How to Protect Your Skin from UV Rays in the Winter

How to Protect Your Skin from UV Rays in the Winter

Rebecca DesFosse Profile PicturePosted by Rebecca Desfosse, guest blogger

We all know to break out the sunscreen and shades during the summer, but what about in the winter? Do you spend the same amount of time protecting your skin from UV rays when it’s below freezing with snow on the ground? According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, those who partake in winter sports, like skiing and snowboarding, are at even more risk for sun overexposure than a day at the beach due to the high altitude and the sunlight’s reflection off the snow. Read on for more reasons why you should protect your skin in the winter, and how to do it:

Sneaky Sources of Winter Sunburn

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, sunlight contains both long wave ultraviolet (UVA) and short wave ultraviolet (UVB) rays. Whereas UVA rays cause our skin to age, UVB rays cause it to burn. But both can damage the skin. In the colder months, the strength of UVB rays weakens—yielding fewer sunburns—but UVA rays remain the same throughout the year. UVA rays also travel through glass, so driving or sitting by a window still puts you at risk for sun damage.

Additionally, exposure to UV radiation increases with increasing altitudes. For every 1,000 feet above sea level, UV radiation increases 4 to 5 percent. And about 85 percent of UVA rays reflect off snow, as explained by the Appalachian Mountain Club. In other words, you can get UV ray exposure from all directions on a sunny day during your family’s skiing trip.

Sun Protection for Your Skin

uv rays

Protect your skin with a coat, hat, gloves, scarf, and sunglasses this winter.

To protect your skin from sun damage, use a broad spectrum SPF of at least 30 every day, whether you plan on leaving the house or staying in a building that takes in considerable sunlight. Otherwise, stay in the shade as much as possible, especially when the sun is at its strongest—which the American Cancer Society states tends to land between 10 AM and 4 PM. But here’s a fun tip: If you’re unsure about the strength of the sun’s UV rays, check your shadow. If it is shorter than you are, the sun is at its peak and you should seek out shade.

Keep in mind that snow and wind can wear away sunscreen, thereby reducing its effectiveness. When out in the elements, stay extra diligent about reapplying sunscreen—at least every two hours and immediately after sweating. It’s also recommended to use a sunscreen with moisturizing ingredients, such as lanolin or glycerin. The harsh winter weather makes skin more delicate and more prone to damage from the sun’s rays.

If you spend a lot of time driving in the middle of the day, consider investing in tinted windows—but make sure the tinting covers a broad spectrum of the sun’s rays (especially UVA rays). Protect your skin with clothing, as well. An obvious tip for winter, maybe, but a coat doesn’t always do the trick. Include a hat, gloves, a scarf, and sunglasses. You can never be too careful when it comes to protecting your skin.

Areas Prone to Sun Damage

Any exposed skin is susceptible to sun damage, both indoors and out. However, there are certain areas that require a little extra care. For instance, pay special attention to your neck and face. These areas of your skin are most often exposed and generally more delicate when in dry environments. Also remember to apply sunscreen on and behind the ears, which receive quite a bit of sun exposure themselves. Luckily, they’re not easy to forget when they’re the first part of your head to feel the chill in cold weather.

How do you protect your skin from UV rays in the winter months? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Image source: Flickr