Two men on a sled, one of them has a bottle of sunscreen in their hand

Winter Sun Protection

Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we've no place to go
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

It’s that time of the year. For those of us who live in the northeast, it is time to bundle up and hide our skin from freezing rain, snow, and wind chill. Even though I grew up in Los Angeles, I do not mind Buffalo winters. There are even times that I like them. One thing for sure is that I am a lot less concerned about sun protection and skin care. I feel less pressure about lathering up in sunscreen because I spend so my time covering up in wool. But, is that wise?

Sun and snow

Here’s the rub. Skin protection is a year-round effort. UV rays don’t take the winter off. They may be in Florida, but they don’t head to Florida. They don’t fly south for the winter. I have seen people with some of the worst sunburns come from a day of skiing or sledding, when they didn’t feel warm the whole day. So, with that in mind, here are some things to consider as the weather turns colder, even arctic.

Smart suncare in the snow

1. Protect your face. This is especially important because of the reflected sunrays from the snow and water.

  • Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
  • Reapply sunscreen after strenuous activity (skiing, skating, sledding, hiking).
  • Use a nickel-sized amount of sunscreen 30 minutes before heading outside and then reapply after two hours. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “More than 30 percent of all facial basal cell carcinomas (the most common skin cancers) occur on the nose, making it the most frequent site for skin cancers of the head and neck."1

2. Protect your head and neck. Melanomas on the head and neck are particuarly dangerous.2

  • Wear wide-brimmed hats with at least a three-inch brim, preferably opaque with dense, tightly woven fabric.
  • Apply sunscreen anywhere on the head and scalp that are exposed to the sun, especially in the part of your hair and balding or thinning spots.

3. Protect your lips. It's important to protect your lips not just from the wind and chapping, but also from UV rays.

  • When applying sunscreen don’t forget your lips. Use sunscreen or lip balm with SPF protection.

4. Protect your eyes. The sun reflects powerfully off the snow.

  • Hats help, but much of exposure from winter UV rays are reflected off of the snow and ice from below and the sides. Wear UV-blocking sunglasses or goggles when working or playing outside.

Your winter checklist

Down coat, check. Long johns, check. Hat, scarf, gloves, check, check, check. Sunscreen, eyewear, lip balm, check, check, check. Hot chocolate, please. Happy tobogganing!!

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