Planning for a winter getaway? Wondering if you have to wear sunscreen while you’re hitting the ski slopes during the winter months? This is a question we get all the time from our patients, and the answer is YES! We recommend sunscreen with broad-spectrum coverage to be worn 365 days a year to all our patients.

 Sunscreen is proven to decrease your risk of developing skin cancers and precancers. Daily use of sunscreen can also reduce premature skin aging. The benefits of sunscreen are due to its ability to protect against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

 There are two types of ultraviolet rays that we are exposed to: UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are long-wave rays that are prevalent year-round and make up ~95% of the rays that reach the surface of the earth. UVA rays penetrate the deeper layer of the skin (the dermis), causing irreversible damage to collagen and DNA. This results in wrinkling of the skin, loss of elasticity, and pigmentation that accelerates skin aging. UVA rays can also penetrate through glass and clouds. UVB rays are short wave rays that are most prevalent during the spring and summer months. UVB rays penetrate the top layer of the skin (the epidermis), causing redness and burning. These sunburns contribute to the development of skin cancer later in life. Broad-spectrum sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

 Although the UV rays are not as strong in the winter compared to spring or summer, we should still wear sunscreen to protect our skin from UV exposure! This is especially important when there is snow because sun reflection from snow intensifies UV rays, resulting in almost double the amount of UV exposure! This is also true when you are near a body of water, which is why sunscreen application is so important when you are at the beach or pool.

 Does everyone need to use sunscreen? Again, the answer is YES! Everyone over the age of six months old should apply a daily sunscreen with SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 15. For outdoor activities, we recommend sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher depending on your skin type. Sunscreen is applied at least 30 minutes prior to outdoor activity and should be reapplied every two hours. It is recommended that one ounce (equivalent to a full shot glass) is enough sunscreen to cover the entire body. There are many different types of sunscreens and it is recommended to use one that you like applying and is convenient!

Chelsea Beer, MS, PA-C