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 be quieter during winter, but by no means should we assume that the risk of sun damage to our skin is lessened. Using sunscreen in winter is just as important, 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.
Snow Can Double 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.”
UVA Rays Are Just as Strong in Winter
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 rays penetrate your skin more deeply than UVB (the summer sunburn ray). 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.”
My Favorite Winter Sunscreens
Skin Damage is a Cumulative Effort
Skin damage doesn’t come from 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.