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Winter sun safety

19 Dec 2020
by M. Toledo

Newsflash: it's winter. Here at Little Wonderland, we don't do seasonal depression! We are countering these dark days with another blog. We get a lot of questions from customers who ask us if it's necessary to protect your skin against UV rays during the winter. What's the deal with UV rays and sun protection during winter? Will you get sunburned skin if you don't wear sunscreen? We'll break down everything you need to know to keep your skin healthy this season!

UV rays during winter

We'll dive right into it. No matter how grey and cloudy it looks outside, keep in mind that a large portion of harmful UV rays can penetrate through clouds and windows. To help you understand this, it's important to realize that there are two kinds of UV rays that impact our skin: UVB and UVA.

UVB fluctuates more during the seasons, and is stronger and more of a threat during summer than it is during winter. UVB mostly reaches the surface of the skin, and is the type that causes sunburn. Sunburned skin turns red, feels painful, and in severe cases blistering and skin flaking can occur. 

Then there's UVA. You could say that UVA is the more sneaky one of the two. A whopping 95% of the UV rays that reaches the surface of the earth, is UVA. UVA is around during the entire year, and it can penetrate through windows and through clouds. Additionally, UVA penetrates deeper into skin than UVB does. UVA reaches the dermis, and the inner, living layers of skin where new cells are formed. This means it causes deeper damage that doesn't show immediately, but affects the appearance of your skin over time. The consequences are the destruction of collagen, causing skin to lose firmness and sag, accelerating skin aging and the formation of wrinkles. Excessive exposure to both UVA and UVB are linked to skin cancer.

So, the final conclusion is that UVA is present throughout the entire year, and is powerful enough to damage your skin. It's definitely not a luxury to wear sunscreen during the winter. 

What does SPF stand for?

Many people aren't aware of the fact that SPF doesn't really say anything about the protection against UVA. SPF stands for 'Sun Protection Factor', and the SPF rating was established to indicate the protection against UVB rays that reach your skin. As you know by now, it's important to choose a sunscreen that protects your skin from UVA ánd UVB. So how do you pick the right product?

There are different ways to recognize sunscreens that protect skin against the whole spectrum of harmful UV rays. Pay attention to the packaging or the description of your sunscreen; often, it will state that the sunscreen offers 'broad spectrum' protection, which means it protects your skin from UVA and UVB. Another thing you can do is look out for the PA rating of a product. The PA rating stands for 'Protection Grade of UVA,' and it's a rating system developed in Japan that reflects the UVA protection of a sunscreen product. Many Japanese, Korean and generally Asian sunscreen manufacturers use this rating to inform consumers of the UVA protection of their product. The PA rating goes from + to ++++ and these stages are described as followed:

  • PA+ = Some protection against UVA
     
  • PA++ = Moderate protection against UVA 
     
  • PA+++ = High protection against UVA
     
  • PA++++ = Very high protection against UVA 

Regulatory institutions in Europa and the US impose that the UVA protection is imbedded in the SPF rating. This means that to apply for a certain SPF factor, the product has to have adequate protection against UVA as well. Whether you use a sunscreen that explicitly mentions a PA rating or you don't, a properly formulated sunscreen will help to maintain healthy skin and protect your skin against UVA and UVB. The best thing you can do to keep your skin healthy and protected, is to apply enough sunscreen (about a quarter of a teaspoon or two fingers) and reapply it accordingly (if you're out and about, every two hours). 

Winter is hard on your skin

During a sunny day at the beach, it's more generally accepted to use sunscreen and to be aware of the harm of UV rays. After taking a dive into the water, intuitively, you know you have to apply sunscreen again to keep your skin protected. Not enough people realize that wintery weather conditions can degrade the efficacy of your sunscreen too! Fog, rain, snow, hail, harsh wind; all of these weather conditions can partially remove sunscreen from your skin, and impact the efficacy of your product. It's not a good idea to apply a tiny amount of sunscreen in the morning, and assume that your skin is protected against UV rays all day. If you've walked through snow and wind, chances are that your sunscreen has become less effective. If you're outside a lot, or your office seat is located nearby a window, we advise you to reapply your sunscreen over the course of the day. 

If you're wondering about the best way to reapply sunscreen during the day, we recommend this blog we published about this subject recently. You'll find everything you need to know about reapplying sunscreen without ruining your makeup, and what products prevent your face from looking like a greasy disco ball. 

You might not realize it, but winter is an important season to take extra good care of your skin. The wintery cold can really pose a challenge for your skin! We recommend that you curl up on the couch with a blanket, a hot drink, and your holy grail moisturizer and SPF within reach. ;)

XoXo, Team LW

 

References

https://www.skincancer.org/risk-factors/uv-radiation/ 
https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/radiation-ultraviolet-(uv)
https://www.skincancer.org/press/2018-winter-sun-safety/

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