Can I Really Get Sun Damage in Winter?

Can I Really Get Sun Damage in Winter? | RefinedMD, Los Gatos

Can I Really Get Sun Damage in Winter?

Absolutely. Even if we weren’t in perpetually sunny California, sun damage can and does occur year-round. The idea that sun damage only occurs on sizzling summer days is a myth we often have to dispel at RefinedMD. Sure, you might not burn as easily on a cloud-covered day but that doesn’t mean the sun isn’t doing its usual damage. Clouds do very little to protect you from UV rays because these rays easily penetrate them. The same goes for rain or snow. The only ways to protect yourself from UV damage (no matter what time of the year it is) is to either 1) stay indoors and away from windows or 2) cover up and wear sunscreen.

Notice that we said and wear sunscreen. This doesn’t mean you always have to be wearing long pants and sleeves, but consider coverage a part of your wardrobe staple when it comes to sun protection. A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses can go far in maximizing your UV protection. However, even when you are covered up, you’re still going to need sunscreen or sun block—and it needs to be applied properly. What exactly does that mean?

Don’t Make These Sunscreen Mistakes

The quality of the sunscreen matters, which is why we offer medical-grade products including sunscreen. SPF plays a factor, as does the importance of the product protecting you from both UVA and UVB rays. The latter is sometimes called broadband protection, and you definitely need that (otherwise, you’re only protecting yourself from some of the rays!). Sunscreen should be reapplied every 75 minutes liberally and you want to be certain it fully covers every part of the skin that’s exposed. Missing the area right around the eyes is common, which is unfortunate since this area really needs protection.

You’ll also want to make sure your sunscreen or sun block isn’t expired. Notice that we keep saying sunscreen or sun block? That’s because these two products are different. Sunscreen is probably what you’re used to. It soaks into the skin a bit and “screens” us from those damaging rays. Sun block is thicker, usually white, and “sits” on top of the skin. Most people understandably prefer sunscreen, but for those who are regularly out in the sun (think outdoor lifeguards) sun block can be a little more effective.

Think You “Tan” and Don’t Get Sun Damage? Think Again

If you’re like a lot of Californians, you might think you tan rather than burn or sustain sun damage. The reality is that a tan in itself is a type of sun damage. It’s the body’s natural defense scrambling to keep you safe from UV rays. Our bodies will produce more melanin (a tan) since the skin is undergoing so much sun damage so quickly that it’s the only thing it can do. That’s why if you wear sunscreen or sun block correctly, then you don’t tan or burn.

However, a burn or tan is only the most severe and instant form of sun damage. Most sun damage actually takes quite some time to appear. It results in age spots, brown spots, skin laxity, and premature lines and wrinkles. Nobody is immune from the damage of the sun. Even those who have a lot of natural melanin will experience sun damage if they don’t protect themselves. These folks do have better natural protection thanks to the extra melanin, but that typically just delays the signs of aging—it doesn’t prevent them. Plus, no amount of melanin is going to keep you safe from skin cancer. People of all skin types and tones can and do get skin cancer.

The #1 Way to Protect Yourself

Safeguarding yourself from sun damage requires daily commitment to protection (clothing and sunscreen/sun block) and an annual skin check from your dermatologist. Most of our severe sun damage happened when we were young, and that can show up decades later as signs of aging or skin cancer. A mole check is the best way to catch skin cancer early so it can be simply treated with an outpatient excision procedure. Connect with RefinedMD today to schedule your skin check by calling (408) 688-2082.