Is Sunscreen Necessary Even in the Winter?
To answer that question, yes. Sunscreen is especially important in the winter. And also, the sun is no respecter of persons. It damages everyone. There is a common misconception that black and brown people do not need sunscreen. But guess what? We do! Your black will crack if you don’t protect it from the sun. Melanin only protects you so much. Considering many of us suffer from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, sunscreen is even more crucial for us in order to treat and prevent PIH from worsening.
Say it with me: “My black can and will crack if I don’t protect it from the sun! Let me explain why we all need sunscreen. Men and women. Black or white. Everyone’s skin has three layers.
The topmost layer of skin that provides a waterproof barrier and also carries your skin tone
Layer directly beneath the epidermis which contains sweat glands and hair follicles
The layer below the dermis made of fat
There are two different kinds of UV rays which occur at different times of the year: UVA and UVB. Well, technically there are 3 but UVC rays are absorbed by the Ozone layer and do not reach us. Those would kill us if they penetrated through.
But which one causes more damage? UVA rays. These penetrate not only your epidermis but also your dermis. UVA rays cause premature aging, further darkening of dark marks, and are linked to skin cancer. These rays penetrate through glass so it is especially important to protect yourself with sunscreen even if you are indoors with windows. UVA rays are constantly present regardless of the season, unlike UVB rays. They also cause free radical damage which can cause skin cancer and accelerate aging of the skin.
UVB rays tend to burn your skin but do not do much deeper damage. They’re the ones that cause your skin to turn red and peel because they damage your epidermis. They also don’t penetrate through the glass as much as UVA rays do. UVB rays are most dangerous from 10am-4pm and from April to October. If you live in an area with a lot of snow/ice, watch out for these because reflective surfaces bounce back 80-90% of UVB rays which means they hit your skin even more.
General Sun Protection:
You should be applying sunscreen to any areas that are exposed, (including your lips, which many people forget) whether you are indoors or outdoors, and regardless of the season or temperature. Also, it is important to remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours if you can. The only pass you can get with sunscreen is at night. You don’t need to incorporate sunscreen into your nighttime routine. It serves no purpose when you’re sleeping.
I would recommend using SPF 30 or higher during the daytime. SPF 50 is really the most effective. It blocks 98% of UV rays. There are minimal studies that show anything higher than SPF 50 is actually beneficial, so I typically recommend sticking between 30-50. Not any lower than SPF 30, though.
Neutrogena, Coola, Nivea, and Aquaphor for my lips are some of my personal faves for sunscreen. Coola even has a makeup setting spray with SPF so you don’t have to ruin your makeup when reapplying! All you have to do is spray some more.
What Happens When I Don’t Wear SPF Year-round?
- Your hyperpigmentation is darkened (Read: Understanding and Treating Hyperpigmentation)
- You increase your risk of skin cancer
- You age your skin quicker
- Your skin’s sensitivity can increase as a result of your skin cells being damaged by the sun
You’re doing your skin a huge disservice by skipping sunscreen in the winter. Especially if you have any kind of skincare goals like getting rid of hyperpigmentation. Let me know in the comments below if you use SPF all year round or this post just made you dash to the store and buy some for the winter!