Is Winter Sun More Dangerous Than Summer Sun? Are you as careful in the winter months as you are in the summer?
Sun safety is always in season. It’s important to protect your skin from sun damage throughout the year, no matter the season. Sunburn in the winter can be as dangerous as summertime sun risks are.
Why? Sun exposure can cause:
- Skin Aging
- Dark Spots
- Leathery Skin
- Eye Damage
- Skin Cancer, the most common of all cancers.
- Immunune Disorders
Skin cancer is on the rise in the U.S. The National Cancer Institute projects there will be 106,110 new cases of skin melanomas and 7,180 deaths in 2021.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. In 2018, an estimated 1.3 million people were living with melanoma of the skin in the U.S.
About 4.3 million people are treated for basal cell cancer and squamous cell skin cancer in the U.S. every year, according to a report from the Office of the Surgeon General.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to evaluate sunscreen products. It is their job to ensure that sunscreen products are safe and effective.
FDA Is Responsible
The FDA is charged with the responsibility to guarantee that available sunscreens help protect consumers from sunburn. They also regulate the broad-spectrum products with sun protection factor (SPF) values of at least 15. Below 15 offers little benefit unless you are stranded somewhere and that is all you have.
If you find yourself stranded, anything is better than nothing. Always remember this factor when protecting your skin from the sun, winter, or summer.
Keep yourself safe from skin cancer, and early skin aging caused by the sun. Use the highest number of protection you can find in sunscreen.
The other important thing to remember is to read the label of your sunscreen product. To get the protection you want and need you must use the product correctly.
Ultraviolet Radiation Blocking Clothing
Sun damage to your body is caused by invisible ultraviolet (UV) radiation. You can’t see this damage until you see freckles, and wrinkles.
Ultraviolet radiation is occurring in the winter and summer. The absence of heat in the winter makes us get careless with skin protection. Makes us think that we can get out without sun protection for our skin.
Wearing a sun blocking hat is important, summer and winter. We in the US have completely ignored this easy and safe skin protection. A cloth bucket hat in the winter will go a long way for keeping the rays off your face, usually what we notice wrinkling first. Sun blocking hats are the place to start when building a sun blocking wardrobe.
Sunburn Happens In Summer And Winter
Sunburn is a type of skin damage caused by the sun. Your tan is also a sign of your skin reacting to potentially damaging UV radiation.
Your skin can produce additional pigmentation that provides it with some protection from sunburn. Often this protection is not enough to keep your skin from getting a sunburn.
Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. People of all skin colors are at risk for this damage.
Lower Your Risk
You can lower your risk according to the FDA:
- Limiting your time in the sun, especially between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., in the winter, 10 AM through 4 PM in the summer. This is when the sun’s rays are most intense.
- Wearing clothing to cover your skin that is exposed to the sun. Such as long-sleeve shirts, pants, sunglasses, and broad-brim hats. Sun-protective clothing is now available. (The FDA regulates these products only if they are intended to be used for medical purposes.)
- Use broad spectrum sunscreens with a SPF value of at least 15 or higher regularly. (Broad spectrum sunscreens offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays, protecting from both types of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.)
- Read the label to ensure that you use your sunscreen correctly.
- Consulta health care professional before applying sunscreen to infants younger than 12 months. Babies should be kept out of the sun, and be careful of reflections from water, snow, cement, walls and what ever reflects the sun.
In general, the FDA recommends that you use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, even on those cloudy days.
- Be careful to apply sunscreen liberally to all uncovered skin, especially your nose, ears, neck, hands, feet, and lips. (But avoid putting it inside your mouth and eyes).
- Reapply at least every two hours. Apply more often if you’re swimming or sweating. (Read the label for your specific sunscreen. An average-size adult or child needs at least one ounce of sunscreen, about the amount it takes to fill a shot glass, to evenly cover the body.)
- If you don’t have much hair, apply sunscreen to the top of your head or wear a hat.
- No sunscreen completely blocks UV radiation. So other protections are needed, such as protective clothing, sunglasses, and staying in the shade.
- No sunscreen is waterproof.
Sunscreen is available as lotions, creams, sticks, gels, oils, butter, pastes, and sprays.
Sunscreen products in forms including wipes, towelettes, body washes, and shampoos that are marketed without an FDA-approved application remain subject to regulatory action.
Read Your Sunscreen Label
UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburn, both UVA and UVB rays contribute to skin cancer.
All sunscreens help protect against sunburn. But only those that are broad-spectrum have been shown to also reduce the risk of skin cancer. These also protect against early skin aging caused by the sun. Of course, these products must be used as directed.
Adding other sun protection measures like using sun-blocking clothing, getting into the shade, and avoiding the time of day with the highest risk.
Requirements For Sunscreens by FDA
Current requirements for sunscreens marketed:
- Products that pass the FDA’s broad-spectrum requirements can be labeled “broad spectrum.”
- Sunscreens that are not broad spectrum or that lack an SPF of at least 15 must carry a warning: “Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.”
- Water resistance claims, for 40 or 80 minutes, tell how much time you can expect to get the labeled SPF-level of protection while swimming or sweating.
- Sunscreen manufactors can not make claims that their sunscreens are “waterproof” or “sweat proof.” “Warer-restient” or “sweat-resistant” are allowed is it is a true statement.
- Products may not be identified as “sunblocks” or claim instant protection or protection for more than two hours without reapplying.
Harmful Effects of UV Radiation Risk Factors
People of all skin colors are potentially at risk for sunburn and other harmful effects of UV radiation. Always protect yourself. You are more at risk if you have:
- pale skin
- blond, red, or light brown hair
- been treated for skin cancer
- a family member who has had skin cancer
Do you take medications? Ask your health care professional about sun-care precautions. Some medications may increase your skin’s sun sensitivity. Even on an overcast day, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can get through the clouds. Stay in the shade as much as possible.
FDA Is Committed
The FDA is committed to ensuring that safe and effective sunscreen products are available for consumer use.
The amount of scientific evidence linking UVA exposure to skin cancers and other harms has grown significantly in recent years. In a 2019 proposed rule on sunscreens, the FDA recommended a new requirement.
That new requirement stated that all sunscreen products with SPF values of 15 and above must be broad-spectrum. That as the SPF of these products increases, broad-spectrum protection increases as well.
The FDA also proposed changes to the labeling of SPF values to make it easier for consumers to compare and choose sunscreen. Also raising the maximum proposed SPF value from SPF 50+ to SPF 60+.
The FDA is working to protect us. You must use this protection.
Now let’s consider the other parts of your head, your eyes.
Winter And Summer: Protect Your Eyes With Sunglasses
When sunlight reflects off sand, water, or even snow, there are further increases in exposure to UV radiation. This, in turn, will increase your risk of developing eye problems. Certain sunglasses can help protect your eyes.
Choosing your sunglasses:
- Choose sunglasses with a UV400 rating or “100% UV protection” on the label. These sunglasses will block more than 99% of UVA and UVB radiation. This will provide the most protection against UV rays.
- Do not mistake dark-tinted sunglasses as having UV protection. The darkness of the lens does not indicate its ability to shield your eyes from UV rays. Many sunglasses lens with light-colored tints such as green, amber, red, and gray can offer the same UV protection as very dark lenses.
- Check to see if your tinted glasses have UV protection. If you are unsure, your eye care professional may be able to check for you. When you wear tinted glasses, your pupils dilate and can increase exposure of your retinas to UV light. When you don;t have UV protection, you are putting yourself at risk to harmful effects associated with radiation from the sun.
- Be aware that children should wear sunglasses that have the UV protection level listed on the lable. Toy sunglasses may not have UV protection; so be sure to look for the UV protection label.
- Consider large, wraparound-style frames, which may provide more UV protection because they cover the entire eye socket.
- Know that more expensive sunglasses don’t gaurentee more UV protection.
- Even if you wear UV absorbing contact lenses, you will need to wear quality sunglasses that offer UV protection.
- Wearing a wide-brim hat and sunscreen will help, even when you wear sunglasses,
Sami’s Take On Winter Sun More Dangerous Than Summer Sun
Reading a document produced by a government department does not tell me everything I wanted to know. They are trying to protect us from both the summer and winter sun.
I know from years of living how careless and indifferent we have been to protecting our skin. Both winter and summer. I have seen the sunburns that have returned from winter skiing trips.
Without the heat we are used to feeling in central Texas, we tend to disregard the winter sun’s dangers. Realizing that protecting our skin is as easy as slapping on a hat? This will be so much easier.
Will we reach the point of no sunburn and complete skin protection? Probably not, but if we can be more aware, and develop better habits, maybe we can escape skin cancer.
Information on this site is simply for you to learn about taking better care of yourself and your family in the sun, both winter and summer. Suggestions are taken for quality sources and are for education.
Your doctor should help you make major skin protection suggestions.