While it may feel like the sun is in hiding during the winter, in reality, ultraviolet (UV) rays can penetrate through clouds and fog, leaving your skin vulnerable to their harmful effects. Here are four ways you can protect your skin from the winter sun.
- Slather on the sunscreen.
Yes, you need to wear sunscreen year-round. It may seem counterintuitive, but in fact, sun damage is a very real risk in the winter—especially if you participate in winter sports like skiing or snowboarding, where the sun's rays can reflect off the snow and ice and onto your skin. Look for a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50, and be sure to apply and reapply it liberally.
- Don't forget your lips.
Your lips may look different from the rest of your skin, but they need the same protection from the sun. Sun exposure can dry out your lips, causing chapping, cracking, and even bleeding. More important, UV radiation is the primary risk factor for lip cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma of the lip is particularly prone to spread to other areas. Use a lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher for the best protection.
- Wear sun-protective clothing.
If you're out in cold weather, you're probably already bundled up in a warm coat and scarf. Make sure you're covering up as much exposed skin as possible. This includes wearing a hat to protect your scalp and ears and gloves to protect your hands. A buff or gaiter can keep your neck and the lower half of your face safe from the sun, and sunglasses or goggles are vital for shielding your eyes from UV light.
- Seek out shade.
It may be tempting to soak up the sun where you can in the winter months, but you should resist the temptation to overdo it. In the winter, the sun typically peaks during the hours of 10 am and 2 pm, meaning its rays are at their strongest and your risk is at its highest. Instead of hitting the slopes or lacing up those skates, this is a good time to take a break and curl up inside with a cup of hot chocolate.