Don’t Forget to Grab the Sunscreen this Winter

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t think about sun protection too much unless you’re feeling the heat and seeing those bright sunny rays. But that’s not such a good idea. Ultraviolet rays can harm your skin year-round.  Don’t think for a minute that skin cancer is something you have to worry about only on hot, sunny days.

Even when it’s cold and cloudy outside, a significant amount of UV rays reach your skin. Although UVB radiation decreases during winter months, the amount of UVA radiation is still high and both types of radiation contribute to skin cancer and premature aging of the skin.

Skiers and snowboarders need to be especially cautious because the higher the altitude, the thinner the protective ozone layer. For every 1,000 feet in elevation, UV radiation increases by about four percent. Sun also reflects off the snow.

Taking care of your skin is as important in the winter as it is during the rest of the year. Here are some tips for preventing skin cancer and premature skin aging all year long:

  • Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen: Use a sunscreen with SPF of 30 or above, apply 15 – 30 minutes before you go outdoors and don’t forget to reapply when outside for more than 2 hours. Make sure all exposed areas are covered by sunscreen, including ears, nose and neck.
  • Avoid the midday sun: UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Go undercover: Wear protective clothing and a wide-brim hat to keep the sun’s rays off your head, face and body.
  • Protect your eyes: Wear sunglasses or ski goggles with UV protection.
  • Skip the tanning salon: Your risk of melanoma increases significantly after just one visit to a tanning salon. If you “have to have” a tan in the midst of winter, stick with tanning sprays or lotions so it just looks like you’ve been kissed by the sun without the damage.

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Review Date: December 20, 2016
Reviewed By: Perry Pitkow, MD
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