While it may be tempting to slack off on sun protection when the rays aren’t beating down, it’s imperative to stay vigilant through the darker winter months, states a release from The Skin Cancer Foundation.
“Most ultraviolet rays from the sun can penetrate cloud cover and fog,” said Deborah S. Sarnoff, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “You can still sustain sun damage — which can lead to skin cancer and premature skin aging — during winter months.”
Ultraviolet B rays, which are mainly responsible for sunburn, are the strongest in the summer. However, UVB rays can burn and damage your skin year-round, especially on reflective surfaces such as snow or ice, states the release.
“Snow reflects up to 80% of the sun’s UV light, so the rays hit you twice, further increasing your risk of skin cancer and premature aging. Winter sports enthusiasts should take special care. Skiers and snowboarders are at an even greater risk because these sports take place at a higher altitude, where the thinner atmosphere absorbs less UV radiation,” the foundation release states.
Ultraviolet A rays, which lead to tanning, dark spots and wrinkles, 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 skin while spending a bright winter day indoors, states the release.
Winter Sun Strategies
The first line of defense against this sun damage is clothing.
“Covering up is easier in the winter — it’s cold. However, your face, head and neck tend to remain exposed year-round, and this is where most skin cancers occur. Don’t forget your wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses before heading out. A hat keeps you warm while keeping UV rays from damaging your face and scalp and sunglasses protect your eyes while also fighting snow glare,” states the release.
People should also apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 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,” the foundation release states.
Avoiding peak sun hours, generally between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the winter months, and seeking shade when one can is key.
“Winter is approaching, but that’s no reason to let up on the sun-safe habits you practiced during the summer,” states the release. “Continuing sun protection efforts through the colder, cloudier months of the year reduces your risk of premature skin aging and developing the world’s most common cancer.”
The Skin Cancer Foundation’s mission is to decrease the incidence of skin cancer through public and professional education and research. For more information, visit SkinCancer.org.