Baby it’s cold outside! And as the temperatures plummet and the days grow shorter, most people are not thinking about protecting their skin from the sun. If you ask most people about their sunscreen lotion, it is probably packed away in the back of the closet or even thrown away. Is skin cancer prevention something we really need to think about in winter? Yes we do and I am going to tell you why.
Reasons why you need to remain vigilant about skin cancer prevention even in winter:
• You can still be exposed to harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation even during the cold winter months.
• Even cloudy grey days can pose a risk for you to acquire sun damage because even when it is overcast, between 50 and 80 percent of UV rays can penetrate through the clouds.
• Snow and ice can reflect up to 80 percent of the sun’s rays increasing the intensity of your exposure.
• The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that 50% of UVA radiation can penetrate through glass. And car windows can let in more than 60% of these harmful rays. It is therefore possible to accumulate sun damage while indoors or riding in a vehicle if you sit near a window.
• If you go on a winter vacation to go skiing or tubing, take note of your altitude. It makes a difference in your UV exposure. It is reported that for every one thousand feet above sea level, your UV exposure increases by up to ten percent.
• If the weather includes wind, you may have to reapply your sunscreen more often as the wind can cause it to wear away faster. Likewise if you engage in physical exertion such as running or skiing during the winter, your sweat can wash away your protection.
• If you decide to go away to a warm climate for your winter vacation you may be tempted to get a base tan before you leave. Don’t do it. A base tan does not offer much protection (at most an SPF of four) but in the meantime you are causing great damage to your skin. Most people use tanning beds in order to get their tan in winter, putting themselves at risk for developing a deadly melanoma. In fact there is research to show that tanning bed users are 74% more likely to develop melanoma than people who never use tanning beds.
Here are some tips and suggestions as to how to protect your skin during the winter season:
• If you spend any time outdoors in the winter you need to wear sunscreen on any exposed areas of skin. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 even during the winter months.
• Apply your sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before you venture outside.
• Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours and that goes for water resistant sunscreens as well.
• Make sure to cover all skin areas exposed to the sun such as the face, ears, hands, and arms. Some people forget places such as under the chin or under the nose.