If you’re wondering whether you really need to wear sunscreen during the darker winter months, you’re not alone. Even during the summer when the sun’s rays are at their hottest, only 10% of Americans regularly wear sunscreen — and the numbers drop as the seasons change.
At Manhattan Dermatology in New York City, our board-certified dermatologists are committed to helping our patients have the healthiest skin possible, regardless of the season. At our Murray Hill and Midtown East offices, we offer the best in general and cosmetic dermatology so you can put your best face forward all year round.
One question we frequently hear from patients is whether it’s necessary to wear sunscreen in the winter months. We answer that question, plus give you our top sunscreen recommendations.
Do I really need to worry about sun protection in winter?
Yes! While the sun’s rays may not feel as warm or strong on your skin during the winter, its ultraviolet (UV) rays continue to break down your skin cells at a faster rate regardless of the season, resulting in a condition called photoaging.
This premature aging of your skin is responsible for the majority of the visible signs of aging, and it can make you look older than your age by accelerating fine lines, wrinkles, sunspots, and discoloration.
Even more concerning: By not wearing sunscreen in the winter, you increase your risk of skin cancer. The sun’s UV rays are harmful during this time of year because the ozone layer is at its thinnest.
Plus, snow and ice can reflect up to 90% of these rays and actually increase their intensity, making it especially important to keep your skin protected
Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we’re actually closer to the sun during the winter. So even though temperatures may be cooler because of the tilt of the earth, we’re physically closer to the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Which sunscreen is best for me this winter?
Everyone should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays and has at least SPF 30 protection, which blocks about 97% of harmful UV rays. Ultimately, though, the best winter sunscreen for you is the one that best meets your unique needs.
For example, if you’re active in winter sports or like to spend a lot of time outside during the colder season, you need a sunscreen that’s water- and sweat-resistant. And if you’re at higher altitudes, such as a ski resort, look for SPF 50 or higher for the best protection against reflected rays.
Regardless of your activity level and whether it’s sunny or cloudy, it’s a good idea to apply sunscreen to your exposed skin every day. Even small amounts of sun exposure add up and can cause premature aging and increase your risk of skin cancer.
You can keep your skin as safe as possible this winter by:
- Applying sunscreen to all exposed skin, even your lips
- Putting on sunscreen at least 20 minutes before heading outside
- Protecting the skin that’s exposed from reflected UV rays, like the underside of your chin and the bottom of your nose
- Reapplying sunscreen at least every two hours and more frequently if your sweating
Weather winter best by getting customized sunscreen and skin care recommendations from our experts at Manhattan Dermatology in the Murray Hill or Midtown East sections of Manhattan. Call the office nearest you or use our online booking tool to schedule your exam.