Is Sunscreen Still Important in the Winter?

Don’t let cooler temperatures lull you into a false sense of security and become complacent in your personal-care routines. While it may appear logical to decrease your use of sunblock in the winter when the sun seems to be less of a concern, the reality is that sun-related skin damage can occur any time of year. No matter what the weather is like, it’s important to understand the risks of going without a protective SPF moisturizer when you are spending time outdoors, so you can take the proper preventative measures to keep your skin safe and yourself healthy.

What Are the Risks of UV Radiation Exposure in the Winter?

The UV radiation from the sun’s rays enters the Earth’s atmosphere 365 days a year, bringing with it a myriad of dangers for your skin. As much as 95 percent of this radiation is comprised of UVA rays, which permeate into the deeper layers of the skin. Not only does this impact the appearance of wrinkles and aging, but it has a significant role to play in the occurrence of skin cancers due to the damage done to cells in the surface layers, or epidermis, during exposure.

While UVB rays make up a substantially smaller portion of the radiation reaching the planet, they are far more potent and are typically responsible for most sunburn, as well as the development of cancers in the outer layers of the skin. UVB amounts do tend to take a dip in the colder months of winter, but the rays are still present and pose a legitimate hazard when reflected off of snowy surfaces.

In fact, with participation in activities such as skiing and snowboarding, you are exposing yourself to an increased amount of both types of UV rays. Not only does ground covered in ice and snow reflect around 80 percent of the rays that hit it back again onto you, but with every 1,000-foot increase in elevation, radiation intensity rises about 5 percent. These factors can add up very quickly in the slopes where winter sports are predominantly enjoyed.

What Steps Should Be Taken in the Winter to Protect Skin?

Luckily, you are more likely to already be wearing clothing that covers the majority of the skin that may otherwise be exposed to radiation in the summer. In addition to wearing more layers, however, it’s smart to keep these tips in mind regarding your winter-time skin care.

  • Try to avoid being in the sun for prolonged periods of time between 10AM and 4PM, when UV rays are at their peak, and be sure to utilize shade as much as possible.
  • Wear a hat and sunglasses with UV protection to safeguard your face and eyes.
  • Use physical sunscreen, which reflects both UVA and UVB rays rather than absorbing them.
  • Make sure you are using an SPF of at least 30 and applying it liberally, taking care to cover frequently missed areas such as your ears and scalp.
  • Be sure to reapply every couple of hours or sooner if you have been sweating.
  • Include lip balm with SPF in your routine to keep your lips safe from UV rays, as well.

Even as you take these precautions, you should still be on the lookout for side effects of UV radiation. Regularly check your skin for signs of damage and see a doctor if you have concerns. One of our experienced professionals will be able to evaluate your skin concerns and provide a treatment plan for you. Call us at 609-443-4500 or request an appointment online to schedule your skin evaluation.

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