to Avoid Sunburn on the Slopes

woman at the snow wearing sunglasses with a snowboard
I have fair skin that burns very easily. I was lucky enough to get three back to back bluebird days so the chance of me getting sunburnt was very high. Here's how I protected my skin and got away without sunburnt skin:

  1. I wore SPF 30 Daily Face and Body Sunscreen and re-applied more regularly than usual (at least every 2 hours).
  2. I kept my skin covered whenever possible, especially on my face by wearing a hat, sunglasses and bandana.
  3. I used a lot more sunscreen that I usually would as the physical layer of our Seasick Sunscreen balm helps to trap moisture in your skin while protecting from windburn and UV rays.

 Avoid sunburn on the mountain with these pro tips:

  • keep your skin covered, especially your nose and eyes by wearing a bandana and goggles. Of course it isn’t always possible to stay covered especially during breaks and if it’s really hot (which it can be in Spring) so reapplying sunscreen every hour or so is the best way to avoid getting sunburnt.
  • Sunburnt lips is a particularly big issue and can result in very painful cold sores that hang around well after your fun on the snow is over. Our sunscreen can be used on your lips too so no need to carry a sunscreen and lip balm with you, you can just use the one tin for both!
  • Keep a tin of sunscreen in an easy to reach place like a jacket pocket so you can reapply regularly – I often do it on the chairlift that way I can hit the slopes straight away without having to faff around at the top of the slopes where it is often very exposed (as a snowboarder there is enough faffing to be done as it is without adding anything else in the mix...bindings urgh AM I RIGHT!?!

Best Sunscreen SPF for New Zealand in Winter  

plastic free tin of sunscreen sitting in the snow

Dermatologists recommend wearing an SPF 30 sunscreen year-round in New Zealand. This is because the UV rays in NZ are very strong and can reach UV index X or higher even in winter which can cause sunburn and skin damage. Because of the cooler temperatures, you can end up spending more time in the sun without feeling the need to apply sunscreen. Putting sunscreen on first thing in the morning after washing your face or teeth is a great way to ensure you have at least some level of protection for the day ahead.
People often ask me if wearing sunscreen in winter prevents you from getting enough Vitamin D. The short answer is no, sunscreen won’t prevent vitamin D production because no sunscreen prevents against 100% of UV rays (if you see a sunscreen brand claiming 100% UV protection that is a red flag! There are some brands out there doing this).

Most Popular Seasick Sunscreen Products

tin of sunscreen on the sand with blue and white banner either side and text

Deloughery, M.N., 1981. Sunburn Prevention and Treatment. The Nurse Practitioner6(3), pp.28-30. Available from

Price, J., Ness, A., Leary, S. and Kennedy, C., 2006. Sun‐safety behaviors of skiers and snowboarders on the South Island of New Zealand. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology5(1), pp.39-47. Available from

Learn More:
woman with red hair and freckles with sun on her face 
the effect of sunscreen on vitamin D

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