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Winter sun safety: Being 'Sun Smart' isn’t just for summertime

01 January, 2022

It’s often simple to be Sun Smart in the summertime. We may feel the heat of the sun on our skin reminding us to take cover or reapply sunscreen. We see sunscreen displays front and center at the store reminding us to stock up. And sometimes we see the painful result of not applying sunscreen—a sunburn.

In the wintertime it may be less obvious that we need protection from the sun. Temperatures drop, overcast or cloudy days are far more common, and daylight hours are fewer. The Earth’s angle to the sun shifts too, reducing some of the sun’s UV rays that reach us.

Don’t be fooled, however. The sun’s rays are still reaching the Earth and can often filter through dark clouds. In the winter much of Nevada is still in the moderate range for UV exposure based on the EPA’s UV Index.

People recreating in the snow have an even greater risk. Much like the sun’s rays reflect off of water in the summertime, they reflect off of snow in the winter. The effect is even greater when at higher altitudes—say, a ski resort. We’re sure you’ve seen the effects of the sun on anyone who’s skied a full bluebird day wearing UV protective goggles—including the telltale “white goggles” that remain on their skin surrounded by the sunburned skin of their face that was exposed all day.

Researchers at MD Anderson say a day on the slopes can do as much damage to your skin as a day on the beach.

Follow these tips to protect your skin in the wintertime:

  • Wear an SPF 30 sunscreen on any parts of your skin that are exposed, including the tips of your ears and backs of your hands. Reapply every two hours, just as you would in the summer.
  • Cover up with a hat, long sleeves, and gloves.
  • Wear UV protective sunglasses or goggles. Wraparound sunglasses are especially useful in cutting glare from the snow.
  • Don’t forget the lip balm. An SPF 30 lip balm can protect your lips from the sun and prevent the cracking and chaffing often caused by cold air.

It’s also important to keep up with regular skin checks in the wintertime and note any changes to discuss with your health care provider.

Learn more about sun safety and skin checks here.

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