In the winter, the days are short and the cold temperatures tell you the sun isn’t as strong. UVB rays are weaker in the winter, so you don’t get sunburned as easily, but the UVA rays that cause photo-aging are just as strong. Because you aren’t getting burned as quickly, and because the warmth feels good on your skin, you aren’t seeking shade as often. Depending on your activities, you could actually do more damage in the winter than the summer!
Before we get into why you should ALWAYS wear sunscreen, even in the winter, you must understand a little something about UV exposure.
There 3 types of UV rays, UVA, UVB & UVC
All types UV radiation exposure damage the genetic material, or DNA, in your skin cells, and even cause eye damage. If enough DNA damage builds up over time, it can cause cells to start growing out of control, which can lead to skin cancer.
UVA, which I like to call the “aging rays” are what causes sun damage, penetrate more deeply into the skin can cause skin cancer, eye damage, and play a greater role in premature skin aging, including wrinkle formation.
UVB, which I like to call the “burning rays” are what make you tan and burn under the sun. UVB rays affect the skin's top layer, cause sunburn, skin cancer and eye damage. The UVB rays are strongest during the hours of 10am and 4 pm.
UVC, are the most dangerous type of UV radiation, but you generally don't need to worry about them because it is absorbed by the ozone and don't reach the earth's surface.
Some UVB rays are absorbed by the Earth's ozone layer. So, most of the UV rays you come in contact with are UVA with a small amount of UVB. Remember, just because it is not sunny doesn't mean you aren't protected from UVA exposure. The clouds do not filter UVA radiation and you are still at risk for sun damage, photo aging and skin cancer.
5 Important Facts about UV Exposure in the Winter
Snow Doubles Your Exposure to UV Rays
The snow reflects back 80-percent of UVA rays, nearly doubling your exposure!
The Earth is Closest to the Sun in the Middle of the Winter
The changes of the season are a result of the tilt of the Earth, not how close our little blue planet is to the sun. In the northern hemisphere, we’re closest to the sun about two weeks after the winter solstice. We’re the furthest from the sun about two weeks after the summer solstice.
Ozone is the Thinnest During Winter
Ozone acts like the Earth’s sunscreen, filtering out and protecting us from harmful UV rays. In the Northern Hemisphere, ozone levels are generally the lowest from December to March.
It works well for us that we spend the most time outside in the summer when we’re the most naturally protected, but it does add to the challenge in the winter.
The Atmosphere is Thinner at Higher Elevations
When you’re taking in those mountain views, keep in mind UV increases by nearly four percent for every 1,000-foot increase in elevation. That’s a lot of exposure—much more than any day at the beach.
UVA Rays Can Go Through Untreated Glass
Even if you prefer the view from inside where it’s nice and warm, you’re still at risk for UVA skin damage. While UVB rays are mostly blocked by glass and clouds, 50- to 60-percent of UVA rays go right through windows.
NO SUNSCREENS GIVE YOU 100% PROTECTION and they lose their potency after approximately 2 hours. Sunscreens come in a variety of protection levels, but even the highest numbers need to be applied every 2 hours. Broad-spectrum sunscreen provide protection from both UVA & UVB exposure. If it doesn't say "broad-spectrum" you will only be protected by the UVB rays. I recommend you get a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF 30. Anything lower than 30 is a waste of money and anything higher than 30 will not get you much more protection.
Sunscreens are not heavily regulated by the FDA, so it is recommended to use a brand that is reputable and highly recommended by your dermatologist or esthetician. If you are looking for a quality sunscreen with proper UV protection, Skin Care For Gents sells clinical grade sun protection that doubles as moisturizers, even oil free. Our sunscreens are packed with anti-oxidants, stem cells & other anti-aging ingredients. They are all natural and safe for the environment too! Come into the store to sample them.
Nonetheless, go outside and enjoy the outdoors, but remember always apply sunscreen, even on a cloudy winter day.