As it gets colder and the sun sets earlier, you may be finding yourself spending more time inside. When you do go outside, you're bundled up with only some skin on your face exposed. But you're still at risk of damage from the winter sun, even if it isn't shining all day long.

It's a common misconception that you only need sunscreen during the long, sunny days of the summer. After all, summer is when the sun is the most visible, so it makes sense. The truth is that sunscreen is just as important in the winter. The winter sun is sneaky when it comes to its potential skin dangers. But, the good news is that it's easy to protect against; you just have to be vigilant and remember these tips.

Winter Sun vs. Summer Sun

As you likely know, the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays are divided into two types of frequency: UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are longer in wavelength and cause skin aging. UVB rays have shorter wavelengths and cause sunburn. Both are dangerous and without proper protection can lead to skin cancer.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, UVB rays are strongest in the summer, but even on a cloudy day, they can still burn your skin. So, even if it's snowing in the winter, you still need to protect your skin; UVB rays are stronger at high altitudes where the atmosphere is thinner and the rays reflect up to 80 percent of UV light off of snow and ice. This means that the sun's ray hits you twice, doubling your chances of getting burned, which leads to premature skin aging and—more importantly—increases your risk of skin cancer.

UVA rays, on the other hand, remain constant year-round. UVA rays can also penetrate through fog, clouds, and glass so you're still at risk from UV in winter, even when you're inside.

How to Protect Against UV in Winter

The Skin Cancer Foundation lists several ways to protect your skin from the sun's harmful UV rays during the winter. Clothing is your first line of defense against UVA and UVB rays; in the colder months, it's easy to layer up and cover parts of your body that are usually exposed in the summer, like your arms, legs, feet, torso, and scalp. However, skin cancer is most prevalent on the face, neck, and ears. Be sure to cover up in the winter with a hat, scarf, and sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare.

Next is using sunscreen. It's still very important to wear sunscreen during the winter. You should apply a sunscreen of SPF 15 or more to any exposed area of the body—don't forget the less obvious places, like your lips, ears, and nose. In the winter, a moisturizing lip balm with SPF can help defend against both the winter sun and chapped, dry lips that come with the harsh winter weather.

If you wear sunscreen in the summer, then wearing sunscreen in the winter shouldn't take any extra effort. The key is to implement a sunscreen routine all year round so that it becomes a daily habit, like brushing your teeth, that you won't leave home without.


  • Audrey Noble

    Audrey Noble is a New York City-based reporter specializing in features, celebrity profiles, and beauty topics. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Harper's BAZAAR, Allure, Vanity Fair, Refinery29, and more. She is a University of Southern California alumna with bachelor's degrees in print journalism and creative writing.

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