The sun does not rest even during the coldest season, but that should not stop you from enjoying winter activities as usual.
Most people associate sunscreen with the beach and laying by the pool on sunny summer days, but there are many reasons why wearing sunscreen in winter is crucial for optimal skin protection.
As the depletion of the ozone layer — even as it is on the road to recovery — has increased our risk of damage from UV rays, sunscreen helps prevent this and reduces the possibility of skin cancer.
Everyone should wear sunscreen during all seasons. Women, men, and children over six months of age need to have sunscreen application in their daily routine. Whether you burn easily or not, your skin is still sustaining damage from sun exposure.
Even if applying it in winter seems counterintuitive, your skin will thank you for wearing sunscreen in a cold, windy climate, as it can become dry and cause premature aging signs such as wrinkles and fine lines.
Ultraviolet rays can penetrate clouds and glass windows, so it is safe to assume that UV rays are still present and harmful in winter. You should be wearing sunscreen daily, whatever the weather.
Skipping sunscreen in winter can cause a wide array of repercussions, and applying it should be a staple part of your daily routine year-round. The following are reasons why you should wear sunscreen in winter.
UV rays penetrate clouds
There are two types of ultraviolet rays: UVA, also called “long wave” rays because of their higher wavelengths, are more penetrating than UVB rays.
As they can penetrate the skin much deeper, they are a responsible factor for premature skin, resulting in dark spots and wrinkles. UVA rays can also initiate some skin cancers.
UVA are the rays that cause the immediate tanning effect and sunburns. However, they don’t only reach out beside the pool or at the beach: They can even penetrate glass windows and clouds.
In contrast, UVB rays have shorter wavelengths. They can cause the outermost damage to the skin, leaving more severe redness and sunburns.
Luckily the ozone layer partially absorbs them. Approximately 5% of the UV rays that reach the ground are UVB rays.
The burning effect UVB rays leave can come a few hours delayed. Ultraviolets B generally do not penetrate windows, and clouds filter them.
UVA are present year-round and can penetrate the winter clouds, thus damaging multiple components of the skin in the colder months.
That brings us to why it is necessary to wear sunscreen year-round, even in winter: To prevent cumulative sun exposure that can lead to premature skin aging and even skin cancer.
Winter sports put you at higher risk of UV exposure
Just like spending the day at the beach where the water reflects UVA/UVB rays from the sun, snow, and ice, even on cold days, can also reflect and intensify sunlight. This is a major reason why it is important to wear sunscreen in winter, especially for activity-lovers.
UV radiation augments by 5-10% with every 1,000 feet you rise above sea level, so the higher you are situated, the greater your exposure.
This means if you will be snowboarding, skiing, ice skating, or enjoying any other winter sports, you will be more susceptible to sunburns. Therefore, wearing sunscreen in winter is very important for anyone active outside.
Just because it’s cold, does not necessarily mean UV rays aren’t present and harmful. For adequate protection, you should cover any exposed area, including your face, hands, neck, and ears, preferably every three to four hours.
Sunscreen wears off quickly in winter
You may sweat off your sunscreen or notice it washes off after a swim on hot, sunny days, requiring you to reapply it every couple of hours. What most people are not aware of is the same applies on cold, cloudy days.
Winter conditions wear away sunscreen, another reason why you should exercise caution. Snow, rain, and strong winds erode your it faster and reduce its effectiveness.
Lathering up once a day will not guarantee adequate protection from harmful sun rays. So it is only logical that you need to reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, and after sweating, on low-temperature days for optimal protection from UV rays.
It is essential to refresh sunscreen in areas of the skin that are more prone to burning, such as the ears, the forehead, the cheeks, and the nose.
Sunscreen can prevent premature skin aging
Harsh winter conditions can be extremely drying; you may notice that your skin becomes dry and more sensitive as it gets chilly outside.
UV rays damage the collagen and elastin in your skin, which makes you more vulnerable to wrinkles and premature aging signs.
The wind strips your skin of moisture and highlights every wrinkle and fine line, making your skin more vulnerable to cracks, tears, infection, and even cancer.
Luckily sunscreen can not only protect your skin but can also work as an effective anti-aging formula, reversing common signs of photoaging such as wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. Sure, this one is mostly a cosmetic argument, but it is still an important reason why you should wear sunscreen in winter.
Sunscreen can prevent premature aging caused by UV rays and help eliminate sagging, wrinkles, skin discoloration, and dark spots, keeping your skin youthful and glowy.
Sunscreen can reduce the risk of skin cancer
Cancer does not take a break when it is cloudy and cold outside. The sun may not be shining in the cold season but it is not far away, so you’re still at risk of getting skin cancer. This is perhaps the most important reason why you should wear sunscreen in winter.
UV exposure plays a strong role in developing Melanoma, which is a serious form of skin cancer that begins in cells known as melanocytes. It is less common than BCC and SCC, yet it is definitely more dangerous given its ability to spread rapidly to other organs.
Learning how to safeguard yourself against skin cancer, you should start wearing sunscreen even in winter for ideal protection against UV exposure while still enjoying outdoor activities.
It makes sense to layer on sunscreen during the heat of summer to avoid uncomfortable sunburns, but people tend to ignore their sunscreen tubes when winter starts. However, it is time to change that narrative.
The temperature should not decide when to use sunscreen or not. You still have to protect your skin on chilly days, as UV rays break through clouds and damage your skin.
That means you should lather up with sunscreen to avoid serious damage to your skin cells, so when in doubt, put on that SPF.