It’s grim outside and most of us probably don’t think about whether we should wear sunscreen in winter. So should we? We asked two leading experts for exactly what you need to know
NIVEA Expert Dr. Frank Schwanke, works in research and development at Beiersdorf. He explains how to protect your skin during winter
Not only sun but also our skin follows the season. In summer, skin is tanned, in winter it´s usually more pale and dry than compared to summer time. Therefore you also have to adapt your caring routine to season.
First of all, skin in winter needs care: cold air and also heating in rooms stresses and dries out skin. But also, depending on your outdoor activity and surroundings, sun protection might be necessary: winter skin is more sensitive to sun than tanned summer skin. This is due to the fact that the skin is not used anymore to UV radiation and melanin concentration is reduced. Melanin is the skin´s own pigment and responsible for the pigmentation (tan) of skin. The tan is built in response to UV light to protect the skin cells against damaging UV radiation. UVA radiation is the major trigger of skin ageing and UVB radiation causes sunburn. Due to less UV radiation in winter time, skin produces less melanin and consequently, the skin is not only less tanned, but also more sensitive to UV radiation when it comes to a day with a lot of sunshine.
winter skin is more sensitive to sun than tanned summer skin
This is especially true when we think of skiing holidays in the mountains. UV radiation is strong in mountains as snow and ice reflect UV radiation, so that intensity can be increased by 80-90 per cent. Additionally, intensity increases with height. In total sun stress in winter in mountains becomes comparable to a summer day at the beach. This is why your skin is very prone to sunburn when you do skiing. Even on a cloudy day, the UV intensity might be enough to damage your skin and you should think about your winter sun protection.
sun stress in winter in the mountains becomes comparable to a summer day at the beach
For winter sunshine (especially if you’re skiing), we recommend the following:
Apply sunscreen on all exposed areas such as face, hands and especially nose and ears. If you do a walk on a cloudy day, even than sunscreen might be necessary if you are in a snowy landscape.
The higher, the more protected As UV intensity increases with height, also your sun protections factor should be high.
Protect your eyes Not only does skin need protection but eyes too are sensitive to UV radiation and need protection. Snow reflects the bright light and fog scatters light at its fine water drops. Your sunglasses should deliver UVA and UVB protection and are essential when you go skiing. Like skin, eyes do not forget too much sun.
Care for your lips Especially in winter, our sensitive lips dry out easily. As lips are not able to produce melanin, they can´t protect themselves against sun. Therefore, you should apply a caring lip product with high sun protection. This also helps to avoid cold sore infection which is triggered by the first strong UV radiation in the year.
lips are not able to produce melanin so they can´t protect themselves against sun
Recovery after a sunbath After a day in the winter sun, your skin needs regeneration as cold temperatures and heating dry out skin. A rich caring cream not only replenishes moisture, it also prevents dehydration due its content of nourishing oils.
This video shows how the effects that sun has on skin if it’s not protected:
Dr. Noor Almaani, a consultant dermatologist at The Private Clinic responds to the question whether you need sunscreen during winter:
Yes. Sun protection should be a habitual part of the daily routine and ideally it should be practiced all year round.
Sunlight contains a spectrum of wavelengths, including visible and invisible light. Ultraviolet light forms part of the invisible spectrum of which, UVA and UVB reach the earth surface. UVA forms the majority of UV light and contributes to skin ageing and the development of skin cancer as it penetrates deeper into the skin (the main UV rays emitted by sunbeds). It has a consistent intensity throughout the day, all year round and can penetrate through cloud and glass.
UVA light and contributes to skin ageing and is present all year round and can penetrate through cloud and glass – it doesn’t even show up as sunburn
UVB light is more intense and leads to the redness and sunburn that is indicative of some degree of DNA damage which in turn can potentially lead to genetic mutations and skin cancers. Its highest intensity is between 10am-4pm April-October. UV light also reduces the immunity in the skin and this can explain why, for example, some are prone to getting cold sores on sun exposure.
Therefore during winter, sun protection should still be practiced as cloud does not stop the penetration of UV light. You might get caught out on breezy ‘bright days’ when it doesn’t feel particularly warm but the UV index is still high and can still lead to skin damage.
The harmful effects of UV rays are cumulative and their longterm and irreversible effects might not be appreciated until many years later. These include increased skin ageing with reduced elasticity and wrinkle formation. It often leads to uneven pigmentation and lentigos (sun spots) as well as dark pigmentation over the forehead and cheeks (melasma). It can also lead to more visible ‘pores’ and can aggravate conditions such as rosacea. With significant sun damage premalignant crusty lesions (known as actinic keratosis) and atypical moles can appear that can potentially progress to skin cancers.
You might get caught out on breezy ‘bright days’ when it doesn’t feel particularly warm but the UV index is still high and can still lead to skin damage
Some make ups and moisturisers have suncreen in them and the benefit of this is that it cuts out an additional step in your facial routine and thus might increase adherence to sun protection even when you are in a hurry. Having said that, it does not mean that you are fully protected particularly on warm sunny days. The SPF of sunscreens is measured using 2mg/cm2 but studies have shown that most of us use less than half that amount making the SPF which means we only end up getting a square root of what is written on the bottle (ie SPF 5 instead of 25).
studies have shown that most of us use less than half that amount making the SPF
To increase sun protection it’s best if sunscreens are applied 20 minutes before wearing clothes/going out, use a higher SPF and most importantly reapply sunscreens particularly when sweating and swimming. Ideally another layer should be applied an hour later for maximum effect and every few hours thereafter. The water resistance properties of some sunscreens can be reduced by prior application of moisturisers so they are best applied on their own if water resistance is to be maximised.
It is important to note that SPF in sunscreens refers to UVB protection whereas the star system found on the back of the tube or bottle refers to UVA protection (Ideally use SPF >35 for UVB and 5 stars for UVA). Don’t forget lip protection as sun damage and cancers can develop in this area.
Good sun protection ranges with good UVB/UVA coverage include the SunSense range, such as the SunSense Daily Face SPF50+ Invisible Tint Finish Sunscreen £15.49 from amazon.co.uk as well as Anthelios by La Roche Posay, such as the La Roche Posay Anthelios XL Face Ultra Light Fluid SPF 50 £16.50 from feelunique.com). Both include products for sensitive skin, tinted sunscreens, lip balms as well as a kids range. These can all be applied under makeup. Super city block by Clinique is a sheer product that offers UVA/UVB protection and can be used as a primer. Soltan by Boots also offers a wide and affordable affordable range for both kids and adults
Extra care should be taken when skiing as 80 per cent of UV rays can be reflected off the snow leading to higher UV exposure. In addition increasing altitude is associated with an increase in UV radiation. Therefore, although it might feel cold, sunburns can still happen and therefore reapplication of sunscreens is important.
I have a real thing with sunscreen in the winter because I hate the smell of some of the heavy ones and the way they can make your make-up look oily or your face look pale and caked. So, after much experimentation, I have found two that I love. Unfortunately they’re expensive – and I don’t get them for free, I actually buy them. Here is my favourites:
As a make-up and sunscreen in one I love Heliocare Gelcream Colour Light £24. It gives the skin a silky and blowy finish and doesn’t look caked. Love it.
For wearing on its own as a BB cream I love Heliocare 360º Fluid Cream Sun Block / Sun Cream £27
Other Big Questions:
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