Why Is Sunscreen Needed Even In Winter?
It’s common knowledge that you need to protect yourself from UV radiation from the sun when heading out during hot summers. After all, this is the season we tend to spend more time outside hence the need for protection.
But most people don’t realise that wintertime brings with it several challenges that make sunscreen almost mandatory. Before we get into the reasons why you should continue wearing sunscreen during the colder month, let’s understand why you need it in the first place?
What is the point of sunscreen?
The sun provides us with life-giving light and energy, but not all of the light is beneficial. Ultraviolet light also called UV radiation can be damaging in the long term. Our sun puts out a lot of UV radiation, but our ozone layer and atmosphere block most of it.
Some radiation does get through, this is why we experience sunburns and skin damage with too much time in the sun. Additionally, certain types of UV radiation have been linked to skin cancer. This means the longer your exposure to the sun without protection, the higher your risk of developing skin cancer eventually.
Keep in mind, sunscreen is not the only means of sun protection. Simply going out less, wearing long-sleeved clothing if you’re spending the day outside and using an umbrella are all great methods for limiting your exposure.
Now that we understand the purpose of sunscreen, why would we need to apply it in the winter? Typically there is less sunlight during winter, but it still carries the same risks. Let’s look at a few reasons you need to wear sunscreen even in winter:
The Ozone Layer
The Ozone layer is not a static, fixed feature of our atmosphere. Its depth and protective strength vary throughout the year. In winter the protection from the ozone layer drops since it gets thinner. This makes sunscreen during winter even more vital, even if you don’t plan to spend too much time outside. The risk of developing skin cancer does not reduce during the winter, with melanoma being the most common type of skin cancer. Simply using sunscreen with an SPF rating (the WHO recommends SPF 15 or higher) helps to lower your risk of sun damage a lot.
Sunscreen Wears Off Quickly
Wintertime is usually accompanied by a drop in humidity, this leads to both your skin and the sunscreen lotion drying out more quickly. Dry skin is less healthy, and dried out sunscreen is not effective at protecting you. Winter also comes with windy conditions that also contribute to faster loss of moisture. Not only do you need sunscreen during winter, but you also need to reapply it as often as you do in the summer. To help with dry skin issues, use a moisturizing sunscreen lotion, or apply moisturizer before using sunscreen over it.
Increased UV Exposure
A variety of factors come together to potentially increase your UV radiation exposure during the colder months. First, with less sunlight, we tend to leave the artificial light at home or work running for longer durations. These lights too can give off some level of UV light (although this is absolutely small compared with the sun). Second, due to the colder weather outside, we spend more time indoors. So we not only have artificial lights running constantly, but we are under those lights for prolonged periods. Lastly, if you live in a place where it snows, the ice and snow reflect a lot of this radiation around which also increases your exposure.
For all these reasons, it is of utmost importance to stay alert to the potential dangers of sun damage even when it is cold outside.
Most people don’t realise, but sunlight gets reflected inside our homes too. This light is often diffused and not as harsh as the sunlight outside, but it still carries a tiny amount of risk with it. This is especially if you tend to spend a lot of time near your windows. However, keep in mind that this factor is rather minimal when considering UV exposure and damage, it’s just something to keep in mind.
The Bottom line
Even if the sun doesn’t cause cancer, sun damage can still increase the signs of ageing. UV radiation is known to destroy collagen in the skin, this can lead to saggy skin. Maybe the risk of cancer isn’t strong enough for you. Then for the sake of maintaining a healthy and youthful look, be sure to keep your skin protected all year round with an appropriate sunscreen. If you experience sunburn or other medical issues on your skin, visit a doctor or dermatologist at the earliest.