Sunscreen in Winter: Should You Wear SPF in Winter?

5th Apr 2021

Summer and sunscreen go together like coffee and cream, and for good reason. Who can forget that miserable week when you had to recover from a painful sunburn? Most people wear SPF during the sunnier months of the year to prevent red, peeling skin. As summer winds down, it is common for people to stash away sunscreen along with their swimwear and bronzers, only to reach out for them next year.

Wearing sunscreen in winter doesn’t make sense for most people. There is less sun during the cooler months, so why bother wearing that greasy, chalky, and eye-stinging SPF in winter? The sun might not feel as strong during the winter, but its damaging rays can wreak havoc on your skin throughout the year. In this article, Salameh Plastic Surgery and Skin Care will explain why you should wear sunscreen in winter and throughout the year as part of your daily healthcare and skin care routine.

What Is Sunscreen and Why Is It Necessary?

Sunscreen does not just shield you from a sunburn. Sunscreen — also known as sunblock — is a topical product that absorbs or reflects the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, protecting your skin from injury and disease. Although adequate sunlight is essential for mental and musculoskeletal health, prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV rays poses a risk to your well-being.

Whether in summer or winter, it takes just 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure to get harmed by its UV radiation. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends wearing sunscreen in winter just like you would during the summer if you’re going to spend time outdoors. Learn how wearing SPF in winter and throughout the year can help you stay younger and healthier:

Reduces Hyperpigmentation

Unprotected sun exposure can cause hyperpigmentation on your skin. The sun’s ultraviolet rays stimulate the melanocytes in your skin to produce more melanin. Along with giving your hair, skin, and eyes their natural color, melanin pigments also protect you from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet light. When exposed to the sun for prolonged periods, your body produces more melanin to shield your skin from damage.

The extra melanin pigments that are produced in response to unprotected sun exposure can clump or concentrate in specific areas of your skin, leading to hyperpigmented spots and patches on your body. Dark spots and patches produce an uneven skin tone and a dull complexion, making you look older beyond your years. You should wear sunscreen in winter and the rest of the year to get a clear and even skin tone.

Slows Premature Aging

The anti-aging benefits of sun protection should be enough to convince you to wear sunscreen in winter and throughout the year. The sun’s UVA rays are responsible for most of the signs associated with skin aging. UVA light — also called long-wave rays — is able to penetrate deep into the skin, damaging the collagen and elastin fibers that provide structural support.

When your skin’s structural support is weakened, it will lose its firmness and elasticity, leading to fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging, drooping skin. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who wear sunscreen daily slowed skin aging by 24 percent. Wearing SPF in winter and the rest of the year will block UVA rays from penetrating your skin, helping slow premature aging.

Protects Against Skin Cancer

Still not convinced why you should wear sunscreen in winter as you do during the summer? Along with reducing skin discoloration and slowing aging, wearing sunscreen in winter can decrease the risk of skin cancer. The sun’s UVA and UVB rays can damage skin cells’ DNA throughout the year, leading to mutations and abnormal cell growth, some of which end up being cancerous.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, afflicting more than 20 percent of Americans during their lifetime. Anyone can get skin cancer, although people with lighter skin tones are at an increased risk for developing the disease. Wearing SPF every day of the year can decrease the risk of skin cancer by 50 percent, helping you live a healthier life.

Why You Should Wear Sunscreen in Winter

Depending on where you live, you may not see or feel much sunlight during the winter. So it makes sense for people to assume that they don’t need to wear sunscreen in winter as there is not much sun to protect their skin. That assumption, though, is incorrect. The sun may seem weaker during the winter as clouds filter most of the UVB rays, making you less likely to burn.

Just because you are less likely to get a sunburn does not mean you should skip SPF in winter. Many other factors can make the sun’s harmful rays more damaging in the winter than during summertime, increasing the risk of premature aging and skin cancer. Some reasons why you must wear sunscreen in winter include:

UVA Rays Penetrate Through Clouds

Winter clouds can block most UVB rays, but UVA rays are still able to penetrate through them, inflicting sun damage on your skin throughout the year. UVA rays are responsible for skin aging and melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

UVA rays are present regardless of season, temperature, and weather, meaning you will experience the same degree of sun damage during a snowstorm as you would on a scorching hot summer day at the beach. The omnipresence of UVA rays, though, is not the only reason you need to wear sunscreen in winter.

Snow and Ice Reflect the Sun’s UV Rays

Wearing sunscreen is probably the last thing on your mind on a snow day. But snow and ice inflict the most sun damage on your skin. Ice and snow reflect up to 90 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, meaning you will get hit twice by those dangerous UVA rays. You should wear sunscreen in winter to minimize double exposure to ultraviolet light, reducing the risk of premature aging and skin cancer.

Winter Skin Intensifies Damage

Dry winter air is harsh on your skin. Low humidity during the cooler months of the year sucks moisture out of the epidermis, leading to flaky, itchy, and cracked skin in winter. When your skin’s barrier and health are compromised, it becomes more vulnerable to the damaging effects of the sun’s UV radiation. Winter skin intensifies sun damage, making the application of SPF in winter even more necessary to protect your health from harm.

How to Pick the Best Sunscreen in Winter

After realizing how important it is to wear sunscreen throughout the year, you’re probably wondering if it’s OK to wear your summertime sunblock during the winter. Although there are fewer UVB rays during the winter, your skin will be exposed to the same amount of UVA radiation throughout the year. In winter, you should wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with sufficient sun protection factor (SPF) to shield your skin from damage.

Understanding Broad-Spectrum and SPF

What do broad-spectrum and SPF in sunblocks mean?

A broad-spectrum sunscreen means the product will protect your skin from both UVA and UVB radiation. UVA protection is not rated in sunscreens, but UVB protection is measured in SPF. An SPF 30 sunscreen indicates that your skin will be protected 30 times longer from sunburn compared to skin without sunblock. This means if you burn within 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure, wearing an SPF 30 will allow you to stay in the sun for 450 minutes (7.5 hours) without getting a sunburn.

So, can you wear your summertime sunscreen in winter? If your sunscreen is broad-spectrum and has an SPF of at least 30, you can wear the same sunblock during the rest of the year. A broad-spectrum SPF 30 product — like Dr. Salameh’s Anti-Aging SPF 30 Moisturizer — shields against UVA damage and blocks 97 percent of UVB radiation, giving you adequate protection against sunburn, photoaging, and skin cancer throughout the year.

Get Medical-Grade Sun Protection with Dr. Salameh’s Skin Care Products

Sunscreen is one of the best skin care products you can use to promote a youthful complexion. Wearing SPF in winter is as necessary as applying sunscreen during the summer to shield against sun damage and reduce the risk of cancer. Sunblock should be a staple part of your daily skin care routine regardless of the season or temperature. Shop Dr. Salameh’s medical-grade and FDA-regulated sun protection products to keep your skin young and healthy.

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