Sunscreen isn’t just for summer, it’s for winter too

January 11, 2017 | by Lucio Pavone, M.D.

Let’s say you’re bundled up and ready to take your kiddos to the snow hill for an afternoon of sledding and winter fun. You’ve dressed for the part by wearing multiple layers, a warm hat and even packing an extra pair of gloves.  There’s one thing you’re missing – no not a warm beverage, but a little thing called sunscreen.

It may not feel normal to you to wear sunscreen on a cold and blustery day, but the sun can reflect off of the snow and back on to your face. It’s just like how the sun can reflect off the water on a warm day at the pool. If you are at a higher altitude like on a ski slope, the risk for skin damages increases even more.

No matter the weather or season, you still need to protect your skin by:

  • Using an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 30 or higher 15 minutes before you are head outside to spend an extended amount of time.
  • Applying a moisturizing sunscreen liberally and evenly to all exposed skin.
  • Covering often-missed spots with sunscreen like: the lips, ears, around the eyes, on the neck and underside of chin, scalp and hands.
  • Reapplying sunscreen every two hours and immediately after sweating.
  • Wearing a lip balm with an SPF of 15 or higher.
  • Limiting exposure to the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when UV exposure is most hazardous.
  • Don’t forget to cover up and protect your eyes while you’re in the sun and snow. Sunglasses or goggles are your eye’s best defense. Look for sunglasses or goggles that offer 99 percent or greater UV protection and have wraparound or large frames protect your eyes, eyelids and the sensitive skin around your eyes.

    Avoiding harmful UV rays caused by the sun does not mean you need to avoid the sun completely, you just need to limit your exposure from the sun’s harsh rays. By not protecting your skin, you are at an increased for skin cancer and skin damage. Excessive exposure to the sun can also cause wrinkling, sagging, leathering and pigmentation known as age or liver spots.

    If you are taking medications that make your skin more sensitive, you need to be extra careful about sun protection as your skin can burn in less time than usual, causing a condition called photosensitivity.

    Photosensitivity is an extreme sensitivity to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and other light sources. Reactions of photosensitivity appear as an exaggerated sunburn and can occur within minutes or up to 24 hours after exposure to the medication and UV light. 

    Medications such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, antifungals, blood pressure medications and some types of chemotherapies can make your skin more sensitive. This is why wearing sunscreen and protective clothing is so important.

    You may not realize it, but your skin does a lot for you by protecting your blood vessels, nerves and organs. Help keep your skin in tip top shape all four season by using sunscreen throughout the year.

    How do you protect your skin in the winter? Tell us in the below comments.

    Lower your risk of skin cancer with these 5 tips.


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