The days are short and the cold temperatures tell you the sun isn’t as strong. Do you really need to wear sunscreen in the winter?
Yes, yes and yes—we can’t emphasize this enough! UVB rays are weaker in the winter, so you don’t get sunburned as easily, but the UVA rays that cause wrinkles, premature aging and damage are just as strong, year ‘round! Because you aren’t getting burned as quickly, and because the warmth feels good on your skin, you aren’t seeking shade as often. Depending on your activities, you could actually do more damage in the winter than the summer!
Snow nearly doubles your exposure to UV rays.
If you’re like us, the lure of the outdoors is too much to resist. The Rocky Mountains are our backyard, so we bundle up and head to the high country. Some of us are better than others on the slopes, but whether you excel at making fresh tracks or spend more time than you’d like closer to the ground, the snow reflects back 80-percent of UVA rays, nearly doubling your exposure!
The atmosphere is thinner at high elevations.
When you’re taking in those mountain views, keep in mind UV increases by nearly four percent for every 1,000-foot increase in elevation. That’s a lot of exposure—much more than any day at the beach.
UVA rays can go through glass.
Even if you prefer the view from inside where it’s nice and warm, you’re still at risk for UVA skin damage. While UVB rays are mostly blocked by glass and clouds, 50- to 60-percent of UVA rays go right through windows.
The Earth is closest to the sun in the middle of the winter.
The changes of the season are a result of the tilt of the Earth, not how close our little blue planet is to the sun. In the northern hemisphere, we’re closest to the sun about two weeks after the winter solstice. We’re the furthest from the sun about two weeks after the summer solstice.
Ozone, the Earth’s “sunscreen,” is the thinnest during the winter.
Ozone acts like the Earth’s sunscreen, filtering out and protecting us from harmful UV rays. In the Northern Hemisphere, ozone levels are generally the lowest from December to March.
It works well for us that we spend the most time outside in the summer when we’re the most naturally protected, but it does add to the challenge in the winter.
So put on your coat, grab your gloves and don’t forget the sunscreen! It’s called a winter wonderland for a reason. Get out and enjoy it!