It’s easy to see why sunscreen is important in the summer. Without proper skin protection, spending hours outside under the glaring hot sun can cause severe sunburns and eventually lead to skin cancer. However, don’t stop wearing sunscreen just because you’ve traded in your swimsuit and sandals for a coat and boots. If you’re out and about during the day, you should apply sunscreen to exposed skin, no matter the temperature outside. Here’s why.
- Snow and ice reflect UV rays: Although the sun is at a lower angle in the sky during the winter, you still need the protective benefits of wearing sunscreen. After all, skin cancer and wrinkles stem from any UV exposure, even when the sun’s rays reflect off ice and snow.
- High elevation increases the intensity of UV rays: Are you planning to ski this winter? UV radiation increases by 4 to 5 percent for every 1,000 feet of elevation, making sunscreen even more vital in the mountains. Remember to protect your exposed skin before hitting the slopes, including your face, neck, ears, hands, and lips.
- The ozone layer is thinnest in the winter: The earth’s ozone absorbs UV radiation. Unfortunately, this layer is at its weakest in the winter, creating yet another opportunity for the winter sun to damage your skin more than you might expect.
- UVA rays are just as intense in the winter: While UVB rays cause the most noticeable forms of skin damage, such as sunburn and age spots, UVA rays penetrate more deeply to cause the deadliest form of skin cancer—melanoma. UVB rays weaken in the winter, but UVA rays do not. Broad-spectrum sunscreen is your best defense.
- Wind and low humidity are tough on skin: Windburn dries and irritates your skin, making the effects of UV rays readily apparent. The right sunscreen not only protects your skin but hydrates it as well, decreasing the appearance of wrinkles and lowering the risk of dryness and cracking.
- The effects of sun exposure are cumulative: Getting a little sun in the winter may not seem like a big deal, but the effects accumulate over the years. Decrease your lifetime sun exposure by wearing sunscreen in the winter.
- Use up your sunscreen before it expires: Most sunscreen products begin to diminish in effectiveness after just 12 months. With such a short shelf life, your best options are to toss the half-empty bottle next summer or use it up this winter. Reduce waste and keep your skin looking great by choosing the latter!
At Arlington Dermatology, we place a strong emphasis on skin cancer prevention. In addition to wearing sunscreen all year round, we recommend conducting monthly skin cancer self-checks. If you ever notice anything out of the ordinary, contact your dermatologists to arrange a skin examination. Early detection and treatment are critical for increasing the skin cancer survival rate. For more cancer prevention tips or to schedule an appointment, please call us at 847-392-5440.