Going for a walk in winter is a great type of outdoor exercise. However, you must always remember to wear your sun protection, and here's why.
Over 1 in 5 Americans will suffer from skin cancer before they are 70, and at least 2 people die from the disease every hour.
These can be terrifying facts when you enjoy spending your time doing outdoor workouts and activities. The sun can be very beneficial for us, but we need to understand how it can also cause us damage at any time of the year.
If you are a big fan of taking a walk in winter, you may not be aware of the risks also associated with the winter sun. Many people believe that once the air temperature is lower, so is your risk of skin cancer and skin damage. It is not the case.
Read our guide on what problems the winter sun can cause you and how you can protect yourself from unnecessary skin damage and increased cancer risk.
What Is Winter Sun Damage?
Most people are aware of the skin damage caused by staying too long in the summer sun - but many are unaware of how these effects continue during the winter months too.
The sun's intensity may have decreased, but the risk factors have not. Even with cooler weather, the amount of Ultraviolet (UV) rays in the sunlight remains powerful. Before you go on your winter walk, there are several factors you should be aware of.
Ultraviolet Light and its Effects
There are three types of UV rays in sunlight: UV A, B, and C.
UVC rays are blocked by our ozone layer, which is lucky as they are the strongest and most deadly.
UVB rays are the ones that reach our skin in the summer as they are a short wave-length. These rays tend to cause the most severe sunburns, and overexposure can lead to increased cancer risk and cause melanomas to develop on the skin.
UVA rays are longer in length and can penetrate deep into the skin. They are sometimes referred to as 'aging rays' as they cause skin problems such as wrinkles and age spots.
They also shine on us all year round, and their strength doesn't diminish with the winter sun. It is UVA rays that you need to be concerned about on your winter walks.
Several factors affect the number of UV rays you may be exposed to whilst out and about all year round. These are:
- The time of day - they are strongest in the middle of the day.
- Your elevation - how high you are above sea level.
- Your global position - you will be more exposed closer to the equator.
- Reflections - for example, snow and water reflect UV light onto your body.
- Cloud cover - clouds can block UV light.
- Pollution - the air quality can worsen the effects of UV light.
Winter sun is a major cause of skin damage symptoms because so little is done to prevent it. There are lots of different symptoms from sun damage that you see occurring throughout the year.
The Symptoms of Sun Damage
Damage is caused when you expose your skin to the sun's rays for too long without sufficient protection. Your complexion will also be a factor. If you are fair-haired and blue-eyed, you are at much greater risk of sun damage.
Symptoms of sun damage include:
Skin can become dry and flaky if exposed to the sun too long. It loses its natural moisture and oils and can appear prematurely wrinkled in areas that are affected.
Red, sore skin is the most well-known symptom of sun over-exposure. Many of us have experienced it when we have been at the beach for too long. But any skin is at risk if unprotected.
The effects of sunburn are also long-lasting. An area that has been sunburnt in the past has a greater chance of developing melanoma than other undamaged skin. If you have been badly burnt before, ensure you keep this skin well protected.
Long Term Collagen Damage
Collagen is the protein that keeps our skin young-looking and healthy. Sun damage can break down the collagen in our skin, causing several problems.
These include premature aging of the skin, seen in wrinkles and liver spots, and bleeding in smaller blood vessels such as capillaries on the cheeks. Over time this can make the skin very fragile and even cause it to rupture in older people.
How to Protect Yourself from the Winter Sun
Don't worry, though! You can take lots of precautions to ensure that your skin is protected from sun-damage whatever time of year it may be.
You just need to make sure you take the time and make an effort to protect yourself as much as possible whenever you are in direct sunlight.
Wear UV Protective Clothing
Wearing the right kind of protective clothing is the best way you can protect yourself from the sun's harmful rays. Dress for protection and cover your skin with UV long sleeves shirts, jackets, and trousers.
If your clothing is designed to protect you from the sun, you don't need to worry about the hassle of applying sunscreen all over your body every time you leave the house.
Our sun-protective clothing contains UV protection that never washes out and, unlike sunscreen, does not need to be reapplied every time. UV clothing is also water resistant.
Cover Up Your Extremities
Sun-protective clothing will protect you from the sun rays where you are covered but make sure you don't miss any other exposed parts of your body.
Wear a hat that has a broad brim to protect your face and use sun-cream on any parts of the body still exposed, like the tips of your ears, nose, and neck.
Make sure you wear sunglasses that block UV light to protect your eyes as well, especially if you are near snow or water, which will reflect UV into your face.
Use Lip Balm with SPF
Your lips need protection too. People often forget to put any protection on their lips when using sunscreen and, as a result, end up with dry, chapped lips. This is especially common in winter!
Make sure you make use of a lip balm or Chapstick that has an SPF of over 15. An ordinary lip balm will moisturize but not protect you from the sun.
Take Care and Enjoy Your Walk in Winter
It is perfectly possible to take a walk in winter and remain safe from the sun if you take the right precautions. Awareness is key so try to remember that even if the air temperature is cold, the sun's rays could still damage your skin.
Take protection with you, wear the right clothes and sunscreen, and enjoy your winter walk!
If you found this article interesting, why not check out some of our UV protective clothing that can help keep you safe this winter.