Winter Sun Damage

Winter Sun Damage - Tips To Safeguard Your Skin

With the autumn leaves piling up, the coats being dug out from the back of the closet and the festive air on the horizon, we are likely to forget about sunscreen and sun damage, and wrinkles, sun spots, and skin cancer...

Even when we don’t feel the heat outdoors the sun’s strong Ultraviolet rays can harm the skin year round, making our skin just as prone to the chances of developing skin damage or skin cancer in the winter months as in the summer months. The Skin Cancer Foundation reported that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Even during cold weather we are subject to ultraviolet radiation in the form of UVA rays. The sun reflects off snow and can pass through glass. These rays are not affected by changes in temperature and will penetrate deep into skin layers, potentially causing long-term damage to the skin.

Additionally, sun damage is clearly associated with facial aging. Without sun protection, just a few minutes of exposure each day over the years can cause noticeable changes to the skin. Freckles, age spots, spider veins on the face, rough and leathery skin, fine wrinkles that disappear when stretched, loose skin, a blotchy complexion, and actinic keratoses (thick wart-like, rough, reddish patches of skin) can all be traced to sun exposure. Also know as photoaging, this aging caused by repeated sun exposure makes the skin lose its ability to repair itself by breaking down the skin’s collagen and impairing the synthesis of new collagen. The sun also attacks the skin’s elastin, weakening the skin from springing back, and causing loose, wrinkled and leathery skin due to the unprotected exposure to sunlight.

The amount of photoaging that develops depends on: 1) a person’s skin color and 2) their history of long-term or intense sun exposure. People with fair skin who have a history of sun exposure develop more signs of photoaging than those with dark skin. In the darkest skin, the signs of photoaging are usually limited to fine wrinkles and a discolored complexion. Make a point to examine your skin for signs of sun damage so that you can address any concerns sooner than later.


  • Increase in moles
  • Freckles
  • Brown spots
  • Broken blood vessels
  • Skin roughness


  1. UVA radiation is high in the winter doing damage: UVB radiation decreases during the winter months but dangerous UVA radiation is still in full force ... and for the whole day. Both UVA and UVB contribute to skin cancer however UVA is thought to play a more dramatic role in premature aging.
  2. Sun damage is cumulative. Many people do not realize that the worst areas for skin cancer and premature aging are those areas exposed day-in and day-out throughout the year, not just in the summertime. Over the years, small doses of ultraviolet light that never cause overt skin damage cause a collection of micro-scars that damage the skin. The result is skin damage.
  3. Cloudy weather does not offer much protection - up to 80% of UV radiation can penetrate this deceptive cover and cause harm to your skin.
  4. Higher altitudes mean dramatically more UV radiation - For every 1,000 feet you climb in altitude, UV radiation increase 4%. This fact is especially important to all you skiers and snow boarders wearing just a knit stocking cap. Both brimmed winter sun hat and broad spectrum face sunscreen is crucial to your sun safety.


In the winter, we need to wear long-lasting broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVB rays and UVA rays year - round. UVB rays are responsible for burning the skin and UVA rays are responsible for many skin cancers and premature aging. Now that we have established the need for sunscreen (we hope!), let us ascertain that sunscreens are not all the same.

Most sunscreens lose their potency soon after sun exposure. Check out the expiration date on the back of the bottle. There are sunscreens that have active ingredients that remain potent all day. Additionally, many sunscreens are not FDA approved and do not provide the protection they claim. According to the FDA, sunblock with spf 30 is the safest way to go. Anything above spf 30 is not necessary and below 30 is not effective enough.

Broad Spectrum face sunscreen is a good choice because it contains natural active ingredients that help to deliver long lasting protection against UVB rays, and against the higher wave lengths of UVA rays.


  1. Wear a full spectrum spf 30 face sunscreen everyday even when overcast on face and lips (when running errands, commuting to work, think of left side when driving, higher altitude for skiing, playing outside w/kids..). Make sure the sunscreen protects from both UVA and UVB rays. Apply sunscreen whenever you will be outside for more then 15 minutes and apply 15-30 minutes before going outside.
  2. No tanning beds - they are artificial UVA radiation that are commonly known carcinogen and may trigger skin conditions and reduce the capacity of the immune system. Opt for tanning spray/lotions and/or bronzing powder for face.
  3. Pay attention to early signs of sun damage and take precautionary steps (see derm to check out spots etc)
  4. Wear good sunglasses with UV coating on lenses, large enough to cover some skin around the eyes to further protect from UV rays.
  5. Protect skin and eyes from looking aged and sun damaged through proper moisturizing especially around the eye area which is susceptible to dehydration from cold, dry air. Remove eye makeup and cleanse eye area with a gentle eye makeup remover - to keep delicate skin well nourished and protected.