Packing away your wardrobe from the warmer months is probably a good idea, but sunscreen is one item from your summer must-haves that should be staying throughout the winter. For most, sunscreen is something that disappears when the weather becomes cool. Keep reading to better understand how it works and why you need it in the winter.
What does SPF mean?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. While SPF indicates a measure of protection against mainly UVB radiation, the SPF number does not give a clear measure of the protection against the slightly longer wavelength of UVA. Scientifically, the numbers relate to the percentage of UVB rays blocked by the formula. Sunscreen ingredients absorb, reflect or scatter sunlight, preventing the energy from damaging the skin.
SPF is not an arbitrary measure of low-to-high sun protection, it is an indication of how much lower the risk of skin damage is due to how much longer it takes for enough UVB to get through and cause reddening of the skin. This is all compared to the time this would take if there was no sunscreen applied. The higher the factor number, the higher the level of protection.
Advice for applying sunscreen
In order for sunscreen to work properly it must be used properly. Here are several tips that will help create the safest barrier between the sun and the skin.
- The FDA and other organizations suggest that 1 oz of sunscreen, (equivalent to a shot glass worth) is the smallest amount someone should be using to cover their entire body.
- Avoid being in the sun when it is highest in the sky. This is the time when UV radiation is at its most intense.
- Every formula is different and should be applied to the skin accordingly.
- A good rule of thumb is to reapply every two hours.
- It is recommended to put sunscreen on 15 minutes before being exposed to the sun.
It is important to still use sunscreen in the winter months
The sun’s rays are just as damaging regardless what your thermometer may read. In particular, the UVA rays that are responsible for aging skin are at an all time high during the winter. Not only this, but the reflection of UV radiation off of any snow and onto your exposed body and face requires aggressive sunscreen protection. It is as if the body is being hit by the sun two times the amount as it is in the summer. This impacts your skin health regardless if you are spending ample time outside in the snow, or only catch a few rays while out and about. Routinely wearing sunscreen in the winter is a healthy habit.
Prevention is always preferred over remediation. However, if you are unhappy with the look of your skin due to previous sun damage, consult a dermatologist with training in cosmetic procedures and therapies. Dr. Jessica Krant is recognized as a Castle-Connolly Top Doctor in the New York Metro Area. You can view some of the services she offers here.