4 Reasons To Wear Sunscreen In The Winter

Fall is here, leaves are falling, it’s time to put bathing suits away and time to store the sunscreen. WAIT TWO TICS …… Before you store your sunscreen for the fall/winter let’s discuss premature aging and skin cancer. The NUMBER ONE way to prevent wrinkles, acne scars, age spots, wrinkles, moles, melanoma, wrinkles, skin cancer is to protect your skin from ultraviolet (UV) rays year round. The most damage to our skin happens in our childhood and early adulthood, and shows up in our late twenties and early thirties. No, lasers, surgery, and Botox are not the answer, prevention is the key.

A quick refresher on Ultraviolet Rays

Sunlight is the main source of UV radiation, even though UV rays make up only a small portion of the sun’s rays. About 95% of the UV rays from the sun that reach the earth are UVA rays, with the remaining 5% being UVB rays.

UVA: Ultraviolet A rays, also called "long wave" rays, make up 95 percent of the rays that reach the surface of the Earth. They can penetrate the skin much deeper than UVB rays, and are responsible for signs of aging (like dark spots and wrinkles). They also can initiate skin cancers. These are the rays that make you more tan. UVA rays can penetrate glass and clouds.

UVB: Ultraviolet B rays, or "shortwave" rays, don’t penetrate the skin as deeply. They're what causes redness and sunburns. They are most intense from early spring to early fall, and during the day’s sunniest hours. UVB rays are not as likely to penetrate glass as UVA rays, but even though they dwindle in the winter, many can reach the Earth’s surface and are easily reflected off snow and ice.

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Most skin cancers in the US are related to driving


Put sunscreen on before going to school or work? What? Why? Well, nearly 53 percent of skin cancers in the US occur on the left, or drivers’, side of the body, according to a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. The distribution pattern supports the theory that automobile drivers in the US are exposed to more ultraviolet (UV) radiation on the left, through the driver’s side window, and that ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation causes more damage than formerly believed.

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Ozone layer is thinnest in the winter

Ozone is a layer in the earth's stratosphere containing high concentration of ozone (a toxic gas), which absorbs most of the ultraviolet radiation reaching the earth from the sun. It protects us from damaging UV rays. According to the Climate Prediction Center, Ozone layers are thinnest in December through March in the Northern Hemisphere.

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Snow nearly doubles your exposure to UV rays.

You know to apply sunscreen at the beach, but what about when you hit the slopes, or go for a run in the snow? Turns out, the snow is a reflective surface. According to this UV fact sheet from the World Health Organization, snow reflects up to 80 percent of UV radiation. By comparison, grass, soil, and water reflect less than 10 percent; dry beach sand 15 percent; and sea foam 25 percent. On top of that, UV exposure also increases by approximately 10 percent for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain.

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Cloudy days give us a false sense of protection

The effect of clouds can vary. Sometimes cloud cover blocks some UV from the sun and lowers UV exposure, while some types of clouds can reflect UV and can increase UV exposure. What’s important to know is that UV rays can get through, even on a cloudy day. Stop looking for excuses to skip sunscreen, just apply it. Your skin will thank you.


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In Good Health, Ana-Maria Temple, MD