Sunscreen and the great outdoors go hand-in-hand during the warmer months of the year. For instance, few people can imagine spending a day at the beach without first covering their skin in sunscreen. But skin also must be protected when spending time outdoors in winter.
The World Health Organization notes that one in every three cancers diagnosed across the globe is skin cancer. While that’s a scary notion, it’s important to note that many skin cancer cases are preventable. Protecting skin in winter, a time when many people mistakenly believe their skin is not vulnerable to damage caused by the sun, is one way for people to reduce their risk of developing skin cancer.
n Don’t put sunscreen in storage. Even if you won’t be beachfront and basking in the sun’s rays, it’s still important to apply sunscreen in winter. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which specializes in cancer treatment and actively seeks tomorrow’s cures through cutting-edge research, recommends applying a sunscreen with a minimum sun-protection factor, or SPF, of 30. Make sure to apply sunscreen to all areas that may be exposed to the sun, including the face, neck, ears, and hands.
n Frequently reapply sunscreen. The “set it and forget it” approach does not apply to protecting the skin with sunscreen. Reapply sunscreen every 90 minutes that you are outdoors to ensure your skin is fully protected at all times. Skiers should recognize that they are much closer to the sun as they traverse the slopes, and that means the UV radiation is more intense on the mountain than it might be in the foothills or lower elevation areas. That heightened intensity only underscores the importance of reapplying sunscreen.
n Don’t forget to protect your lips. The DFCI notes that the lower lip is especially vulnerable to the sun’s rays. A lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher should be applied before going outside and then frequently reapplied while outdoors. In addition, women can use makeup with SPF to further protect their lips and their skin.
n Avoid tanning booths. Indoor tanning booths increase users’ risk for skin cancer and premature skin aging. In fact, the DFCI notes that cancer researchers have found that the risk of developing melanoma is 60 percent greater among people who have been exposed to UV radiation from indoor tanning. And that risk only increases with each visit to a tanning booth.
n Don’t forget to protect the skin while on vacation. People who vacation in warm climates during the winter may be the envy of coworkers and neighbors upon returning home with a tan, but it’s imperative that travelers prioritize protecting their skin while on vacation. Embrace the same principles of skin protection, including applying sunscreen and wearing wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses, that you would when lounging by the pool or visiting the beach in the summer.
Unprotected skin is vulnerable to sun damage and skin cancer year-round, including when the temperatures dip below freezing.