Can You Get a Sunburn in Winter?

Can You Get a Sunburn in Winter? Dec 1, 2020 / by Complete Family Dermatology Team

When we get bundled up in our coats, hats, and gloves, we tend to stop thinking about our sun exposure. But, the answer is yes, you can get a sunburn in winter. Contrary to what most people think, the sun’s ultraviolet rays can be just as damaging to your skin when it’s cold and cloudy outside. This blog will address how winter sunburns and skin damage can occur and why you should apply sunscreen during the winter.Even though you’re likely to be covered from head to toe, any exposed area can get a sunburn in winter. In fact, the snow and ice can reflect up to 80% of the UV rays, which means you can get hit from two angles. It’s important to be extremely cautious, especially when you’re outdoors for an extended period of time, like while skiing or shoveling snow. Overexposure to these UV rays can cause DNA damage and ultimately can lead to skin cancer.  

Check the UV Index

While you should always wear sunscreen when outdoors, the UV index will help you understand what precautions you should take while planning your outdoor activities. This tool will tell you the expected risk of sun exposure based on your location. In general, you should limit your time in the sun from 10 am - 4 pm and seek shade whenever possible.   

Watch Your Altitude

Are you getting ready to hit the slopes? If so, be sure to pack your sunscreen. Ironically, a day on the slopes can do just as much damage as a day on the beach. When in high altitudes, the UV rays are more intense, and the atmosphere is thinner, which puts you at a higher risk for sunburn. In fact, UV exposures increase by 4% every 1000 ft in elevation, as stated by My Health Alberta.  

Choose the Right SPF

According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, you should apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day and to all exposed skin. As a good habit, you should apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours. Be sure to get the areas like your face, ears, and neck that will likely be exposed and carry a sun-blocking lip balm as well. Additionally, a moisturizing sunscreen is a good option for winter to help combat dry skin.   

Cover Up

Lastly, it’s always a great choice to cover up in the winter. For one thing, it’s easier to cover up in the winter. Not only will these layers protect you from the harsh sun, but they’ll keep you warm, too. Pull out those jackets, hats, scarves, gloves, as well as sunglasses or goggles with 100% UV protection. The bright sun mixed with the white snow can cause snow blindness and damage to your eye’s cornea, which is linked to cataracts and other serious eye conditions  

Closing Thoughts

As you know, the more time you spend outside, the more your skin is exposed to damaging UV rays. Enjoy the sun while being outside, but please be mindful by following these simple steps to help protect yourself. These steps will minimize the risk of developing skin cancer, wrinkles, and premature aging. For more questions about sun safety and skin cancer, please call Complete Family Dermatology at 402-423-1111!

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