Most people know that sunscreen and a day at the beach go hand-in-hand. However, fewer people realize that it’s just as important to use sunscreen in the winter. If you’re surprised, you’re not alone. It’s not uncommon to pack away a bottle of sunscreen at the end of summer so you’ll be ready for the next, far-off sunny day. You’re about to find out that it makes more sense to keep that sun block handy. It can help you prevent your skin from getting overexposed to UV rays in the middle of winter.
Using sunscreen in the winter may seem counterintuitive. After all, the days are short and dark. Most are overcast and feature plenty of precipitation. Nonetheless, there are many scientific reasons for why you would want to use sunscreen in the winter.
Hard as it may be to believe, the Earth is actually closest to the sun at this time of year. This gives us more exposure to UV rays, even if it’s been a long time since we saw a sunny day. More than that, the ozone layer is at its thinnest during the winter months. The ozone layer absorbs many harmful UVB rays, but when it is thinner it does a less effective job, leaving us vulnerable.
Many people believe that a cloudy day protects them from the harmful effects of the sun. However, they are typically alarmed to find out that as much as 80% of the sun’s UV rays are capable of penetrating a thick cloud layer. This means that you’re being exposed to tremendous amounts of harmful UV radiation without ever seeing a ray of sunshine.
Your skin is also more vulnerable thanks to the combination of UV rays and windburn. As temperatures drop and cold winds pick up, your skin gets dried out fast. Losing all that hydration strips an important protective barrier from your skin. You’re even more susceptible to the harmful effects of the sun when it’s windy, and if you’re like most people, you’re not even aware of it.
There are things you can do to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. Apply your first layer of sunscreen about half an hour before stepping outside. This gives the product a chance to absorb into your skin before being exposed to UV rays. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF of 30 or higher. Don’t hesitate to spread it on thick. Many people apply only a thin layer, and this doesn’t always provide adequate protection. Your face alone probably needs at least a teaspoon of coverage.
While you’re slathering on the sunscreen, don’t forget to apply it to any exposed parts of your skin. This includes the ears, lips and on the back of the neck. Choose a lip balm with an SPF of 15 or greater. Other frequently forgotten areas include under your chin and on your hands. Your scalp should also be protected by sunscreen, a hat or both. Keep in mind that the wind will cause your sunscreen to wear off more quickly. You’ll need to apply it at least every two hours.
In addition to wearing sunscreen in the winter, consider wearing clothing that protects your skin from the elements. For instance, use a ski mask if you go skiing to really prevent the wind and UV rays from reaching your sensitive skin. Sunglasses protect not only your vision, but also the delicate skin around your eyes, and scarves and gloves will protect your neck and hands.
Don’t forget to hydrate your body and your skin during the colder months. Drink plenty of water to keep everything functioning optimally, and don’t forget to keep slathering on a rich moisturizing cream. Moisturizer is especially important after you’ve been exposed to cold temperatures, wind and sun. These elements strip essential hydration from your skin, leaving it vulnerable to attack by UV rays. In addition to wearing sunscreen in the winter, it’s vital that you focus on hydrating your skin.
Applying sunscreen in the winter needs to be a habit for everyone. Even on those gray and cloudy days, sunscreen is a vital part of protecting yourself from the UV damage that causes wrinkles, spots and skin cancer. Make an appointment with your dermatologist if you’d like to learn about even more ways you can protect your skin in the winter.