As winter casts its chilly spell across the United Kingdom, many stash away their sunscreen, believing it to be a summer essential alone. However, skincare experts argue that the need for sunscreen persists even in the winter months, and science supports this claim. As the sun’s rays, laden with UVA and UVB radiation, continue to reach us throughout the year, the debate surrounding daily winter sunscreen use gains momentum.
UVB radiation, notorious for causing sunburn and DNA damage leading to skin cancers, is a formidable foe. On the other hand, UVA radiation, though less effective in causing immediate harm, penetrates deeper into the skin, targeting collagen. Collagen, essential for maintaining the skin’s firmness and elasticity, can succumb to UVA damage, hastening the aging process with wrinkles, fine lines, and pigmentation changes.
The seasonal variation in UVA and UVB radiation arises from factors such as the sun’s angle, latitude, and time of day. A comparison between London, UK, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, demonstrates this contrast. While Kuala Lumpur experiences consistent UVA and UVB radiation throughout the year due to its equatorial proximity, London witnesses a sharp decline in UVB radiation during winter, yet UVA rays persist.
People in higher latitudes like London may also spend less time outdoors during winter, covered up in response to colder temperatures. However, even in winter, the skin remains susceptible to UVA radiation, capable of penetrating through clouds and windows. Although exposure during winter might be less intense, the accumulation of damage over decades warrants consideration.
Enter winter sunscreen – a potential ally in the ongoing battle against UV radiation. Sunscreens, engineered to shield against both UVB and UVA rays, exhibit a greater efficacy in reducing UVB exposure. While the emphasis has traditionally been on preventing sunburn and DNA damage, recent insights highlight the importance of curbing UVA damage as well.
Studies extol the virtues of regular sunscreen use in preventing skin damage, photoaging, and skin cancers. The most robust trials advocate for daily sunscreen application, considering the geographical and climatic factors influencing UV exposure.
Altitude and snow amplify the urgency of winter sunscreen use, especially for winter sports enthusiasts. Skiing or snowboarding exposes individuals to higher doses of UVA and UVB radiation, with snow reflecting up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays, essentially doubling the exposure. Moreover, every ascent in altitude increases UV exposure by 10%, making sunscreen, protective clothing, and sunglasses indispensable companions in snowy environments.
Amidst the enthusiasm for year-round sunscreen use, concerns about potential adverse effects emerge. While sunscreens are generally considered safe, individuals with certain skin conditions, like acne, may experience exacerbation or rare instances of irritation and allergic reactions. Regulatory agencies are also scrutinizing the absorption of UV filters into the body, prompting the need for further research into its consequences on health.
Despite these considerations, the widespread benefits and safety of sunscreen remain well-documented. If the goal is to defy premature signs of aging, sunscreen becomes a crucial component of one’s skincare routine, especially during the sun-soaked summer months. While the advantages of winter sunscreen use are not as sharply defined, the consensus leans towards its potential benefits rather than harm.
For those contemplating winter sunscreen adoption, experts recommend formulations with broad-spectrum five-star UVA protection. For daily use, high SPF sunscreens may not confer substantial benefits during brief outdoor exposures. However, for winter sports enthusiasts braving the snowy landscapes, a high-SPF sunscreen with five-star UVA protection becomes a prudent shield against the winter sun’s potent rays. In the perennial struggle against aging, perhaps the humble winter sunscreen holds the key to a year-round youthful glow.