Should You Wear Sunscreen Year-Round?

Woman applying sunscreen Should You Wear Sunscreen Year-Round?

To avoid sun-damaged skin, responsible adults usually apply sunscreen to their exposed skin before soaking up some rays. Indeed, covering up with sunscreen is key to protecting your skin during sunny days, but many people don’t bother when the weather is cold or gloomy. This might seem logical at first. After all, if the sun’s not shining, what’s the point of sunscreen? If you hold this point of view, though, you might be exposing your body to harm without even knowing it.

So, should you wear sunscreen year-round? For the short answer, scroll to the bottom of this post. But for a more detailed exploration of sunscreen, its benefits, and its importance throughout the year, read on.

Why Wear Sunscreen at All?

The general purpose of sunscreen is right in its name-- to provide a screen between your skin and the sun. But why does this buffer matter? Simply put, the sun’s rays, while vital to our very existence, can also be quite harmful. More specifically, ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can penetrate our skin and harm our cells and immune system.

UVA light is the primary type of UV radiation that reaches our skin, traveling further than its counterpart (even through window glass), UVB rays, and going deeper into the skin. This type of sunlight can lead to long-term skin damage, aging it beyond its years. UVB rays, on the other hand, while not as far-reaching as UVA light, are more powerful, causing sunburn and contributing to the development of skin cancer.

Wearing sunscreen temporarily protects your skin from these rays, and therefore prevents you from getting burnt and developing wrinkles, age spots, and even cancer.

Wearing Sunscreen During the Winter

Knowing that sunlight can lead to skin problems and deeper health concerns, you might start wearing sunscreen more often, especially when the weather is warm and the sun is blazing. But what about winter? As it turns out, your skin can still undergo sun damage during the colder months.

Therefore, you should slap on some sunscreen when temperatures drop, too. Of course, if you bundle up during the winter, you can usually get away with applying less sunscreen during the winter, as your clothing will shield your skin from most of the sun’s harmful rays. Still, it’s important to protect your face, hands, and any other areas of your body that are exposed during the winter. Plus, keep in mind that snow reflects sunlight, so those rays might be closer to you than you think.

What About When the Sun’s Not Out?

Winter has its share of sunny days, so it makes sense to wear sunscreen during this season. But can you skip the screen when it’s overcast? As you might have guessed by now, no, it’s still smart to lather up when it’s gloomy outside. Just because you can’t see the sun doesn’t mean it suddenly isn’t there. And while UVB rays might not make it past the clouds, UVA rays will power through just fine.

Not Just Any Sunscreen

By now it should be clear that sunscreen is an essential part of skin care for sun damage. However, not all sunscreen is created equal. Not only must you sift through dozens of brands when choosing a sunscreen-- you must also decide based on its strength, breadth, composition, and consistency.

Start by choosing the right SPF (sun protection factor), which describes how long the sunscreen will protect your skin from UVB radiation once applied. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, you want a product that boasts SPF 30 or higher. Also, make sure the sunscreen is broad-spectrum, meaning it guards against both UVA and UVB rays.

As far as composition goes, you want something that’s water-resistant (especially if you plan on swimming.) Then, you can choose between chemical or physical sunscreens. The former dissolves into the skin and absorbs the sun’s rays while the latter rests over the skin and deflects the rays away from the skin (this option is better for sensitive skin types.) Finally, you can decide between a cream, gel, stick, or spray depending on where you’re applying the sunscreen and how you prefer to apply it.

The Short Answer

Should you wear sunscreen each and every day? Yes. As long as the sun’s rays reach our planet, you’ll want to protect your skin using the right kind of sunscreen, and not just on sunny days, but all year-round. Wearing sunscreen isn’t just a method of skin cancer prevention, but also as a way to retain your skin’s youthful appearance and overall health.

At Premier Dermatology Partners, we help patients understand the importance of sunscreen, and aid them in choosing the right products for their skin. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.

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