How To “Preven” Sunburn in Winter is always a challenge. With winter moving into early spring, many places in the country are still experiencing cooler weather and less sunlight.
While it may be easy to be a little careless with the softer sunshine rays we have at this time of year, don’t do it. Your skin is at risk. It is important to stay aware of how much we are exposing our skin to the sun.
You must stay alert through the colder winter months. Don’t fall asleep where the sun can shine on your face. You may wake with some skin that was overexposed and is now tender. There can be reminders for you that lighter sunburn is uncomfortable.
This happens with young people who try to grab a nap when they are tired from the winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. You think a few minutes in the lounge chair in the sun will feel good.
And a few minutes will. However, 30 minutes can soon be too much. At least too much for your face. (Yes, this is a warning from what we have had to happen)
Pay attention and know when you are in the sun. Use clothing and sunscreen to protect your skin.
Is Sunscreen Better Than Sun Blocking Clothing?
So what do you need to know to know about protecting your skin during the colder months when out in the sun? How do I prevent sunburn in the winter?
“Most ultraviolet rays from the sun can penetrate cloud cover and fog,” says Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “So you can still sustain sun damage. This can overexposure can lead to skin cancer and premature skin aging even during winter months.”
Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, which are the rays that are mainly responsible for sunburn. They are much stronger in the summer.
Don’t let your guard down because UVB rays can burn and damage your skin year-round. This is especially true as the sun will reflect off the water surfaces even when frozen. Snow and ice do a very good job of reflecting.
Science tells us that snow reflects up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV light. So the rays hit you head on and again when it reflects. Then the reflecting rays will usually hit you in the underside of your face and body.
This double whammy or extra exposure will increase your risk of skin cancer and premature aging.
So Now We Know Why You Can Sunburn, How Do You Prevent It?
When you are a winter sports enthusiast, you should take special steps in protecting your skin. Use all the safe skin ideas that occasional skiers do. You may be an expert in sports, but are you an expert in preventing sunburn?
If you are a skier or snowboarder, you are at an even greater risk. With these sports that take place at higher altitudes? You are up where the thinner atmosphere absorbs less UV radiation.
UVA rays can also penetrate glass, so you could possibly do some damage to your skin while spending a bright winter day indoors.
Your first line of defense against this sun damage is clothing.
Yes, covering up is easier in the winter because it’s cold!
However, your face, head, and neck tend to remain exposed year-round. This is where most skin cancers occur.
If you aren’t covering your head, ears, and neck with some part of your ski gear, you will need to have a wide-brimmed hat. Many are made of closely woven fabrics that will fold and fit in with your other ski gear.
Your close-fitting UV-blocking sunglasses are part of the protection plan for your eyes, the skin around your eyes.
Your hat keeps you warm as it is keeping the damaging UV rays from your face and scalp. Your sunglasses are doing double duty by protecting your eyes while also fighting snow glare.
Can I Sunburn In The Winter?
Yes, you can. Now that you are aware of why you can get sunburn in the winter, let’s talk a bit about personal responsibility.
Taking care of your skin is a choice. You can continue to rush into the sun, winter, and summer and not protect your skin with sun blocking clothing and sunscreen.
When you are young you think “It won’t happen to me.” And you may not be able to see a difference in your skin the first year. But what about next year? Or the next?
At this point, you don’t get “do-overs.” Unfortunately, the damage continues to add up. The freckles that start out over your nose become more pronounced every year.
Do yourself a favor, and make the choice to be aware of what is happening to your skin health. Protect your skin and keep it healthy and able to protect you for life.
A Broad Spectrum Sunscreen To Finish
Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 or higher daily to all exposed skin. Remember your summertime application schedule? If you are rubbing your face, or putting on and removing a ski mask, you are losing your sunscreen.
You will need to reapply. Many prefer to find masks and other means of covering their faces so that they don’t need to apply sunscreen. However, you must stay covered. Nothing works if you don’t use it.
It is not a question of either-or between sunscreen and sun blocking clothing. Your skin will need both products to stay healthy and to prevent sunburn.
It is easier to apply sunscreen to areas that will not be covered with clothing. This is a choice you can make. Ski gear is available to completely cover your face. This can reduce the skin risk on your face, head, neck, and ears.
This is the time you make the choice to cover your skin and keep the sun off while you are having fun in the sun.
If you don’t keep your skin covered, you will need to apply sunscreen to avoid sunburn. Preventing sunburn can become a habit with you. If you develop healthy habits that completely remove the chance of getting a sunburn?
You will able to reduce your skin cancer risks. For some of us, our excuses for taking chances are wearing thin. There is no excuse for ignoring skin protection.
Life style choices are what you are making when you walk out without your hat and sunglasses. Without your container of sunscreen.
Is Sunburn Really Dangerous?
Just because it is wintertime do not forget to protect your skin. Often winter weather is very hard on your skin, and you will have a sunburn before you know it.
All to often, skin that is dry from wind and cold will sunburn quicker that when your skin is moisturized and not stressed. Keep your face, head, neck, and ears covered and your eyes protected with sunglasses.
I do realize that you don’t see many pictures of models or movie stars with their heads and faces covered and protected while skiing. Most of what you see are not action shots. They are merely posed glamor shots.
If you want to sit on the sidelines and not be in the middle of things with the skiing and snowboarding you can have a glamor shot. But if you are going to be out enjoying the sun and fun in the sun, cover up.
Check to make sure that you have yourself protected and are safe when out in the sun. Keep sun blocking clothing and sunscreen working for you.
Avoid the midday sunrays. Schedule a break to allow your body to rest, and the sun to get to the afternoon part of the cycle. It will be dangerous enough before 11 AM and after 2 PM in the winter months.
If you are planning to be out in the middle of the day, prepare your skin by covering and protecting yourself.
Show Your Family Members How To Protect Their Skin
The younger members of your family will learn how to protect themselves by watching you and how you are taking care of yourself.
Taking a break under a shade may seem needless when it is so cold outside. But if you can’t get in out of the sun for a while, a break under a shade is better than nothing.
Staying hydrated is important for winter fun in the sun as it is for summertime. Keeping your body healthy and giving you a chance to have as much fun in the sun as you can.
The skin on your face is very fragile and must be protected.
Sami’s Take On How To “Prevent” Sunburn in Winter
As the Mom of a family of people who are helping pay for the dermatologist to send his daughter to college, I speak from experience. You can be in trouble with your family skin health so quickly.
Had we known what we do now, we would have done things differently. We have learned to cover up. To use both sunscreen and sun blocking clothing to keep our skin safe.
I am not sure how hard anyone tried to warn us, but we just didn’t know the peailities of cooking our skin in the sun. During all seasons. During the years I spent sitting on bleachers watching kids play ball. We just didn’t know how serious it was.
We now have the scientific research to inform us. We have technology to make the information accessible for us. It is now up to us to use the tools we now have access to for our own health.
We are wearing our sun blocking clothing and using our broad spectrum sunscreens. Avoiding mid day sunshine. We are wearing our sun hats and sunglasses. Have you made some changes to stay safe in the sun?
We. like you, have made some bad choices in the past for our skin protection and are still not doing the best we can. We are better, not perfect. Make a plan for you and your family to stay skin safe.