Spring is finally here, and many parts of the country are already experiencing warmer weather. It’s easy to associate vigilant sun protection with summertime, when the sun is shining intensely. This shouldn’t be the case: Sun protection is necessary every day, regardless of the weather or time of year.
“Even when it’s cold or overcast, UV rays that cause skin aging and skin cancer are reaching your skin,” says Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “In the right winter weather conditions, you can sustain sun damage just as easily as during the summer.”
UVB rays, the main cause of sunburn, are the strongest in the summer. However, UVB rays can burn and damage your skin year-round, especially at high altitudes and on reflective surfaces such as snow or ice. Snow reflects up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV light, so the rays hit you twice, further increasing your risk of skin cancer and premature aging.
UVA rays remain constant throughout the year and can penetrate through clouds and fog. UVA rays can also penetrate glass, so it’s still possible to damage your skin while spending a bright winter day indoors.
Staying Sun Safe
Your first line of defense against this sun damage is clothing. Covering up is easier in the winter — it’s cold! — but the face, head and neck tend to remain exposed year-round, and this is where most skin cancers occur. Don’t forget your UV-blocking sunglasses and broad-brimmed hat before heading out. Sunglasses protect your eyes while also fighting snow glare, and a hat keeps you warm while keeping UV rays from damaging your scalp.
Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher daily to all exposed skin, and make sure to cover often-missed spots like the tops of your ears, around the eyes and near the hairline. Consider choosing a moisturizing sunscreen with ingredients like lanolin or glycerin to combat dry winter skin. Finally, try to avoid the peak sun hours between 10 AM and 4 PM, and seek shade when you can.
Winter is approaching, but that’s no reason to let up on the sun safe habits you practiced during the summer. Continuing sun protection efforts through the colder, cloudier months of the year reduces your risk of developing the most common cancer.
About The Skin Cancer Foundation
The Skin Cancer Foundation is the only global organization solely devoted to the prevention, early detection and treatment of skin cancer. The mission of the Foundation is to decrease the incidence of skin cancer through public and professional education and research. Since its inception in 1979, the Foundation has recommended following a complete sun protection regimen that includes seeking shade and covering up with clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, in addition to daily sunscreen use. For more information, visit SkinCancer.org.