Winter can be such a sad time for some people. Many attribute that to a lack of sunlight, so they slack off on protecting their skin from UV rays during the cold season. But is that really a good plan?
Do you really need sunscreen in the winter?
Dermatologists give that question a resounding yes!
That may seem counterintuitive to you, so let's talk about it!
Sunscreen is a Must All Year Long
It is true that, in many climates, the UVB rays of the sun are weaker. Those are the radiation rays responsible for sunburns. But the UVA rays are just as strong. We'll talk more on that later.
Since most people don't tend to sunburn as much or as easily in the wintertime, they tend to believe that sunscreen isn't necessary. UVB rays can vary, depending on where you're spending your winter days. If you're up north in Minnesota, they tend to be markedly less. But if you're skiing the slopes of Colorado, they may be just as bad as they are in the summertime. Ditto if you head down to sunny Florida for a few weeks.
So, okay. We can see why you might believe sunscreen isn't necessary when you're bundled up in Wisconsin for the next 4 months. But don't let your dis-ability to get burned guide your decision just yet.
The snow is a huge reflector of the sun, so if you're spending any time outside surrounded by that powdery white stuff, you're at risk. As the sun's rays beat down, almost 80% of UV radiation is reflected back up at us by the snow. That's compared to only 25% that sand reflects. Alex A. Khadavi, Founder of Advanced Skin & Hair recommends: "Reflection of radiation from snow requires aggressive sunscreen protection, maybe even more than summertime, as individuals participate in snow activities like skiing and snowboarding." Driveway shoveling counts, too.
Many people also tend to spend more time in higher elevations in the winter, swooshing down slopes. The higher you go, the more UV radiation, so you receive more exposure on a mountain than you do on the beach. For every 1,000-foot increase in elevation there is nearly a four percent increase in UV.
On top of that, the earth is closest to the sun in the middle of winter and the ozone, which typically acts as a filter, is at its thinnest.
UVA is a Bigger Concern in the Winter
While you can't necessarily feel their effects while you're in the sun, the radiation rays of UVA are the ones that cause you long-term damage and heartache. UVA radiation reaches deeper into your skin than the UVB and has a big influence in your collagen. UVA are the culprits responsible for many of the common aging signs that show up on your skin: fine lines, wrinkles, and sunspots, not to mention skin cancers caused by damage to your skin's cellular DNA.
"Nearly all (95%) of the UV radiation that we're exposed to is UVA," explains Bruce E. Katz, Director of JUVA Skin & Laser Center in New York. Part of that is due to the fact that the ozone doesn't filter UVA rays at all.
There is a much smaller seasonal drop in UVA, and it can also pass through glass. That means you're still getting exposed to harmful, damaging rays while you're sitting at your office desk gazing longingly outside, wishing for the summer months to return.
How to Protect your Skin From Harmful Rays in the Winter
While you're hard-core hitting the slopes or shoveling snow mid afternoon, you definitely need to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 30. Of course, only the exposed areas of your skin require protection. Glowbiotics Sunscreens offer plenty broad spectrum protection in an ultra-sheer base. They give you the added benefit of probiotic anti-microbial peptides, increasing hydration levels.
Otherwise, a moisturizer that includes SPF can do the trick. That can pose double-duty as it also protects your skin against other seasonal issues like dry skin.
Don't forget your lips! Windburned, chapped lips can really be annoying, but don't forget that they can also become sunburned. Smooth on a moisturizing lip balm that also includes SPF.
Nutrition is also really important. Foods that are rich in antioxidants and probiotics can help to ease inflammation and fight the free radicals that are formed as a result of sun damage. Take in plenty of foods like leafy greens, peppers, squash, watermelon, blueberries and tomatoes that are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants like carotenoids and lycopene. Avoid foods that are known to cause inflammation like meat, dairy products, simple carbohydrates, sugar, and processed foods, as they can contribute to the aging process.
Just because you're not soaking in the rays in a bikini on the beach doesn't mean your skin isn't at risk. No matter how much time you do and don't spend outside this winter, sunscreen is still just as important as it is through the rest of the year. Your skin will definitely thank you for it!