You probably know already that marketers don’t market sunscreens by the season. Instead, they focus on terms like, ‘high SPF’, ‘water resistant’ or ‘chemical free’. But, given that the climate differs so much between the seasons, should you look for something different in a winter sunscreen vs. one you’d choose for summer?
In order to answer that question, it’s important to point out that the reason for applying sunscreen is two-fold. First, sunscreens help to block UVB rays that cause redness and Burning. Second, sunscreens help to block UVA rays that cause skin Aging. Both types of rays may also lead to some types of skin cancers. When you apply sunscreen, the short term benefit is to prevent sunburns. The long-term benefit is to keep skin looking young and healthy by minimizing the development of wrinkles, skin sag, age spots and skin cancer.
Summer Vs. Winter Sun
The sun’s intensity between the seasons differs primarily in the amount of UVB rays it emits. UVB intensity also varies by geographical location and time of day, with it peaking (in North America) between 10 AM and 4 PM from April to October. At high altitudes and on reflective surfaces (snow or ice) UVB rays can bounce back up to 80 percent of the rays so that they hit the skin twice, leading to skin damage.
UVA rays account for more than 95% of UV radiation hitting the earth’s surface. They are present with relatively equal intensity during daylight hours throughout the year (summer and winter), and penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB. In addition to playing a major part in skin aging, new research shows that UVA also causes significant damage to the skin’s outermost layer (the epidermis), where most skin cancers occur. It is also the ray responsible for tanning, whether outdoors or in a tanning booth. A tan occurs when the skin’s DNA is injured; skin darkens to prevent further DNA damage. This protective process is not perfect and can lead to skin cancer.
If you want your skin to look and stay healthy and youthful, your decision shouldn’t be whether to wear a ‘winter sunscreen’ or not. It should be, which one?
When it comes to protection, it is fine to stay with the same type of UVA/UVB protection for winter and summer. Where you might want to consider changing things up is in the formulation. If your skin dries out in the winter, opt for a creamier, more hydrating product. If your skin isn’t bothered by winter dryness or you live in a more temperate climate, then you can probably use the same product year round.
Winter sunscreen? Summer sunscreen? No need to differentiate – just use a good one all year round.