Winter is nearly here and many places are already seeing cooler temperatures, more rain, and more cloudy days. When the sun shines intensely, it's easy for people to mistakenly associate sun protection with summertime. However, sun protection is required at all times of the year, no matter what the weather.
Deborah S. Sarnoff MD, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation, states that even in cold weather, the UV rays that cause skin cancer and skin aging can still reach your skin. You can get sunburns just as easily in winter as you can in summer.
The strongest UVB rays are in summer, which is the most common cause of sunburn. UVB rays can damage and burn your skin all year round, particularly at high altitudes or on reflective surfaces like snow and ice. The sun's UV light is reflected by snow up to 80 percent, increasing your chances of developing skin cancer or premature aging.
The UVA rays are constant throughout the year, and can penetrate through fog and clouds. UVA rays are also capable of penetrating glass so you can still damage your skin even if you spend a sunny winter day indoors.
Staying Safe in the Sun
Clothing is your first line of defense against sunburn. It's easier to cover up in winter because it's cold. However, the neck, face and hands are more exposed - for obvious reasons - year round, which is where most skin cancers occur.
Before you go out, make sure to have your UV-blocking sunglasses on and a broad-brimmed cap. Sunglasses protect your eyes and prevent snow glare. A hat keeps your head warm and UV rays from damaging it.
Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has an SPF of 15 or more daily on all skin exposed. Cover any areas you may forget to, such as the tops of your ears and around your eyes. To combat winter skin that is dry, you might consider using a moisturizing sunscreen made with ingredients such as avocado, coconut or shea butter.
Try to avoid the peak hours of sun between 10 AM - 4 PM and seek shade whenever possible.
Remember, you can reduce your chances of getting the most common form of cancer by continuing to apply the sun-safety habits that you developed during the summer all year-round, even in the cold winter months.