Melanoma Awareness, Preventative Tips

Can your skin get damaged by the sun in the winter months?

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Team MoleMap Creator
Posted 05/05/20

As we head into the winter months, our sun safety habits tend to go into hibernation too. While it's good for our skin to see some daylight during winter months to replenish our Vitamin D levels, it's important to continue to protect exposed skin from the sun (especially in the middle of the day), as it's still at risk of UV damage.

You see, even when it’s cold or overcast, UV rays that cause skin ageing and skin cancer can penetrate your skin. In the right winter weather conditions, you can sustain sun damage just as easily as during the summer.

Winter sunshine skin protection sunscreen 1000

5 facts you might not know about winter sunlight

  1. UV radiation is the leading factor in the development of skin cancers and is the most preventable cause of the disease.
  2. UVB rays, the main cause of sunburn, are definitely at their strongest in the summer - however they can burn and damage your skin year round, especially at high altitudes and on reflective surfaces such as snow or ice.
  3. UV rays can get through clouds, fog and haze: in fact, up to 80% of the sun’s rays can penetrate clouds.
  4. Snow reflects as much as 80% of UV radiation, which is much higher than the amount reflected by water or dry beach sand in the summer months.
  5. UVA rays can also penetrate glass, so it’s still possible to damage your skin while staying indoors on a bright winter's day
Mole Map sun protection winter sunscreen 1000

Winter sun safety tips

  • Take precautions while enjoying winter sports, such as skiing or snowboarding. With higher altitude and UV rays reflected by the snow you're at a high risk of sun exposure.
  • If you're heading overseas for a tropical holiday in winter, remember to wear sunscreen and cover up - other climates aren't always as harsh as Australia's but pale winter skin can get sunburnt and damaged very quickly.
  • Covering up is easier in the winter — it’s cold! — but the face, head and neck tend to remain exposed year-round, and this is where most skin cancers occur. Apply a liberal amount of SPF 30+ broad spectrum sunscreen generously to clean, dry skin at least 15 minutes before sun exposure - and re-apply at least every two hours when outdoors or immediately after strenuous sweating.
  • Don’t forget your UV-blocking sunglasses and broad-brimmed hat before heading out. Sunglasses protect your eyes while also fighting snow glare, and a hat keeps you warm while keeping UV rays from damaging your scalp.
  • Try to limit sun exposure when UV radiation is at its peak – from 10am to 4pm.
  • Wear high UPF sun protective clothing that covers as much of your body as possible.
  • Winter is also a good time to get your skin and moles checked with a comprehensive skin check such as a Full Body MoleMap. That's because when we’re covered up during winter months, we’re less likely to notice any moles changing in size or colour – or the appearance of any new moles.

Sources: Ministry of Health: https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/healthy-living/food-activity-and-sleep/healthy-eating/vitamin-d. Melanoma Network Canada (https://www.melanomanetwork.ca/wintersun/) Skincancer.org (https://www.skincancer.org/press/2018-winter-sun-safety)

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