Do I Need to Use Sunscreen During Winter?

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world with two in three Australians being diagnosed with the condition by the time they are 70 years old. [1] Skin cancers also make up around 80 per cent of newly diagnosed cancers each year.[1]

 

Skin cancer is caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, in the form of ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Each time skin is exposed to UV radiation, changes take place in the structure and function of our skin cells. With each exposure, the damage becomes worse until over time, our skin may become permanently damaged.

 

Why is sunscreen important?

The most serious kind of skin damage is skin cancer. Skin cancer is mostly related to the number of severe sunburns, particularly during childhood. However, your lifetime exposure can also increase your long-term risk of skin cancer, which is why it’s so important to protect skin from a young age through adequate sun care.

 

Fortunately, skin cancer is largely preventable by protecting your skin from UV radiation. Using sunscreen is one way to do this. Sunscreens work by filtering out these UV rays by either absorbing them or reflecting them, thereby preventing your skin from their harmful effects.

 

Can I get sunburned in winter?

Yes. Sunburn is related to the levels of UV radiation, not the sun’s heat. While you can see and feel the sun, you can’t detect UV radiation, which is why you can still get burned on a dull day or a cool day.

 

The amount of UV radiation from the sun is dependent upon factors such as time of year, time of day, cloud cover, reflective surfaces (for example, water and snow), altitude and closeness to the equator.

 

UV levels are rated according to their intensity with 0 being low, and 11+ being extreme. A UV rating of 3 is considered to be moderate. In Australia, UV levels are generally highest between 10am and 3pm and are usually higher in summer than they are in winter.

 

So, do I need sunscreen in winter?

Yes, sunscreen in winter is a must. Experts recommend you use sunscreen when UV is 3 or above. It’s important to use sun care in winter even if the sun doesn’t seem that strong, because it’s the radiation that causes sunburn and sun damage, not how hot or strong the sun is. A great way to check the daily UV rating for your area is to download the free SunSmart app.

 

How to apply sunscreen in winter

The correct way to apply sunscreen is to use a generous amount, ensuring even coverage over all the body parts that will be exposed to the sun. Don’t forget the back of the neck and the ears! You should apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going outside, and re-apply every two hours. If you’re lucky enough to live in a climate that’s warm enough for swimming during winter months, be sure to reapply after going in the water, or if you have sweated excessively. This is important even if the sunscreen is labeled ‘water resistant’, as it can be washed or rubbed off while swimming and drying with a towel.

 

What else can I do to protect my skin?

Sunscreen doesn’t provide 100% protection from the sun’s UV rays, and shouldn’t be used to extend your time in the sun. Where possible, you should avoid being outdoors when the UV levels are at their most intense.

 

Skin cancer experts also recommend that you continue to practice good sun care by wearing a broad-brimmed hat, protective clothing and sunglasses while in the sun, and to seek shade where possible, in addition to wearing sunscreen.

 

What about sensitive skin?

It’s true that some sunscreens can irritate sensitive skin causing burning, stinging or red, itchy bumps. Fortunately, Cetaphil offers sunscreen for adults and kids that offers SPF50+ protection and is friendly for delicate and sensitive skins.

 

Cetaphil Sun SPF50+ Kids Liposomal Lotion is formulated for kid’s delicate skin and provides very high UV protection* (*Highest SPF label claim allowed per AS:NZS2604:2012; Very High SPF 50+.), so you can rest assured that your child can stay safe in the sun.

 

Cetaphil Sun SPF50+ Ultra-light Lotion is perfect for adults who want to protect their skin from the sun as well. Non-greasy and oil-free, this sunscreen provides very high sun protection* (*Highest SPF label claim allowed per AS:NZS2604:2012; Very High SPF 50+.) that won’t block pores.

 

Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. Limit sun exposure and use protective clothing, hats and eye wear. Keep out of eyes. Reapply sunscreen regularly.

 

  1. Cancer Council, Skin cancer, https://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/types-of-cancer/skin-cancer.html