How the elements affect your skin

How the elements affect your skin

Here in the mountains, it’s what we call stick season. The leaves are gone from the trees and there’s not (much) snow on the ground. So most of what you see is brown and gray.

The days are getting shorter and now that the clocks have changed it may be dark by the time you’re done with work.

Combine that with election drama, virus surges, and everything else, and you might be feeling a little overwhelmed or blue.

This might be the perfect week to get outside and escape from news for a while.

Even just a few minutes outdoors can really help. Not only are the exercise and natural light good for your body, being outdoors in nature is great for your mood (it helps fight depression and anxiety), your sleep, your memory, and your immune system.

A change of scenery and sending time in nature are proven mood boosters. And a reminder that while in your everyday world things seem chaotic, nature carries on with its own cycles.

Brown and gray are colors too.

Light sneaks through the clouds.

This too shall pass.

While you’re outdoors, you’ll want to dress comfortably and protect your skin. Because, in spite of all the great things that being outdoors does for you, the elements can be hard on your skin.

Being outdoors a lot can change your skin in the same ways as getting older. Your exposure to the sun and UV light are the biggest factors. While the sun has a ton of benefits, it also has the potential to accelerate the natural aging process. If you’re out in the elements a lot, your skin will tend to be drier, and possibly more irritated or inflamed which can also cause damage over time.

As you grow older, your skin will naturally become drier as your natural oil production slows down. Collagen and elastin production slows way down which can cause fine lines, wrinkling, or sagging. You’ll start to notice variations in your skin’s texture and coloring (like dark “age” or “sun” spots).

The net result is that you may look more “weathered” than you want to.

There’s nothing wrong with looking weathered. The problem is that dry, flaky, sun damaged skin isn’t healthy skin and skin is one of your body’s important organs.

This is no reason not get outside. You’ll just want to take care with your skin.

Here’s what the elements can do to your skin and what you can to protect it:


 Different types of UV light from the sun both benefit your skin by helping to vitamin D and damage the skin by:

  • Forming free radicals that lead to DNA damage
  • breaking down collagen and elastin which leads to wrinkling, fine lines and sagging
  • causes dark spots aor reddening of your skin, often in scaly patchy areas (be sure to have these checked out for cancer)
  • Causing small blood vessels to dilate around the nose and cheeks so that tiny spider veins form on your face

The UV light from the sun probably causes about 90% of the signs of aging as well as several types of skin cancer.

Fortunately, there’s an easy fix that allows you to get your share of vitamin D and protect your self from sun damage-

Daily sunscreen, every day, year round. Recent studies show that people who spend time outdoors while wearing sunscreen still can make enough vitamin D. So wear your sunscreen.

(If you live in the northern part of the US, you may need to supplement vitamin D in the winter because the angle of the sun doesn’t allow for efficient vitamin D production.)_

Plus other common sense measures like wearing a hat and sun protective clothing and choosing shade when you can.

Prevention is your best bet. You can use antioxidants and retinol on your skin to help offset some of the damage.


We all know wind is drying. Here’s what happens-

Wind can actually remove the outer, protective layer, called the stratum corneum, from your skin. This can also remove your sunscreen. Without the outer layer, your skin loses moisture quickly and your natural lipids can be lost as well. This means dry skin and a skin barrier that doesn’t work properly.

You can help protect your skin from wind by wearing a gaiter or scarf to keep the wind off. Protect your skin barrier with moisturizer and facial oil. Use a mineral sunscreen that provides a protective moisture layer. This will heavier on your skin, but will add extra moisture and wind protection. Don’t forget lip balm too.

Snow (temperature)

Since snow is only around when its cold, it’s a good metaphor for temperature. In cold weather, blood flow to your skin is decreased to help your body maintain its core temperature. Cold weather means drier air. Dry air and less circulation can mean dryer skin

Snow reflects the sun, making the potential for UV damage greater.

So when it’s cold or snowy, be sure to be generous with the moisturizer and sunscreen.

Hot temperatures also affect skin. To cool your core, blood vessels near the surface dilate to bring more blood to the surface where it can be dissipated. This means the possibility of broken capillaries. Being hot also increases cell metabolism which can increase free radicals/oxidative damage.


If you live or play in the mountains, remember that altitude is a factor, and not just for breathing. The air is drier as you go higher in elevation which means you need to protect your skin with more moisturizer. Basically, altitude turns up the volume on all the other factors.

As you go higher, the effects of the sun’s UV rays is intensified. You’ll burn much faster than at sea level, and even faster if there’s snow. This means you’ll need to be even more diligent with your sunscreen and you’ll need to reapply more often. You’ll also need to be sure that your lip balm has sunscreen in it too. Chapped, sunburned lips are the pits.

There are so many reasons to get outdoors and enjoy the elements all year around. It’s easy to protect your skin while you’ re out there. Sunscreen, moisturizer, and some nourishing, restoring serums and you’re good to go.

I’m a huge fan of growing older and spending as much time as I can outdoors and being active. Part of SunWindSnow’s mission is to encourage you get out there, live your best life, be healthy, and have your best skin while you’re doing it.








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