8 Feb 2024
There are a lot of reasons to love Mammoth Lakes. But dry, itchy skin isn’t one of them! If you experience chapped lips, dandruff, itchiness and more when you’re up here, you’re not alone. As we’ll cover in this article, there are a few reasons why skin issues are quite common for everyone up here in the mountains, especially during winter.
But the good news is, there are a few helpful remedies that can offer some relief.
Why is your skin so dry and itchy at high elevation
There’s no one culprit to blame for skin issues at high elevation, but here are a few of the biggest contributing factors:
Low humidity. Mammoth Lakes is known for its arid, dry air quality, which whisks away sweat from our skin at a faster rate than at sea level. This causes us to become dehydrated more quickly, leading to dry, unhappy skin.
Less oxygen. Because there’s less oxygen here in the mountains, we breathe faster than at sea level. This also leads to dehydration.
Wind exposure. Mammoth isn’t the windiest place on the planet, but conditions can get quite gusty up on the mountain! Windburn is actually a scientific phenomenon that can leave your skin feeling dry, painful, and red (similar to sunburn!)
Sun exposure. Speaking of sunburn, it can absolutely contribute to your skin irritation at high altitude! This is especially true on bluebird days, when you’re receiving UV rays from above and from the reflection of the snow.
Other factors. The weather conditions play a huge role in irritating your skin at high altitude. But there are a few other habits that can make things worse. These include increased exercise, consuming alcohol, warming up with hot beverages like coffee, not drinking enough water throughout the day, getting in the hottub, and even wearing wool clothing.
So, with all of these contributing factors to contend with, do you have to make drastic changes or suffer the cold weather consequences? No! Take a few tips from the locals about how we keep our skin happy and healthy throughout the winter.
Drink lots of water
You probably have already heard this many times, but it’s true! You need to drink extra water at high altitude. It’s the best way to help your body deal with the lack of oxygen, low humidity, and increased exercise at high elevations.
Wear moisturizing sunscreen
Sunscreen is something that folks don’t always think to bring to the mountains. But it’s another essential way to protect your skin. Make sure to invest in one that is even more moisturizing than you might normally wear.
Don’t strip your skin of its natural oils
You may have an oil-fighting skin care regimen that works in your normal climate. But here at high altitude, oily skin is not your enemy! In fact, you might consider using a much less abrasive cleanser while you’re here so as not to lose those helpful lipids in your skin. If you work with a dermatologist, ask for a recommendation for dry climates.
Use a petroleum-based lip balm
People have different opinions about whether long-term chapstick use is a good choice. But we would say, when you’re temporarily placing yourself in a dry climate, a good lip balm can be a huge relief. Stick with basic no-fragrance petroleum-based lip balm—even better if it’s SPF 30—and apply when your lips are feeling chapped.
If you can, turn the shower heat down a bit (and take shorter showers)
We know, it’s a tall order to ask you to take shorter showers on the cooler side. After all, with this cold weather, there’s nothing more tempting than a long, hot shower! But, the added head will dry out and irritate your skin more.
Pat, don’t rub, dry
When you reach for the towel after your shower, take care of your skin by patting it dry. It’s also a good idea to apply lotion or body oil to keep your skin from drying out.
Increase your Vitamin D intake.
Certain foods are great for your skin health, namely those that are high in vitamin D. These include oily fish like sardines, eggs, meat, plant milks, cheese, mushrooms, and more.
Steer clear of skin-irritating foods and beverages
Remember that just as there are foods that promote healthy skin, there are others that will dry it out. A few examples would be sugary, salty, or overly processed foods. Likewise, coffee, soda, and alcohol can also have an adverse effect on your skin health and should be consumed in moderation.
Get a good night’s sleep
Biologically speaking, your skin cells require rest in order to regenerate and function normally. In fact, some studies show that chronic lack of sleep or bad quality sleep can lead to lower skin barrier function and skin dryness.
Here at elevation, a lack of sleep can also mean that your body will have to work harder both while you’re exercising and while you’re at rest. So, make sure that you prioritize sleep while you’re here in Mammoth Lakes!
Looking for a cozy place to get some z’s at the end of a long day on the slopes? Take a look at the tranquil condos we have available at Mammoth Mountain Reservations!
Wear a base layer under scratchier fibers
When it comes to sweaters, natural fibers like wool, alpaca, and llama are some of the warmest materials you can wear. But, they can also irritate and dry out your skin. So, if you don’t want to give up on your Nordic look just yet, consider wearing a light base layer underneath to provide you some protection.
Bundle up to go outside
Protecting yourself from UV rays and wind can help counter the effects of skin irritation up here in the mountains. So, get yourself a good pair of UV protection goggles, gloves, and a breathable ski mask.
There is relief in sight!
Skin problems at high elevation are irritating, especially if you’re someone who puts a lot of care and effort into keeping your skin healthy. But, with a few minor adjustments, you may be able to counter the natural effects of our high altitude conditions. And, if you’ll be with us for longer than a few weeks, the good news is, your body is likely to adjust over time.