07 Jan Sun Protection is Critical in Winter Months
Sun protection is a must year-round, and especially if you’re in a seemingly perpetual sunny state like ours. Spectrum Dermatology is your leading resource for improving your sun protection regimen in order to reduce sun damage—and your risk of developing skin cancer. It’s tempting to stop wearing sunscreen in the winter months, particularly if you opt for a skiing vacation or head to a colder, more cloud-covered region. However, the sun and its damaging UV rays do not cease to be present during winter months or when there’s cloud coverage. UV rays are prevalent year-round, no matter the weather. Even dense cloud coverage doesn’t stop UV rays from reaching and damaging your skin.
Over two million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every year, as reported by the American Cancer Society. It’s the most common form of cancer in the country, but it’s also 100 percent preventable and it’s never too late to start better skin protection.
Winter and Your Skin
During the winter months, the Earth’s Northern Hemisphere is directed away from the sun, which means the atmosphere does provide some protection from UV rays (but certainly not total protection). This is why the temperatures drop; the sun is simply farther away. However, in some parts of the country, the UV radiation doesn’t decrease much at all during the winter months. These regions are typically those that remain sunny and relatively warm year-round. Regardless of how warm it might be outside, remember that the sun’s rays can be strong no matter the season.
Many in the region also take full advantage of winter sports, such as skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. Don’t forget that UV rays are even stronger in high altitudes, which is why sunburns happen more in areas with this thinner atmosphere. At the ski slopes, the atmosphere simply can’t block as many UV rays. You might be adept at slathering your nose in sun block when you take your winter holiday, but don’t forget all other areas of exposed skin—or to liberally reapply sunscreen every 75 minutes. Snow actually reflects about 80 percent of the sun’s rays, which can easily make it even more damaging than spending a full day on the beach.
Winter Sun Care
Sun burns during winter months can be severe, even causing blistering. A blistered sun burn is a sign of severe damage, and can dramatically increase your odds of developing skin cancer. It is estimated that five or more serious sunburns throughout your lifetime doubles your risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest and most aggressive of all skin cancers. However, even if you’re not into winter sports, it is paramount that you stay vigilant about your winter sun protection. Studies have shown that there is a cloud enhancement effect when it comes to UV radiation. This happens when the sun beams get reflected off of the clouds, which researchers have said can cause even more radiation to the skin. This radiation is intense and potentially even more dangerous.
The good news is that sun protection is easy once you make it a daily habit. Ask your dermatologist to recommend the best sunscreen for you. It will be one that is at least SPF 30, water resistant, and broad spectrum. Sunscreen should ideally be applied 30 minutes before you’re exposed to UV rays, and pay special attention to skin around the eyes, the ears, tops of the hands, and arms. A zinc oxide sunscreen is often best suited for those with sensitive skin. With long-term use, sunscreen will minimize how many sunburns you get, which in turn reduces your risk of skin cancer.
Taking Care of You
Sunscreen or sun block is not the only way to safeguard your skin, nor should it be. Don’t forget the lips, which you can cover with your regular sunscreen or you can purchase an SPF 30 lip balm. Covering up exposed skin with clothing is a great way protect the skin year-round, and that’s easiest in the winter months. A hat, pants, long-sleeved shirt, scarf, and gloves are all fantastic ways to keep your skin safe. It’s also a good idea to avoid the sun between 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. if possible, because this is when the sun’s rays are most powerful.
If you haven’t scheduled your annual mole check with a dermatologist in the past year, or if you want recommendations on medical-grade sunscreens, book an appointment online today with Spectrum Dermatology.