6 reasons to wear sunscreen in winter

It's Winter. Your shorts, your tee-shirts and your bikini have been locked away in your wardrobe for a few months already, I'm guessing.

But what about your sunscreen? Is it hidden away at the back of your bathroom cabinet? A distant memory just like the long hot days of summer?

If it is then I strongly encourage to hunt it out and make applying it part of your daily routine. Why? Well I have 6 very good reasons listed below.

Reason 1: UVA rays are just as strong in winter

When we talk about the sun's rays we mostly talk about its UVA and UVB rays.

UVB rays are stronger in Summer and are the rays that can cause skin reddening or sunburn.

But UVA rays are just as strong in Winter as they are in Summer. It's these rays that penetrate the skin deeper and which have long been known to play a major part in skin aging.  And, more recently, scientists have discovered that UVA rays can also cause significant damage in areas of the epidermis (outermost layer of the skin) where most skin cancers occur.

Where strong Summer UVB rays can lead to reddening of the skin and sunburn, it's the UVA rays which create sun-tan. And whether your suntan is a result of being outdoors or from a sunbed in a salon, suntan is damage to the DNA of your skin; the skin darkens in an imperfect attempt to prevent further DNA damage and these imperfections  (or mutations) can lead to skin cancer. Damage caused by UVA rays is irreversible.

When you apply sunscreen every day, all year round, you are not only protecting your skin from burning in summer, but you're protecting it from premature aging caused by UVA rays and reducing the chance of developing skin cancer.

reason 2: UVA rays are more penetrable than you think

So we know that we should wear sunscreen all year round to protect our skin from the sun's UVA rays. That's fine on sunny Winter days but surely we don't need sunscreen when the skies are dull, grey and covered in thick cloud, do you?

Actually, yes you do.

While UVB rays are mostly blocked by clouds and even glass, UVA rays are different.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, up to 80% of the sun's UVA rays can penetrate through the clouds so no matter what the weather. So it's still really important to apply sunscreen every single day.

And even if you're not going to be outside walking around or in nature but, perhaps, indoors all day or driving in your car, you still should wear sunscreen because 50-60% of the sun's UVA rays even penetrate through glass.

reason 3: Snow and winter sports

We currently live in Switzerland where the snow is dry, crisp and twinkles like diamonds under your foot. Very different from the wet, slushy snow I grew up with in the UK. So it's difficult to resist heading out for a dander and hear the crispness crackle under your feet when the snow first falls.

But did you know that the snow reflects back about 80-percent of the sun's UVA rays, thus almost doubling your exposure? It also intensifies sunlight making you more susceptible to burning.

And if you're a keen ski-er or snowboarded, you might like to know that, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, UV radiation increases by 5 percent with every thousand feet you rise above sea level. This means the higher your elevation, the greater your exposure to UV rays.  That can be a lot of exposure, perhaps more than any day at the beach! So whether you excel at making fresh tracks or spend more time than you’d like with your face in the snow, make sure you apply your sunscreen.

reason 4: the ozone is thinnest during winter

The ozone basically acts like a sunscreen for the Earth, filtering out  and protecting us from the sun's UV rays.

But in Winter the ozone layer is at its thinnest and, so, will not be able to protect us as much during the colder months as it can during the warmer months.

In order to protect our skin, we really do need to apply sunscreen every day during the Winter months when the ozone is most penetrable and at its most vulnerable.

reason 5: winter conditions remove sunscreen faster

You would probably assume that your sunscreen wears off faster in Summer than it would in Winter. After all, you sweat more in summer and also you probably go bathing too. But this is not actually the case.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the Winter snow and strong winds wear away sunscreen and reduce its effectiveness, so it's not enough to just apply in the morning and assume you’re protected all day. Instead, during winter, it's recommended that you reapply your sunscreen every two hours, and also immediately after sweating. 

reason 6: sunscreen slows down premature aging

Did you know that the biggest cause of premature aging is exposure to the sun? It's believed that up to 75% of wrinkles and signs of aging are a direct result of the effects of the sun on our skin.

According to dermatologists, there have been numerous studies that have shown that regular use of sunscreen has slowed down the signs of aging. The best of these studies was performed in 2013 on 900 Australian men and women over a 4-year period. The average age of participants was 39.

According to dermatologist Dr Jaber, the researchers found that "those that used sunscreen daily, had no detectable increase in skin aging! Overall, they had 24 percent less aging than those that did not wear sunscreen."

Want to keep wrinkles at bay? Slap on your sunscreen every single day.