Everyone knows that you need to lather on sunscreen when you are soaking in the sun at the beach in the summer, but many people don’t know that their skin needs just as much care in the winter. Aside from possible sunburns due to the reflection of the sun’s rays on the snow, being at higher altitudes can increase your risk of sun damage. Dr. Roger Koreen from the Dermatology and Cosmetic Laser Center in Huntington, NY, explains the dangers of winter sun and wind for your skin and gives sun protection tips for you to protect your skin during the winter.
Why sun protection in the winter is important
Many people may think that they don’t need sunscreen or other sun protection in the winter due to cloudy skies and colder weather. However, anyone enjoying winter outdoor activities such as skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, or even sledding with their kids is at higher risk for skin damage due to exposure to the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV rays can make you look older by increasing wrinkles, fine lines, and dark spots, in addition to the hazardous health risks of skin cancer.
The risk of winter sun exposure is due to multiple factors:
- Up to 80 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays are reflected off snow. This means that you’re getting hit by the same UV rays twice — the rays that hit your skin directly from the sun and the rays that are bouncing back to you from the snow.
- Wind and snow can make your sunscreen wear off more rapidly than you expect, exposing your skin even further to damage.
- When you are in the mountains, you are at a higher altitude, which increases your UV radiation exposure. In fact, with every 1,000 feet you ascend above sea level, your UV exposure increases by four to five percent, which adds up quickly when you are at the top of a mountain.
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How to protect your skin during the winter
Protecting your skin from the sun during the winter can also help ward off flare-ups of skin conditions that can get worse in the dry, cold air, such as eczema. Follow these tips to help keep your skin moisturized, healthy, and free from sun damage while you enjoy winter fun in the sun:
- Talk to your dermatologist about what sunscreen would be best for you. You should use a water-resistant broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher every time you go outside for an extended amount of time, even if it looks cloudy outside.
- Extra moisturizing sunscreens can be particularly helpful for fending off dry skin that the winter wind and cold temperatures can bring.
- Make sure you apply your sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside, and then re-apply it every two hours or more often if you are sweating heavily.
- Use enough sunscreen and cover all exposed areas of your skin. At least a teaspoon of sunscreen should be used on your face alone.
- Wear a UV protective lip balm and carry it with you while you are outside so you can re-apply it frequently.
- Cover up your body with items that reduce your exposure to the sun: long sleeve coats, hats, scarves, and mittens cover up your body and scalp, and ski masks cover up a large part of your face, so a minimal amount of skin is exposed. Sunglasses or wraparound goggles that offer 100% UV protection are your best bet and will also help eliminate the glare from the snow so you can see better.
- Hydrate frequently by drinking water. Increasing your water intake will help keep your skin moist and looking healthy from the inside out!
In addition to the steps above, avoiding the outdoors during peak sun times will also help minimize your exposure and sun damage. You can monitor the UV index scale using a weather website or application on your phone, and if the UV index is high, it is best to avoid the outdoors if possible. If you need to be outside between 10 am and 4 pm or when the UV index is high, try to go indoors throughout the day to take breaks from the sun.
Consultations on treating skin damage from the sun
Dr. Roger Koreen at the Dermatology and Cosmetic Laser Center conveniently located in Huntington, NY uses state-of-the art technology in his comfortable office to assess your skin and provide you with effective treatments for sun damage, such as the removal of cancerous spots or cosmetic treatments to reduce the signs of sun-related aging like wrinkles or dark spots. Call Dr. Koreen today at (631) 417-3300 for a consultation on how to minimize sun damage and treat your skin for a healthier, younger appearance.