We are particular about applying sunscreen during summer, however most of us stop using sunscreen as the seasons change and winter rolls by. Contrary to popular belief, even as we swap tank tops and shorts for long coats and mitten, it is still crucial that we use sunscreen during the winter.
Winter intensifies suns’ rays
Snow and ice can reflect up to 90% of the UV rays. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone wears sunscreens daily as Ultraviolet radiation (UV) rays from the sun often result in damage and mutations in our DNA. In fact, there is a strong positive relation between UV exposure from the sun and the increase of non melanoma skin cancers. Besides that UV rays are also the main cause of wrinkles according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Even though we hardly notice the sun during winter, don’t forget that the reflective rays are still harmful!
Sunscreen has anti aging properties
Do you feel your skin get drier during winter? Are there fine lines appearing out of the blue? Fine lines appear due to the UV rays that penetrate and damage collagen and elastin in your skin. Sunscreen acts as a barrier that moisturizes and protects your skin against the dry, harsh, winter weather, as well as provide a protective film that reflects UV rays from penetrating your skin. Furthermore, the ozone layer which traps most UV rays is the thinnest during winter, according to Beaumont Organization. It is important to protect ourselves with sunscreen especially from 10am to 4pm as that is when sunrays are at its strongest. A 4 year study conducted in Australia compared skin aging in 900 men and women. The results found that those who used sunscreen had no detectable increase and even 24% less skin aging compared to those who did not. This study shows concrete evidence that sunscreen does have anti aging properties.
Winter conditions remove sunscreen faster
Sweating off sunscreen is a tell tale sign you need to reapply sunscreen. However, we don’t sweat during winter, making it hard to remember to reapply sunscreen. Some people even think that because we don’t sweat, the sunscreen is still there and applying it once in the morning is more than enough. Shockingly, the harsh winds wear sunscreens faster and makes them lose its effectiveness according to The Skin Cancer Foundation. We are recommended to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, and immediately after sweating for sunscreen to protect your skin.
How do we choose sunscreens?
With the variety of the types of sunscreens on supermarket shelves, how do we choose the right sunscreens for us? What do the SPF numbers mean?
What does the SPF numbers mean?
SPF numbers, or sun protection factor, don’t show the strength of the sunscreen. Instead, it is the duration you can go before reapplying. There’s a little math involved. If you were to get a sunburn after 10 minutes without sunscreen, after applying SPF 30, you can stay 30x longer (300 minutes / 5 hours) before getting sunburnt.
There are 2 major types of sunscreens
- Physical sunscreens
Physical sunscreens are also known as mineral sunscreens that function like a mirror and reflects the suns rays. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) and zinc oxide (ZnO) are what gives sunscreens the white sheen we see on our skin and if physical sunscreens don’t appear white, it means that the the ingredients in the sunscreen isn’t high enough to protect you from the sun.
- Chemical sunscreens
Chemical sunscreens absorb suns’ rays and dissipate it away as heat. The pros of sunscreens is that it stays on the skin for a longer duration of time. However, chemical sunscreens are bad for the environment as it forms byproducts that are harmful to the environment and marine life, leading some organizations to ban the use of certain ingredients in sunscreens.
Ingredients you should avoid in you chemical sunscreens:
- Oxybenzone (benzophenone-3)
- Ethyl paraben
- Octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate)
- Butyl paraben
- Octocrylene4-methyl-benzylidene camphor
- Benzyl paraben
- Methyl paraben
All in all
Sunscreen should be used all year round, especially during winter. When choosing sunscreen for you, it is important to calculate SPF and constantly reapply sunscreen every two hours to protect your skin against the harsh winds and invisible UV rays. While physical sunscreens are au natural, they tend to wash off easily. While chemical sunscreens last longer, certain ingredients are harmful for the environment and marine life. Hence, if you want to use chemical sunscreens, make sure to avoid ingredients that may potentially harm the environment.