It’s common to assume that warm sunny summer days are the only times that you should be worried about sunburns and subsequent sun damage. This is 100% a myth! During the winter months UV rays are still present. UVA rays cause damage deep into the dermis of our skin that when left unprotected contribute to wrinkles, premature skin aging and sun spots. These rays can penetrate clouds and are present year round, no matter the weather. In the winter, UVB rays (known as the sunburn rays) at some locations may be less prevalent, but may be present in some climates.
If you live in a snowy climate, sunburns can be particularly powerful and harsh. That’s because when UV rays hit snow, around 90 percent of them bounce right back, putting any exposed skin at risk. While enjoying your winter outdoor sports and activities sunburn isn’t your only worry. The UV rays combined with the snow’s reflective power can create a solar oven that can cause severe burns, snow blindness (retinal sunburn) and heat exhaustion.
Those living and vacationing in higher altitudes must take extra precautions to protect themselves. The strength of the UV rays increases as the elevation increases. UV radiation increases four to five percent for every 1,000 feet above sea level. So at an altitude of 9,000 to 10,000 the UV radiation is between 36 percent and 50 percent higher.
The keys to making sure your skin is protected from dry winter weather and the sun is to follow these steps:
- Wear a broad-spectrum moisturizing sunscreen that includes zinc oxide, titanium dioxide and has an SPF of 30+. Winter tip: If you are at a higher elevation than you are normally used to then wear a stronger sunscreen.
- Cover-up. Cover your head and wear ski masks to protect against blowing snow, wind and sunburn. Using UPF 50+ clothing as a layer can add another piece of protection as well.
- Wear sunglasses and if you are participating in a snow sport, wear UV-protective goggles.
- Use a lip balm with uv-protection to protect your lips from sunburn and chaffing.
- Reapply your sunscreen every two hours or as needed. Wind, snow, and sweat can wear your sunscreen away. Bring along a travel sunscreen stick that you can use to reapply throughout the day.
Keep in mind that sun protection is a year-round effort. The strength of the UV rays may vary depending on the seasons so having a solid sun-protection routine is important. You know your skin best! What are some ways your protect your skin during the winter?