Dr. Richard J. Ort, M.D.
Board Certified Dermatologist
Fellowship Trained - Harvard University
Money magazine recently released its list of America's 100 Best Small Cities. We were not surprised to see many Colorado cities, including Highlands Ranch, Castle Rock, Centennial, and Boulder. It is not hard to fall in love with Colorado's climate and mountains! Colorado is also known as the fittest state in the nation. Whether it's climbing a fourteener or working out at the gym, most of us try to stay active and fit.
Unfortunately, the sun and climate that we love can take a toll on our skin. Colorado's low humidity can lead to skin dryness, flaking, redness, irritation, and eczema, especially in the dryer winter months. It's critical to restore the lost moisture and repair the skin barrier with proper skin care products and moisturizers. We also recommend running a humidifier in your home and using mild, soap-free cleansers. Constant washing dries out the skin; only wash when absolutely necessary.
Colorado's high altitude and sunny climate create another hazard for our skin: high amounts of damaging ultraviolet or UV rays. UV levels rise 10-20% for every 1000 feet in elevation gain. We see the effects of chronic sun exposure on a daily basis in our clinic. Wrinkles, crepey skin, loss of elasticity, brown spots, and skin redness are all due to excess time in the sun. Even worse, we diagnose and treat thousands of skin cancers every year, most of which are due to excess sun exposure.
But there's no reason to panic. Protect yourself from the sun with clothing, sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen. We strongly recommend using a zinc-oxide based sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Zinc oxide is a physical blocker which blocks out the broadest spectrum of ultraviolet light. If you can't find an elegant zinc oxide-based sunscreen, we would be happy to provide recommendations in the office.
Don't forget to reapply sunscreen after swimming or excessive sweating. If you’re hitting the slopes this winter, be aware that UV levels can be intense due to high altitude and sunlight reflecting off snow.