The weather’s a little cooler and the days are a little shorter which means autumn is definitely here! But just because summer’s over doesn’t mean you can ditch the sunscreen. The importance of wearing sunscreen year-round, yes that includes the winter months, is to protect your skin from harmful UV rays that stick around even when it isn’t hot out. Don’t be misled by those clouds that come in the winter, the rays may not be as warm but they are still there and sun exposure is not limited to the spring and summer.
See for yourself why it’s so important to keep the sunscreen handy, all year long.
UVA Rays and UVB Rays
UVB rays are called the “burning” rays, and UVA rays are referred to as the “aging” rays. UVB rays are what cause our sunburns and penetrate no deeper than the epidermis. At the epidermis, the UVB rays stimulate melanocytes, which give us our color, tans, and burns. During the summer the UVB ray is stronger due to the rotation of the earth being closer to the sun and weaker in the winter. The UVA rays, on the other hand, reach much deeper through the epidermis to the dermis.
Throughout the year the UVA strength stays the same.
UVA rays can penetrate through light clothing, glass, and clouds. Even on a cloudy, snowy day, we are still getting 80% of the UVA rays from the sun. These rays, since they reach the dermis, are helping age the skin. The dermis is where our collagen, elastin, blood vessels, and nerve endings are found. As the UVA rays hit the dermis it is breaking down our collagen and elastin causing lines, wrinkles and uneven brown pigment.
How the Sun Affects You in the Winter
While the sun does feel hotter in the summer months as compared to the winter, it affects you a little differently when you can’t feel the hot rays directly on your skin. For instance, the ozone layer, which acts as Earth’s natural protective sunscreen, is the thinnest in the Northern hemisphere during the winter. This means that your exposure to the sun will actually be greater at this time.
If there’s snow on the ground you are also at a greater risk of sun exposure. This is because snow reflects back 80% of UV rays, that’s almost double! And if you thought you were safe from UV rays indoors, think again. About 50-60% of UV rays go right through glass windows, which means you are still at risk for exposure to these harmful and damaging rays.
How You Can Prevent Further Skin Damage Caused by the Sun
A minimum of SPF 15 is recommended year-round to help protect your skin from harmful UV rays. You’ll need to make sure your SPF product protects from both UVA and UVB rays. The SPF number only is a guide for the blocking of UVB rays, but there is no FDA rating system of UVA rays, yet. So, when looking for a sunscreen that blocks both UV rays, make sure the bottle says Broad Spectrum or look for ingredients like Titanium, Zinc, Avobenzone, and Oxybenzone.
Just because it’s winter and cloudy outside does not mean you can skip out on wearing your sunblock. The importance of wearing sunscreen is not limited to the summer months and not wearing sunscreen in the winter is only assisting the aging process.
Connect with Integrated Dermatology of Reno
If you’re not sure about how to adapt your skincare routine for fall and winter, schedule a consultation with a Reno dermatologist.