No Sunscreen Required in Winter, Right? WRONG

Snowboarder with board in hand

During the winter months, you may be under the impression that you don’t need sunscreen and that you’re safe to pack it up with your summer gear, like beach towels and sunglasses. The truth is, you’ll need it just as much if not more. According to a study put out by, snow can reflect up to 80% of UV rays from the surface of the snow, even when it’s cloudy.

Many winter athletes, like snowboarders and skiers, are susceptible to sunburn especially since the mountains place you closer to the sun. While it’s true that more clothing is worn in winter, exposed skin on the face and lips are still susceptible. And the higher the altitude, the thinner the atmosphere. That correlates to greater direct exposure to UVA and UVB rays.

According to, UV exposure increases four to five percent every thousand feet you climb above sea level. Therefore, the higher the altitude, the stronger the UV rays. In other words, if you climbed to 9,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level, the UV radiation would be approximately 45% stronger than at sea level.   

This is a critical detail because of the numerous adverse effects that sun damage has on your skin. Sun burn may fade after a week or so with proper treatment, but the effects of sunburn last much longer and can have consequences that may not be apparent for years to come. Getting sunburn just 5 times can double your chances of contracting malignant melanoma.

But in addition to melanoma, there’s also basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. None of which you want to deal with, if possible. All of this stands a great chance of being avoided with proper sunscreen application.

According to most medical professionals, you should choose a sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 30 before heading outside, even during overcast days. Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes prior to going out and reapply frequently when swimming or sweating. Lower SPF sunscreens don’t provide enough protection to protect you from skin cancer.

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