On February 2nd, Punxsutawney Phil crawled out of his burrow and neglected to see his shadow. According to the experts of Punxsutawney, this could only mean that spring was coming around the corner. Visions of summer days began to dance through the minds of everyone dutifully following the expert wisdom of this rodent weather predictor.
But while Phil brings the promise of approaching sunshine and beach vacations, there are still a few more weeks for hot chocolate and snowboarding. And while you have to begrudgingly lock away your collection of beach towels, sunglasses and bikinis for a little bit longer; there is one seemingly summer-y item you should immediately break out from winter confinement—your SPF.
It’s easy to equate sunscreen with the sunshine-filled days of summer, but multiple scientists preach the importance of wearing SPF all year long. And while Groundhog Day itself may be fraught with conspiracies, there is a lot of evidence supporting sunscreen usage while Phil waits to see his shadow. Here are the top reasons for slathering on the SPF even in the winter months.
1. The Sun Doesn’t Go Away in the Winter
There are two types of rays emitted by the sun—UVB and UVA. Both can cause skin damage and, while UVB certainly lessens in intensity during the winter, UVA can be dangerous all year long. Ultraviolet B waves (UVB) are the pesky culprits causing your summertime sunburns. During the winter, they are defeated by cloudy days, but can still be found around ski slope peaks as they reflect off ice and snow. Ultraviolet A rays (UVA) make up 95 percent of rays the reach the Earth’s surface. They are way more dangerous than UVB rays since they can penetrate the skin and cause dark spots and wrinkles. They are also the culprit behind most skin cancers.
While you probably have less skin showing in the winter months, you are still being exposed to UVA rays. For a peak anti-aging technique, start using a broad spectrum SPF lotion daily — preferably one containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide since they aid in blocking damaging rays.
2. You Could Get Skin Damage Without Leaving the House
At this point in the article, you might be rolling your eyes at these so-called “winter sun damages.” After all, you spend all day in the office or in bed. You’re impenetrable to the sun…or so you think. Even if you spend all day indoors, you’re still not immune to the sun’s rays — especially if you sit next to a window or drive to work. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, UVA rays can penetrate glass and cause wrinkles and other skin damage. In fact, studies have found that people will develop more wrinkles on the side of their face that is exposed to the window. Additionally, the jury is still out on the dangers of blue light exposure. This light, found in your computer and cell phone screens, has been shown the cause skin abnormalities and other damage.
3. Skin Cancer is the Real Deal
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and affects one out of five Americans. It can affect anyone, regardless of skin color, age or sex. And most cases of skin cancer come from sun damage on the scalp and neck—both places usually left to the elements in the fall and winter. So, no matter the temperature outside, you should protect any exposed skin with a hat, scarf or some good ole sunscreen.
4. SPF Has Crazy Anti-Aging Benefits
Studies have found that using sunscreen daily can decrease your skin’s aging process by 24 percent. Since winter winds the UVA rays are working to damage elasticity in your skin, you could emerge from the winter months with dry, cracked skin that could be permanently damaged. Slathering on the SPF could protect your skin from the harsh realities of aging.
5. Winter Sports Intensify Skin Damage
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, UV radiation exposure can increase 5 percent with every 1,000 feet above sea level. And when you’re hitting the slopes, you’re bound to be fairly high up, thus increasing your exposure risk. Additionally, UVB radiation is more prevalent around snow and ice, since it can reflect off their surfaces. This means that your annual snowboarding trip exposes you to both UVA and UVB rays, increasing your chances of skin cancer. Additionally, you are still able to sweat off your SPF in freezing temperatures. When involved in winter activities, you should be reapplying your sunscreen throughout the day.
While you wait for Punxsutawney Phil’s promise of summer sun, grab a few bottles of sunscreen to get you through the rest of the winter season. It’s the easiest way to protect yourself against the sun’s rays. And who knows, the rodent could have said the wrong thing. There may be six more weeks of winter after all.
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