Do I really need to use a sunscreen all year round? The answer is YES! Just because we’ve packed our swimsuits away for another 6 months does not mean you should be packing that sunscreen away too! Although UVB rays may diminish in the winter, harmful UVA rays continue to be quite high when the mercury drops. As much as 80% of UV exposure is reflected off the snow, whereas it’s only 25% or so reflected off the sand in the summertime.
UVA vs UVB Rays. What’s the difference? UVA Rays are a much longer wavelength than UVB. They penetrate deeper into the skin, reaching the dermis (the thickest layer of the skin) and UVA rays are what cause premature aging, wrinkles, age spots and, new studies have shown this harmful ray also contributes to cancer. UVB rays only reach the top outer layers of the skin, and they are what cause the painful sunburn. UVB also has a major role in the development of cancer. We should always wear an SPF of at least 30 to properly protect ourselves from exposure and damage.
What’s the deal with SPF? SPF is an abbreviation of Sun Protection Factor. This number ranges from 2-50+. So, what exactly does this number mean? The higher the number on your bottle, the better ability the product has to block or screen the suns rays. A common misconception is that the higher the number, the longer you can stay in the sun without reapplying. For example, if you were to apply an SPF of 60, you’d be able to stay out in the sun twice as long as using an SPF of 30. This is not the case. The SPF number simply indicates the degree of protection. An SPF of 15 will filter out approximately 93% of rays, SPF 30 filters out about 97%, and an SPF of 50 filters out nearly 98%.
According to new Health Canada regulations, sunscreens can no longer state any SPF factor greater than 50. If it has a higher than 50 rating, it will simply say ‘SPF50+’. Having an SPF of 100 not only leads to people misusing them due to the misunderstanding of what SPF does, it is simply a marketing gimmick. No SPF, not even that of 100 will offer 100% UV protection.
So, what do I look for in a sunscreen? Your best chance at finding a good protection is to look for one that says ‘Broad Spectrum’ as this means it protects against both UVA & UVB rays. Be sure to find one that has an SPF factor of at least 30.
What else can I do to protect myself from UV rays this winter? You can still hit the slopes this winter and stay protected! Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF factor of at least 30. Also be sure to cover any exposed skin with protective clothing, wear UV blocking sunglasses, and avoid being outside during peak UV hours.