Winter Sun Safety Tips and Misunderstandings Unveiled
If it’s cold or cloudy outside you don’t need sunscreen.
FALSE. Sun damage is entirely possible and probable on windy, cloudy and cool days if you aren’t protected. Sun damage is influenced by ultraviolet (UV) radiation, not the temperature outside. A cool or overcast day in winter can have similar UV levels to a warm, sunny day. In fact, UVA radiation is higher in the winter months. UVB radiation decreases during the winter months but dangerous UVA radiation is still in full force ... and for the whole day! Both UVA and UVB contribute to skin cancer. However, UVA is thought to play a more dramatic role in premature aging. Who wants wrinkly, age spots filled, and sunburnt skin? Not me!
My nose is red due to windburn.
FALSE. If it's windy and you get a red face, it's likely to be sunburn, which people often confuse with windburn. Our noses are often the first to catch the sun and appear rosy red.
When hitting the slopes, there is no “sun” to worry about.
FALSE. UV rays are actually more dangerous in higher altitudes as they are more intense and the air is thinner. A day on the slopes can do as much damage as a day at the beach. Fresh snow actually reflects 80% of UV radiation. Higher altitudes mean more UV exposure. For every 1,000 feet you climb in altitude, your UV exposure goes up by 4%. So when throwing on your next snowsuit, don’t forget to apply SPF 30 lip balm, sunscreen on your face and any other exposed areas as well as wraparound sunglasses (polarized preferably) to protect your eyes from sun damage and glare. This is especially important for all those skiers and snowboarders who think wearing a snowcap will suffice.
Snow blindness is a myth. It can’t happen to me.
FALSE. Snow blindness, or photokeratitis, is a painful condition caused by UV reflection on sand, ice, water or snow. As you can imagine, the latter three are very prevalent in winter. Similar to sunburn, it isn’t noticed until after the damage occurs and causes sensitivity to light, pain, decreased vision, headache and tearing. In some cases, permanent vision damage has been observed. This can be prevented with polarized wraparound sunglasses and headwear.
I am going to tan my pale skin before my winter vacation to develop a base tan, which is safer.
FALSE. Any suntan or unprotected sun exposure is sun damage. There is no such thing as a safe tan. A suntan and sunburn are a body’s response to cellular DNA damage from UV radiation. Sun damage is cumulative. Just one sunburn doubles your lifetime risk of Melanoma. On top of that, the worst areas for skin cancer are those that are exposed to the sun day in and day out, throughout the year and not just in the summer. Think about the left side of your face that’s exposed while driving, your ears, or the tip of your nose.
So what's a body to do? Let's start with the face. Wearing a winter sun hat with a brim will dramatically reduce the sunlight striking your face coming directly from the sun. Many winter sun hats also have the advantage of being rainproof or made of wool felt. You should also wear lip balm with SPF, and polarized sunglasses (wraparound when hitting the slopes). There are also a lot of different options nowadays such as the nose shield, sun gaiters, full facial sun hood, and neck protectors to keep the different parts of your skin protected.