You know that you need to sun protect your skin from mid-day summer sun.
Do you know if you need sun protection in fall, winter and spring?
Do you need sun protection for morning and late afternoon exposure? Will that sun cause wrinkles, age spots and skin cancer?
You’ve noticed that the sun feels weaker in the non-summer months and in the morning and afternoon.
Can sun damage your skin if it does not feel strong?
I see a lot of patients in my dermatology practice with tanned and wrinkled skin who tell me that because they walk or swim in the morning or during the non-summer months that they don’t need sunscreen or sun protective clothing. They think that because the sun feels weaker they’re safe.
Yes, the sun is different in the fall, winter and spring than it is in the summer. The sunburn ray, called UVB, is less intense. But, the sun still damages your skin to cause wrinkles, skin thinning and skin cancer. The tan and wrinkles are your evidence.
The reason the sun is harmful to your skin all day and all year is that the intensity of UVA rays do not change significantly.
Yes, UVA is pretty much as intense in summer as it is in the rest of the year. It is also as intense at noon as it is in the morning and late afternoon.
This means that from sunup to sundown, January or July you’re exposed to the same skin-damaging dose of UVA.
Plus, UVA penetrates your skin more deeply than UVB. This means that it causes its significant and irreversible damage way down into the deeper parts of your skin like the dermis. This is what causes wrinkles.
As if that’s not enough bad news, your sunscreen SPF value doesn’t give you enough info to know how well your product blocks UVA. You need to look for the words “Broad Spectrum” on any sunscreen product you plan to use. Even then, many products don’t do a good job blocking the UVA rays, which is one of the big criticisms of sunscreens.
I’m writing this post in September and I hope that it will help you plan great sun protection for your skin as we move into fall and winter. Don’t slack off on your sun protection just because the sunburn ray is less intense and the sun feels less damaging. You need to take UVA seriously, which means you need really good protection from UVA.
UVA is bad news for your skin!
- It penetrates skin more deeply than the sunburn ray UVB.
- Like UVB, the havoc it wreaks on your skin is caused by free radicals.
These free radicals cause a damage that leads to skin thinning (atrophy), which is what causes most of the wrinkles and skin fragility that we erroneously associate with aging (extrinsic aging of the skin as opposed in intrinsic aging). Thin, fragile skin tears and bruises easily as you get older and we can’t reverse it. UVA is also linked to the development of skin cancers, including melanoma.
To reiterate, UVA damage is not easily reversible, which means prevention is really important.
What Are My Top 4 Tips For The Best Year Round UVA Sun Protection For Your Skin?
Tip 1. Keep the sun off your skin with sun protective clothing and a full brim hat
Try to cover as much of your skin as possible with clothing. When it’s not really hot outside this is easy to do. Remember, when you depend on sunscreen alone you need a ‘thick and sticky coat’ every 2 hours, and that’s hard to keep up with. Plus, a sunscreen’s protection isn’t perfect and neither is your application of it.
My preference is that you wear sun protective clothing for the best sun protection. Ideally you want to wear clothes that protect your full arms and chest too. These are areas where I see a lot of skin thinning from sun damage because most people like to wear short sleeved v-neck shirts.
During hot weather or outdoor athletic activities wear functional garments like ventilated sun protective shirts. If you are swimming, consider wearing a swim shirts and swim tights. Don’t skimp on yourself, create a wardrobe that really protects your skin. My favorite resources include:
Coolibar for the high tech, high performance fabric and innovative designs that fit a broad range of activities. I have picked out the Coolibar items that I think are the most functional and give the most complete, but stylish, skin coverage. Click here to see the Coolibar garments I like best.
Sun Guard laundry treatment is a product you can wash into normal clothing to give it better sun protection for your skin. Did you know that most summer weight fabric is not really good for sun protection? Sunguard that let’s you turn your tee shirts and other light weight fabric clothes into sun protective garments. I use Sun Guard when I want sun protection from an outfit that has a unique styling but that I know isn’t good enough to protect my skin. I sell Sun Guard because I love it so much.
Be sure to wear a full brim hat year round. For more info on hats see my post on The Perfect Sun Hats.
To buy great sun hats from my web store
I love hats and price them right because I want you protected!
Tip 2. Wear broad spectrum sunscreen everyday on all the skin that’s left uncovered
This includes your face, neck, ears and the back of your hands. Make sure your sunscreen product blocks UVA well. In my opinion, this means using a product with 5% or more micronized zinc oxide.
Sunscreen formulation is still tricky though which is why I stick with a small group of products that I’ve seen work over and over for my patients and my family. Sunscreen product failure is all too common with other sunscreens, you need a product that you can trust especially with UVA because the UV ray doesn’t cause a quick sunburn and it may take weeks to figure out that your product is letting UVA through.
I also don’t recommend that you rely on a facial moisturizer for UVA protection because most don’t do a good job at that. Remember the SPF tells you mostly about UVB protection. For UVA protection you want to look for the term “Broad Spectrum” on the front of the product. Be deliberate about your daily application of sunscreen, use only a broad spectrum product so that you have the UVA protection you need to keep your skin healthy and strong.
Tip 3. Add high concentration antioxidant skin care products to your facial skin care routine and apply them everyday
Scientific studies have shown that applying highly concentrated antioxidants to your skin really does reduce UV damage. The best are the green tea polyphenols, vitamin C and E. There is no regulation on these products though meaning any skin cream or serum can make grand claims about containing antioxidants yet include only a minute ‘fairy dusting’ concentration that doesn’t do anything. A recent study of sunscreen products with added antioxidants showed that the incidental amounts added to those products did not provide free radical protection and had no antioxidant power when tested in the laboratory.
With the right antioxidant products I’ve seen my patients get real results (fewer precancerous lesions for me to treat during their checkups). These products are Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy and Vitamin C Professional Treatment Serum. These are the products I trust. Click here for:
Tip 4. Don’t forget to seek the shade to sun protect your skin
As the weather gets colder it’s so tempting to want to sit in the direct sun, but only do that with sun protective clothing and sunscreen on. Keep your skin out of the sun as much as possible. Remember that UV rays bounce off pavement, sand, rocks, buildings etc. If you’re getting a tan you’re exposed.
It is also Important not to listen to people who tell you to get non-summer, morning or afternoon sun to prevent vitamin D deficiency
Remember, UVA doesn’t make vitamin D in your skin which means that morning or afternoon sun and non-summer sun won’t boost your vitamin D.
Resist that false advice to get year round sun exposure for your vitamin D production. Most places in the world only have enough UVB rays during the summer to make meaningful vitamin D in your skin. Even then, I don’t recommend using your skin as a vitamin D factory because it gives doctors like me job security. Vitamin D is pretty complex and I always recommending talking to your personal doctor for advice. To read more about my opinion on vitamin D and the sun click here to read my article Are You Really Getting Vitamin D From The Sun Or Just Nuking Your DNA?
For more of my dermatology advice and resources to get you the best year round sun protection please see my Sun Protection Advice Page with updated info and a nice infographic to share.
Reference: Ex vivo evaluation of radical sun protection factor in popular sunscreens with antioxidants, Steven Q. Wang, MD et. al., Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2011;65:525-30
Photo: Thanks and Gratitude to JOPHIELsmiles