Heading Out This Winter? Don’t Forget the Sunscreen

Healthy Living

January 15, 2018

The sun and its UV rays are a bit of a mystery to the average person. You may, for example, assume that you don’t need a layer of protection as you head to the beach or park on a cloudy day. But clouds don’t prevent the sun’s rays from damaging your skin – and neither does cold weather. The potential for skin cancer and the aging effects of the sun are just as powerful in the winter as they are in the summer. You can still get a burn (and risk your health) even when temperatures fall. Here are a few good reasons to add sunblock to your winter skincare regimen.

Sunscreen Preserves Your Skin

The Annals of Internal Medicine published a study that looked at how wearing sunscreen affects the skin. Cold and dry air during the winter can cause your skin to crack and peel, but the direct exposure you get to UV rays can also damage your skin. Wearing sunblock slows the aging process on your skin. If you want to maintain your skin’s natural glow and prevent long-term problems, lather on some sunblock when you go outside.

Hidden Threat from Below

When you’re on the beach, you face a double threat from above and below: Sand reflects about 25 percent of the sun that hits it, which means you get an extra dose of UV exposure. But snow has been shown to reflect 80 percent of the damaging sunlight it gets – that’s over three times the reflection level of sand. Now, you’re less likely to be wearing your favorite polka dot swimsuit when you’re shoveling your driveway, but don’t ignore this critical threat when you’re out and about.

And speaking of going out, you should know that some winter sports are more dangerous than others, from a skin-damaging standpoint. Snowboarding, for instance, boosts your chances of UV exposure. For every 1,000 feet you go above sea level, your risk of UV exposure increases by 5 percent. That means that you’re more likely to get a sunburn while you’re catching some sweet powder than you are lying on the beach.

Cloudy Days Can Burn

You may not be able to get a tan when it’s cloudy, but you’ll still feel the burn if you don’t lather up. The sun’s rays that create light can’t penetrate clouds. Unfortunately, UV rays can and do. Around 80 percent of all harmful UV rays do make contact with your skin whether you’re lying by the pool or building a snowman on the front yard. A vast majority of the UV rays that can damage your skin make it through to you on cloudy winter days, which means that you should be wearing sunscreen to protect any skin that sees the light.

Dry Air is the Sun’s Best Friend

The sun loves dry air, and vice versa. You may already feel itchy and uncomfortable thanks to winter’s drier air quality, but you could also be inviting extra sun onto your skin without protection. As the sun penetrates your skin, it can enhance the damage done by the dry air. Eventually, you’ll start to see red sports and cracked skin where it’s been exposed, and that’s a bad sign that you need some help – fast.

Applying moisturizer during the winter will help to prevent dry skin from happening in the first place, and loading up on sunblock will prevent UV rays from making your skin even worse. If you notice patches of red, blotchy skin or cracks that seem infected, check in with your doctor. You might just need a prescription for hardcore moisturizer, but these could be the first inklings of skin cancer or another medical problem that needs to be addressed.

Stay Safe (and Covered) This Winter

Your exposure to the sun during the winter is not confined just to exposed skin. Ultraviolet rays from the sun can penetrate certain types of cloth, and they can also get through sweaters that have large openings in them. That’s why it’s important to apply sunscreen to your arms, feet, face and other areas that may be exposed, and layer your clothing if you have large gaps or holes.

Don’t underestimate the sweat factor in winter, either. All that layering may make you sweatier, which can wipe away your sunscreen. Reapply sunscreen according to the bottle’s instructions, and pay close attention to how long you’ve been outside and how worked up you get to reduce your exposure. Remember your lips, too. Carry a lip balm with UV protection to protect this sensitive area from winter burn.

Cover up before you head out for the day, and lather on the sunblock on exposed limbs and skin. Proactive skincare can keep you healthier as you age, no matter the season.