Did you know your skin needs as much protection in winter as it does in summer?
Just because the temperature drops, doesn’t mean harmful Ultraviolet light goes away. And if you don’t shield your body from it, you may be at risk for permanent skin damage. But armed with the right knowledge and sun protection, your skin will be healthy and radiant even in the snowy season.
Keep reading to learn how to stay cool and protected in the winter.
UV Rays Can Damage Skin in Winter
When you get a nasty burn in summer, it is likely the work of UVB rays. However, both UVA and UVB rays are still incredibly strong year-round.
Snow, fog, and freezing temperatures don’t stop UV radiation. In fact, 80% of UV light is reflected by snow, so you’re actually getting hit with those rays twice as much if you go outside. And on those cloudy or rainy days, UVA light can still penetrate your skin.
To avoid this, apply a minimum of 15 SPF sunscreen on your face daily. And if you’re doing a whole day of skiing or another winter activity, remember to reapply every few hours. Both sweat and harsh winter conditions such as wind can erode sunscreen quickly.
And while protecting your face is super important, you can’t forget about the rest of your skin. Yes, winter clothes cover most of the body, but that doesn’t mean you’re fully shielded from the sun. Unless your clothing has an Ultraviolet protection factor of 30 or above, it isn’t doing your skin any favors.
So for running or other outdoor activities, try wearing UV attire such as protective sun shirts. That way, you can worry about getting that PR and not about sun damage.
Higher Elevation Means More Sun Exposure
If you’re a skier, hiker, rock climber, or big on airplane travel, this one’s for you.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, for every 1,000 feet you travel above sea level, your exposure raises about 5%. This occurs because there is less atmosphere that the rays must travel through in order to reach your skin.
So rather than using 15 SPF, it is recommended that you use 50 SPF or more at higher altitudes. And don’t forget protective lip balm, that skin can burn too!
Skin Cancer Can Still Form
One reason to wear sunscreen in the winter is to avoid getting skin cancer. And because people often neglect sun protection, 1 in 5 Americans develop this disease in their lifetime.
Skin cancer happens when there is too much growth of abnormal cells in the epidermis (the outer skin layer) and is most often caused by UV light exposure. There are four types of skin cancer you can develop as a result of this; Squamous cell carcinoma, Basal cell carcinoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
SCC and BCC often appear on the face, ears, neck, and scalp. MCC can also appear on the head and is commonly found on the eyelids. And melanoma can even appear on parts of the body that don’t receive a ton of sun exposure.
But while it is scary to think about, there are ways to prevent it.
Try to avoid direct sunlight between 10 am and 4 pm, as that’s when the sun’s rays are strongest. You should also wear a hat, sunscreen on any exposed skin, and a pair of UV protectant sunglasses outside. That way, your face, neck, eyes, and scalp are all shielded.
Working Inside Doesn’t Mean You’re Safe
People think they’re safe from the winter sun because they spend most of their time inside. But turns out, the windows in your car and workspace are exposing you to UV light.
Remember those UVA rays? Well, they can permeate glass.
While UVB rays are mostly blocked by glass, 50% of UVA light is able to reach you, especially if you sit close to a window. And while most car windshields are UVA protected, the windows usually aren’t.
So while you still want to wear sunscreen, you can also protect yourself from sunlight by installing UV protective film, which can go on any window.
Sunscreen Keeps Skin Youthful
Raise your hand if you want wrinkles! Didn’t think so. But built-up sun exposure will cause them, even in winter.
90% of aging signs come from what is known as photoaging, which is skin damage due to UV radiation. When your cell DNA interacts with UV rays, a tan forms. And while it may look nice, it is actually the result of your cells trying to prevent more radiation from entering your skin.
Collagen and elastin are also incredibly important components of the skin. Collagen makes skin youthful and bouncy while elastin gives skin an elastic quality. But when UVA rays penetrate the skin, they go deep and directly damage the collagen fibers.
These harmful interactions cause a decrease in the level of collagen, which increases the amount of abnormal elastin. Abnormal elastin then results in the activation of metalloproteinases, which are enzymes responsible for breaking down collagen. And in the end, the decrease in collagen causes wrinkles.
So if you’re starting to see wrinkles or other skin damage forming on your face, go put on some sunscreen!
Stay Cool and Fight the Sun
Winter is a time for skiing, making snowmen, and cozying up under a blanket. Not for avoiding sunscreen and other sunlight protection. But with the right SPF, a hat, and some UV protectant clothing, winter will never have been better.
Now stay cool out there and protect yourself from those harmful rays. If you found this article helpful, check out more of our skincare content!