While it may sound strange, winter sports and acne go hand-in-hand – especially snowboarding. Spending hours hitting the slopes in cold, dry air, performing repetitive motions, and working up a sweat can all lead to different types of acne development. Below, we’ve outlined some of the key factors that contribute to winter sport acne – as well as some easy treatment options.
Dry winter air is known for wreaking havoc on skin. While spending time outdoors, this air can cause your skin to become dry and itchy. In most cases, it can lead to an uncomfortable tight feeling, flaky skin, and, in the worst cases, dry cracks. However, it can also lead to oil overproduction. When external factors cause your skin to become dry, the sebaceous glands kick into overdrive, producing more skin-softening oil than necessary. If this builds up, it can cause acne, especially on the face.
Combatting dry air is difficult for snowboarders and skiers, but there are a few tricks to avoid severely dry, acne-prone skin. Investing in a humidifier, for example, can give your skin a break from the dry air. In fact, some ski lodges may even have their own humidifiers, or you can bring a personal machine to use on your lunch break. Additionally, you’ll want to double-up on the moisturizer each night and avoid washing for face with too harsh of a cleanser. This can lead to even more dryness, which can start the acne production cycle over again. Use a mild soap and spot treatments where necessary.
That said, sometimes winter acne can take several weeks or months to clear up, even after the season ends. If you’re encountering this situation, you might need professional support. Finding a medical dermatologist for acne treatment is easy, and these skincare professionals see skiing- and snowboarding-related all the time.
While the cold winter air dries your face, winter wind will quicken and exacerbate the process. Windburn, caused by exposure to cold air and wind, is a very frequent experience for snowboarders. The condition creates redness and a burning sensation on parts of the skin exposed to cold winter wind – especially the cheeks, nose, and chin. The easiest way to prevent this is to cover up as much as possible, utilizing hats and face masks – but those can cause their own acne-related problems.
If you’re going out for a long day of skiing, bring along a tube of Vaseline or another petroleum-based product, like Bag Balm. These products can be used to treat minor wounds, like those that may appear from cracked skin, but they will also create a barrier between the skin and the wind. Apply a thin layer of the product on exposed skin areas before going outside, then reapply at lunch and at the end of the day. Just remember to remove the occlusive moisturizer before going to sleep for the night, as it can eventually lead to pore clogging, which may cause additional acne.
On the other end of the snowboarding and skiing weather spectrum are the moderately warm bluebird days. It’s not too cold, it’s not too windy, and you’re ripping one run after the other. Unfortunately, working up a sweat can cause its own acne problems. When you sweat in snowboarding or skiing gear, it can be difficult to remove the moisture. In most cases, there is no place for this water to evaporate, meaning it gets stuck inside your clothing and equipment. Trapped moisture can clog pores and eventually cause acne.
While there isn’t a quick fix for this, there are a few things you can do to minimize the amount of time sweat sits on your skin. When you return to the lodge for lunch, take off as many layers as possible and lay them out on a table or windowsill to dry. You may even want to consider bringing a fresh pair of clothes for lunch and the drive home. If this isn’t possible, give your clothes enough time to fully dry before putting them back on. Then, shower as soon as you can when you get home.
Clothes and Equipment
While sweat is a big skin care problem for skiers and snowboarders, tight-fitting clothing and equipment can be even more detrimental. One type of acne, called acne mechanica, appears as a result of prolonged friction. This friction can occur between skin or with clothing, such as a snowboarding base layer, a beanie, or a face mask. If your socks don’t fully protect your legs from your ski or snowboarding boots, you may also develop this type of acne from equipment.
The only way to solve this problem is to minimize exposure. This can mean replacing your gear with something that fits better, or perhaps taking off ill-fitting clothing as soon as you return to the lodge. Importantly, you’ll want to shower and wash your face with a mild cleanser as soon as you are able. When combined, these steps should be enough to reduce acne development from clothing and equipment.