All summer long, we’re used to hearing how important it is to keep our skin protected from the sun’s glorious— yet harmful— rays. This message seems to die down during the winter, but by no means should we assume that the risk is over. Taking care of our skin is just as important this season, if not more. Read on to discover why we should still be just as careful about protecting our skin from winter sun damage, straight from the experts.
1. Snow Intensifies the Sun’s Rays
If you enjoy winter sports, or live in a a city with a lot of snowfall, protection is vital. “The sun can pack a double punch in the winter since snow reflects up to 80% of the UV light from the sun, leading to an increased risk of damage as you are often hit by the same rays twice! Additionally, winter activities are often done at higher altitudes, where UV radiation exposure increases 4-5% with every 1,000 feet above sea level,” says Dr. Jennifer Weinberg, author of The Whole Cure.
Clouds don’t necessarily keep you safe, either. According to Dr. Fayne L. Frey, MD, “On partly cloudy days, a phenomenon called broken-cloud effect occurs, and higher UV levels than a clear sky would normally allow are produced. The exact cause of this phenomenon is unknown, but several studies have shown that ultraviolet light enhancement up to 40% can occur.”
2. UVA Rays Don’t Lighten Up
Even though the sun’s rays may feel less intense during winter, UVA rays are equally strong year round. Dr. Cynthia Bailey, MD explains, “UVA penetrates your skin more deeply than UVB, the summer sunburn ray, does. Wrinkles start deep in your skin from UVA damage to the collagen producing cells. UVA will also worsen irregular pigment problems like melisma and sun spots.”
3. Skin Damage is a Cumulative Effort
Skin damage doesn’t just stop at getting a really bad sunburn once, but rather builds up over time. “The negative effects of sun exposure are due to long term, life time exposure. Thus, even in the fall and winter one needs to protect themselves, as the sun is out year round. Even lower strength winter UVB rays (and the just as strong UVA rays) contribute to the long term effects of sun damage,” says Will von Bernuth, co-founder of Block Island Organics.
4. The Environment Isn’t What It Used to Be
Whether you believe in global warming or not (but really, what is there not to believe?), there is no denying that our environment has been declining. “The ozone layer has thinned over the last several years, and the sunlight we are exposed to today, even in the winter, is more intense than it was 20 years ago,” says dermatologist Dr. David Bank.
So how can we best save our skin during winter? Winter sports should be treated just like summer activities. “The sun’s rays are always strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM so it would be best, even in the winter, to try and limit your outdoor activities during those hours. If you can’t, then make sure you are well protected with sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and aim for the shade as much as possible,” suggests Dr. Bank.
As always, sunscreen is a must, whether it be in your moisturizer, foundation, or on its own. You can protect yourself from both cancer-causing UVA and UVB rays with broad spectrum sunscreens. Be sure to always wear at least broad spectrum SPF 15, which will protect you from 93.3% of UVB rays, according to von Bernuth.
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How do you protect your skin during winter?