"It's winter. I don't need sunscreen!"
"Umm, have you looked outside, there's no sun. Why would I need to wear SPF?"
"I'm inside all the time. If anything I need to get more sun! Not block it out!"
Ever said or thought something along these lines? No judgement here... so have we (also, we're just not the judgey sort of people). And we continue to hear similar comments.
Unfortunately, because of these misconceptions, winter is a time when many people accumulate UV damage to their skin. Simply because they don't think about it, let alone do anything to protect themselves.
Being in the business of protecting skin from damaging UV rays, many think that our products are seasonal. Well thank-goodness we're here to dispel such dubious myths! (*self-mocking sarcasm implied).
Myths, myths, let's bust some myths!
Just because we've forgotten about UV rays doesn't mean they've forgotten about us. The UV rays are still there — and while the UV index is a bit lower in winter, they’re still strong.
You don't even need to be able to see the sun to enjoy the damage caused by its rays. Those pesky, persistent rays are pervasive, penetrating nearly everything that's either transparent or not 100% solid.
Even though it may be a miserable, cloudy day, that sun is still out there, lurking just beyond and extending its rays directly through to you with very little resistance.
“Most ultraviolet rays from the sun can penetrate cloud cover and fog,” says Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “So you can still sustain sun damage — which can lead to skin cancer and premature skin aging — during winter months.”
Glass is another deceptive "sun blocker" myth. Spoiler alert - it doesn't block the majority of UV rays!
According to the International Ultraviolet Association, standard window glass will block nearly 100% of UV-B rays while allowing UV-A rays to pass through with no objections. UV-A rays are the most common and penetrate the deepest. Among other less-than desirable side-effects, UV-A is thought to suppress the immune system.
One clever idea (no we didn't think of it) is to add a solar window film to your home windows. Solar films block the UV-A rays and may keep your house cooler as they can also deflect the heat. Many solar window films are fairly cheap and can be applied easily, requiring only water and a few drops of dishwashing soap in a spray bottle. If you're thinking about adding solar films to your windows, be sure to verify that the film is actually meant to block solar rays. Not all films will reflect or stop the penetration of UV-A light.
Speaking of glass, your car's windshield does a fairly decent job at blocking out most of both UV-A and UV-B rays, however it's the side windows that are the "problem child". Researchers have found that less than of 50% UV rays are blocked by most vehicles' side windows. Even most window tints won't do anything to prevent the rays from penetrating through to attack your skin.
Which begs the question, if the glass made for windshields is so effective, why isn't this type of glass "standard"? But we digress...
As the Skin Cancer Foundation points out, snow reflects 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays. That means you “get hit twice” by the light, according to the World Health Organization.
Sunscreen is important to wear daily, including when you’re out enjoying winter activities, like a winter walk or weekend ski trip.
And if you're a winter sports enthusiast, headed for fun day on the mountain, you are at an even greater risk. Because these sports take place at a higher altitude, the thinner atmosphere absorbs less UV radiation, which means more of it will be directed at you.
If you’re planning to be out for a while in snowy conditions, the same rules apply as they do at the beach: Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out and then reapply every two hours. Because if there’s one thing that’s constant in your skin-care routine it’s the fact that sun-care products are your hero products — no matter the season.
SPF = Sun Protection Factor
Look for sunscreen that’s labeled as broad-spectrum. This means it protects against both UV-B and UV-A rays.
“We recommend opting for a mineral-based sunscreen,” says Carla Burns, MS, a research analyst for EWG based in Washington, DC, who has been involved in their Sunscreens Guide. Products using zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as the active ingredient(s) offer good sun protection and have less health and environmental concerns.
Mineral sunscreens are made up of tiny white, UV-deflecting particles — zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or both. These have proven to be more gentle than traditional chemical sunscreens, making them perfect for anyone with sensitive or acne-prone skin.
The short of it all is, that protective clothing, sunscreen that is ‘broad spectrum’, and UV filters (clear or tinted) applied to your windows, are all extremely effective ways to protect yourself from damaging UV rays.
Now you know. Sun protection is key year-round. Outdoors and indoors. Go yell it off the mountaintops, or rooftops, or just out your front door (while wearing your sunblock of course)!