It may be cold outside, but your skin still needs protection from the sun’s rays.
Dr Noor Almaani, the dermatologist at The Private Clinic of Harley Street, states that sun protection should be practised habitually, daily and throughout the year.
Yes, UVB rays (short wave ultraviolet rays), which cause sunburn as well as skin cancer are weaker during the winter time. UVA rays (long wave ultraviolet), however, are present all year round and can penetrate through cloud and through glass. These are the rays that penetrate deep into the thickest layer of the skin and are the perpetrators behind wrinkles, premature skin ageing, skin cancer and sunburn.
Sunburn is something to be avoided at all costs and is often instigated by poor methods of protection when we venture outdoors. This winter season may be the time you head up to The Alps for that ski trip you’ve been planning. You might even be heading out to the countryside or venturing on a city break, or you might be lucky enough to be on your getaway now. Whatever your winter getaway looks like, that tube of sunscreen you have on your desk needs to be packed away with the rest of your luggage.
Let’s say you’re heading off to a ski resort. You’re going to be out in the sun for extended periods of time where the sun will be stronger, given the thinner atmosphere of the air. The thinner and clearer air also means that UV rays are filtered less effectively and thus your skin is exposed to this type of radiation in very large doses. If you thought that was it, Dr Almaani observes the fact that 80% of UV rays can be reflected off bright surfaces, think snow, leading to even more exposure and thus an increased risk of sunburn.
Therefore, when skiing, it is important to keep your skin covered. An additional protective measure is a sunscreen. It is important to use a sunscreen with a high SPF sun protection factor and one that has ‘broad spectrum’ on the label. This ‘broad spectrum’ label refers to protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Another feature to look for, especially for outdoor activities, where you may be sweating, its water-resistance.
To reiterate the above, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends:
a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher for any extended outdoor activity. Regardless of the SPF, though, it’s important to apply one ounce (two tablespoons) 30 minutes before going outside and reapply it every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating.
Consider this facial sunscreen, by Alba Botanica, £8.99
It is moisturising, fragrance-free, 100% vegetarian and water resistant for up to 80 minutes. Just don’t forget to apply liberally, even on areas you may usually neglect such as the neck and the ears.
And say you’re heading somewhere where the air is not as clear as mountain peaks somewhere in Europe?
In busy city environments, pollution particles pose the risk premature skin-ageing. Dr Anjali Mahto, a Consultant Dermatologist, clarifies what is meant by air pollution by explaining that environmental pollutants include ‘dust, ozone, carbon monoxide (from vehicle emissions and smoking), sulphur and lead’. Not only can prolonged and repetitive exposure to these pollutants lead to premature skin ageing, but they can also worsen inflammatory skin diseases such as eczema and acne.
So where does sunscreen come into all this? It is imperative to note that sunscreen alone is not the holy grail when it comes to keeping your skin in tip-top shape and fighting against pollutants. However, alongside other necessary protective measures such as adequate cleansing, toning, antioxidant serums and more, SPF is still helpful in reducing the risk of skin cancer and premature skin ageing.
Check out Clinique’s Super City Block SPF 40, £19.00, which offers protection against UVA and UVB rays and contains antioxidants. What’s great is that it also doubles up as a primer.
There’s also Glossier’s Invisible Shield Daily Sunscreen SPF 30, £20.00.
This sunscreen has a gel-like texture, designed to sink into the skin immediately and leave no white cast. It also has an antioxidant complex to work against free radicals which damage the skin and shields the skin from external pollutants.
And remember, even if you don’t have any getaways planned, SPF remains a necessity.