Earlier sunsets and dropping temperatures can lull us all into the false sense that the sun isn’t as intense and therefore, not as damaging in the fall and winter months. Because of this, many choose to forgo the most important skincare product of all- sunscreen. In fact, the clouds only slightly lessen one of the two UV types that cause skin damage and skin cancers, UVB. UVB causes sunburn and damage that leads to cancers, but ironically, in the absence of this warning sign, people can be less aware that they’ve had too much sun.
UVA continues to penetrate at the same levels, year round. Therefore, the cumulative effect of UVA continues to wreak havoc on your skin. UVA penetrates deeper within the skin, leading to deeper collagen damage, photo aging with sunspots and fine lines and wrinkles. It also contributes to the free radical damage that lends to skin cancer formation. Pigment formation is now known to be stimulated not only by the sun’s ultraviolet light, but by infrared and ambient light as well. New research also suggests that even the blue light that our cell phones and desktop computers emit can have a negative impact on our skin. Sunscreen use helps to prevent these problems.
Outdoor wintertime activities don’t slow much for many of us. Families continue to spend countless hours at sporting events and practices, despite the colder temperatures, and sunscreen rules must still apply. Winter trips to the mountains are no exception. At higher altitudes UV levels increase 4-5 percent per 1000 feet altitude, and 80 percent of UV light is reflected from the snow- that is actually higher than UV levels reflected from sand on the beach. Add in the effect that the drying cold temperatures have on the skin and the damage is compounded.
Keep in mind- one in five Americans will develop skin cancer and 90 percent of non-melanotic skin cancers are associated with UV damage. Many studies have shown that daily, year round sunscreen use has significant anti-aging effects as well. For all of the reasons above, it is important to follow these sunscreen rules year round:
Most importantly, see your Board-Certified Dermatologist yearly for a complete skin exam.
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