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You know you need to wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays in summer. But did you know that you should wear sunscreen in winter too?
Yes, you read that right – even in winter! According to dermatologists, wearing sunscreen in winter is just as important as wearing sunscreen in winter.
It may sound strange at first. Why wear sunscreen in winter when you hardly even see the sun at this time of the year?
Studies reveal interesting (scary?) insights into the importance of wearing sunscreen in winter as well as summer. Did you know that you should also wear sunscreen on cloudy days?
Here’s everything you need to know about why you should wear sunscreen in winter, and how to choose and apply the right winter sunscreen.
5 Reasons You Must Wear Sunscreen In Winter
We instinctively associate sunscreen with summer when the sun is blazing hot and we can feel the sun’s rays on our skin. When that happens, skin protection and sunscreen automatically come to mind.
In winter, it’s so cold we WANT to feel the warm rays of the sun on our skin. The warmth feels so good against the cold, icy temperature. The thought of wearing sunscreen or moisturizer with SPF doesn’t even cross our minds.
However, all studies show that wearing sunscreen in winter is just as important. What’s more, as this study shows, sun exposure can more or as much damage in winter than in summer.
Here are 5 reasons why it’s so important to slather on that sunscreen in winter.
1. UV rays are capable of penetrating winter clouds
In winter, the sun may not shine as brightly as it does on cloudless sunny days but up to 80% of the sun’s UVA rays can still penetrate through that dense cloud layer.
According to Dr. Deborah S. Sarnoff, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation, UV rays that cause premature skin aging and skin cancer are reaching your skin even when it’s cold, dull, and overcast.
UVA rays, which are more prevalent in winter, are the more harmful of the two types of sun rays. They penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin, which causes premature aging and increases the risk of skin cancer. You may not FEEL the heat of the UVA rays in winter, but without sunscreen, there is damage being done.
2. Snow increases the exposure to UV rays
In winter, the sun’s rays get reflected off the white, glistening snow, increasing intensity and exposure. When it’s snowing, sun exposure is almost doubled, making it more important than ever to slather on that sunscreen before spending time outdoors on snowy days.
3. The ozone layer is thinnest during winter
Without sunscreen, the ozone layer is the only thing standing between the sun and your skin. It acts as a natural sunscreen, filtering out harmful UV rays. A dense ozone layer would normally provide sufficient skin protection.
Over the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about the ozone layer becoming steadily less dense due to pollution. While this is happening all year round, the ozone layer becomes even thinner in winter and is the thinnest between December and March.
That means our skin is exposed to even higher levels of UV rays during these months as the thin ozone layer doesn’t provide sufficient protection. This makes it even more important to wear sunscreen in winter.
4. Exposure to UV radiation increases at higher elevations
Many of us head to the slopes for a bit of skiing or snowboarding. Many others enjoy the challenge of hiking in winter. Sunscreen is the last thing you may think of packing into your bag before heading out on your adventure. That’s a mistake.
The fact is winter sports put you at higher risk of sun exposure. This is one of many studies that show that exposure to UV radiation increases at higher elevations. UV exposure increases by as much as 4% for every 1000-foot increase in elevation. This means, the higher your elevation, the greater your exposure to UV rays.
Added to that is the fact that the sun’s rays are intensified as they reflect off the snow. This makes them even more damaging to your skin. And yes, these strong rays will reach your skin even through all those layers of winter clothing.
This interesting article published on Ask NASA Climate on ‘Sun and sky, snow and ice: Reflections at the top of the world’ explains a lot about this phenomenon.
5. UVA Rays Are Capable Of Penetrating Through Glass
Here’s a little-known fact from the Skin Cancer Foundation – UVB rays are blocked by glass but not UVA rays. As much as 50% of UVA rays can filter in through those glass windows at home or in your office and through the front and side panes of your vehicle.
This means in summer when UVB rays are more prevalent, wearing sunscreen indoors is optional if your windows are closed. But in winter, when UVA rays are more prevalent, wearing sunscreen indoors is not optional. 50% UVA rays can do a lot of skin damage.
Wearing sunscreen indoors in winter is important when spending time in a room where the sunshine streams in. It’s just as important while driving, traveling by bus, or if you sit near a window at work.
Benefits Of Wearing Sunscreen In The Winter
When it comes to the benefits of wearing sunscreen in the winter, there’s no question about it. All studies point to sunscreen being an essential part of your winter skincare routine. It prevents premature aging and more importantly, lowers the risk of skin cancer.
In addition to protecting your skin from the sun, wearing sunscreen in winter also helps to keep your skin looking and feeling healthy. Sunscreen can help lock in moisture and keep your skin hydrated, which helps to prevent dryness and flaking.
In winter, our skin barrier is more susceptible to damage from extreme cold and harsh winds. During these months, it has to work harder to resist the elements and stay balanced and healthy. You can do your part by showering your skin with extra TLC in winter. Wearing sunscreen during the day is one way to do this.
Wearing sunscreen protects your skin against damage from the sun’s UVA rays. It also protects your skin from environmental pollutants and free radicals. This means the skin has less damage to try and repair through the night, which is key to preventing premature aging.
High-quality sunscreens from reputed brands do more than just protect it from the sun. They are formulated with several ingredients that provide the skin with the nourishment and protection it needs to combat environmental pollutants and free radicals that cause skin damage and premature aging.
Tips for Choosing the Right Sunscreen for Winter
There are several types of winter sunscreens come in a variety of forms, including lotions, sprays, and gels
– Lotion sunscreen is the most common type of sunscreen and is applied directly to the skin.
– Spray sunscreen comes in a spray bottle and is applied in a fine mist. This is great to protect those hard-to-reach areas.
– Gel sunscreen is lightweight and quick-drying. It is great for those with oily skin.
– Stick sunscreen comes in a handy compact stick that you can just slip into your bag and carry with you. It’s useful for spot-treating and for reapplication when you’re out and about.
Keep these tips in mind when choosing a sunscreen for winter:
First, look for a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. This will provide optimal protection from the sun’s UV rays. If you’re heading to the hills or ski slopes, use sunscreen with SPF 50 or above.
Choose a mineral sunscreen that offers both UVA and UVB protection. UVA and UVB are the two types of UV rays that can damage the skin. UVA is more prevalent in winter, while UVB is more prevalent in summer. A sunscreen that offers protection against both types of rays can be used throughout the year instead of having to buy them separately.
Dermatologists recommend using mineral sunscreen vs chemical sunscreen for many reasons. Mineral sunscreens contain only natural ingredients and are gentler on the skin. They work by forming a physical barrier that reflects the sun’s rays instead of absorbing them. Read more about the benefits of mineral sunscreen vs chemical sunscreen and why mineral sunscreen is better.
If you spend a lot of time outdoors, get water-resistant sunscreen that won’t get washed away as easily if you get caught in the rain or snow.
Better still, when outdoors, carry a compact sunscreen stick like Sun Bum SPF 30 Face Stick that slips easily into your jacket for reapplications on the go.
Finally, it is important to choose a sunscreen that is suitable for your skin type. If you have sensitive skin, look for a non-comedogenic sunscreen that won’t clog your pores.
Best Winter Sunscreens
These are some of my top picks for winter sunscreens:
How To Apply Sunscreen in Winter
These tips will help maximize the benefits of wearing sunscreen in the winter:
– Apply sunscreen generously and evenly over all exposed skin, including the face, neck, and hands.
– Reapply sunscreen every two hours. Snow, winds, and harsh winter conditions deplete your sunscreen layer even faster when you’re outdoors. Applying sunscreen just once in the morning isn’t enough to keep your skin protected throughout the day. If you don’t reapply sunscreen regularly, your skin will experience sun exposure and its resultant damage. This article on ‘How Often Should You Reapply Sunscreen?‘ discusses this in more detail.
– Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 for optimal protection. While hiking or skiing at higher elevations, use SPF 50 or above for maximum protection against the stronger UV rays at higher levels.
Avoid these Common Mistakes When Wearing Sunscreen in Winter
– Not wearing sunscreen on cloudy days. Even on cloudy days, the sun’s UV rays can still damage your skin, so it is important to wear sunscreen.
– Not reapplying sunscreen every two hours. Sunscreen wears off over time, so it is important to reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
– Not wearing sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. An SPF of at least 30 will provide the best protection from the sun’s UV rays. What Is SPF? Which SPF Is Best? – The Ultimate Guide To Sun Protection
– Not choosing a sunscreen that is water-resistant and has UVA and UVB protection. UVA and UVB are the two types of UV rays that can damage the skin, so it is important to choose a sunscreen that protects against both.
Wearing sunscreen in winter is essential for protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. It is important to choose a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, as well as one that is water-resistant and has UVA and UVB protection. It is also important to reapply sunscreen every two hours or after sweating. So don’t forget to wear sunscreen in winter every day – your skin will thank you!
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to serve as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before using any natural medication or if you experience any unusual symptoms. See Full Disclaimer here.