Is Sunscreen Necessary in the Winter or on Cloudy Days?
Sunscreen should be a part of your daily skin care regimen throughout the year, no matter what the weather looks like. You are actually more likely to get burned on a cloudy day than in full sunshine. Both UVA and UVB rays penetrate clouds better than visible light.
UVB, known as “tanning rays,” are strongest during the summer months when the earth is the closest to the sun. For many years, sunscreens only blocked UVB rays, as we were not yet clear on the effects of UVA rays. UVB rays only have enough strength to penetrate the epidermis (the very top layer of the skin), which is not much thicker than a silk scarf. UVB rays simulate the melanocyte cell to produce melanin, creating more color in the skin and the look of a “suntan.” Melanin production can also lead to the brownish spots we call age spots.
During the 80s, UVA rays were considered safe (remember the tanning bed rage?), but over time studies have shown this is the ray that can cause damage at any time of the year. UVA rays are actually more dangerous than UVB as they are the same strength regardless of the time of year. UVA rays penetrate the epidermis and disperse in the dermis, or second layer of skin. The dermis is composed of collagen, elastin, blood vessels, and nerve endings, and stops renewing itself around the young age of 28. Over time, UVA exposure can lead to collagen and elastin breakdown, causing shrinkage, which will then cause the epidermis to sag.
Sunlight regulates our biological clock and provides vitamin D, but common sense is called for when spending time in the sun. Using a sunscreen appropriate for your skin type is a must, regardless of the time of year. Sunscreens work by reflecting, scattering or absorbing the sun’s damaging rays. Broad-spectrum formulas protect against both UVA and UVB sunlight, and are more effective at protecting the skin from a broad range of effects, including rashes, photo damage and photo dermatitis. Those looking for broad-spectrum protection might try SkinCeuticals Daily Sun Defense SPF 20, or La Roche Posay Anthelios SX Daily Moisturizer SPF 15.
Physical sunscreens (chemical-free) generally contain titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, which reflect both UVA and UVB and are more easily tolerated by sensitive skin or those allergic to chemical sunscreens. Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral SPF 30 or Juice Beauty SPF 30 Mineral Sheer Moisturizer are good choices. Whichever brand or type you decide on, just be sure to use it — every day.