How to Sunburn the Roof of Your Mouth

You don't have to stand on your head facing the sun, mouth agape, to accomplish this unusual (and highly undesirable) feat. You just have to spend enough time huffing and puffing in blistering sunshine on one of Nature's most reflective surfaces: snow.

Snow reflects up to 80 percent of UV radiation, which means that you're not only getting zapped from above—you're also getting nearly a full dose from below. As a result, certain parts of your body you usually don't worry about are at risk of getting sunburned, including the undersides of your nose, chin, and ears.

Photo: Flickr Commons; SuperFantastic
And if you're gasping for air, mouth hanging open, on a long shadeless climb up snow-covered slopes, reflected UV radiation can even sunburn the roof of your mouth. (High-altitude mountaineers are at greatest risk of a blistered mouth, due to the prolonged exposure to sun on snow, plus the higher amounts of UV that occur at higher elevations.)

While I've never had the misfortune of a sunburned mouth, I can attest to the fact that having a bad sunburn on the underside of your nose around your nostrils is extremely unpleasant. Prevention, of course, is crucial, which means that you should always carry and regularly re-apply an effective sunscreen to all exposed skin. (And for those at risk of mouth-burn, focus on breathing through your nose and mostly closed lips as much as possible.)

For the face and head, my go-to sunscreen has long been one of the many excellent offerings from Dermatone that contain zinc oxide, which physically blocks UV radiation. (I keep a 1-ounce tube of Dermatone SPF 36 with Z-Cote readily accessible at all times.)

Also remember that your lips are also vulnerable to sunburn (a painful and swollen lesson I've also learned over the years). To protect them, you can use one of Dermatone's Legendary Tins (which also work well for the nose and ears) or caffeine-infused coffee-flavored lip balm, but a wide range of other lip balms are available with adequate SPF protection as well.

It looks to be an excellent spring skiing season in northern New England this year, which means that a lot of people will be on the slopes beneath a potent spring sun. Enjoy the fun, but don't bring home a painful and blistered memento of the experience!

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“Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid. 

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