Your Skin Needs a Screen All Winterlong

by Blake Herzog

Arizona is Arizona, and even its non-desert regions tend to be mostly sunny year-round. This makes it even more imperative for us to wear sunscreen in the winter, a self-care step too many people around the country and the world overlook.

Increased cloud cover and more time spent indoors fool many people into letting their guard down against the sun’s UV rays this time of year, but perhaps not surprisingly, they’re too strong to be defeated by clusters of water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air.


They are weakened somewhat by winter clouds but are still a formidable force that can penetrate our skin, leading to premature aging and heightened risk of skin cancer.

Sunglasses are another line of defense that is more likely to be tossed aside in winter since the sunlight feels weaker and doesn’t make us as squinty. But they’re important to protect not just our vision but the more delicate skin on our eyelids and surrounding the eyes, which are some of the first spots to show signs of aging. Five to 10% of all skin cancers are found on the upper or lower eyelid.

Here are some important tips to remember about winter sunscreen use:

Apply, apply again

The guideline of applying sunscreen before you go out, then reapplying every two hours or after you perspire holds up in the winter as well as it does in summer. Cold winds and snow can chip away at the effectiveness of its protection just as much as the heat and humidity of summer.

Winter sports warning

The reflective power of snow and increased UV radiation at the elevations they usually take place means skiing, snowboarding, and related pastimes increase your chances of getting sunburned. Use a good sport sunscreen of at least 30 SPF or higher if your skin burns easily.

Elevate your protection

UV rays gain strength with altitude, so living in the more elevated regions of the state adds a risk factor for us that even the lower deserts with their brutal summer conditions don’t have. This is something to remember throughout the year.

Stay covered up

It’s easier to stay covered up in the winter, but it’s also easy to feel like shedding some of your layers in celebration when temperatures become unseasonably warm. Don’t try to establish your “polar bear” cred by wearing short sleeves and shorts when it’s still chilly out — you’re protecting yourself from the sun as well as the cold. At least wear sunscreen if you do!

Peak hours are the same

Sunlight is most intense between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., just like the rest of the year, so these are the times to avoid being outside for more than a few minutes if you can. It’s still good to spend a few minutes daily exposing your unprotected skin to sunlight for vitamin D synthesis and other benefits, but this may not be the best time to do that.