It’s still winter weather in some parts of the country, when low temperatures dictate certain skin care choices: intensified moisturizers, more emollient lip balms. And while sunscreen may not be top-of-mind, UV rays are just as present in the winter months, making sunscreen a must-have in winter and throughout the year.
To understand the effects of sun damage, it’s important to recognize the role that collagen plays in healthy skin. Collagen acts as the underlying support structure that keeps the skin youthful-looking and firm. When skin is exposed to the sun, UV rays penetrate the skin’s surface to the dermis causing abnormalities in the collagen fibers.
As these fibers begin to weaken and break down at a faster rate, the effects are cumulative and long lasting. Skin cells are unable to regenerate as quickly, making the skin more vulnerable to damage; fine lines, wrinkles, thinness and sagging also develop over time.
Additionally, UV rays can stimulate the overproduction of melanin leading to hyperpigmentation and sunspots. And as the skin thins due to UV exposure, these irregularities become even more evident.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, UV rays cause over 90 percent of skin cancers. These rays can increase in strength—up to 80 percent, in fact—in high altitudes or when reflected off of snow, water or ice, so it’s important to adequately protect exposed skin when participating in outdoor winter activities.
A broad spectrum sunscreen protects the skin against both UVA and UVB rays. I recommend SkinMedica® TNS Ultimate Daily Moisturizer™ SPF 20 Sunscreen for daily use and Daily Physical Defense™ SPF 30+ Sunscreen or Environmental Defense Sunscreen SPF™ 50+ with UV ProPlex™ if you’re spending time outdoors.
Antioxidants also play an important role in enhancing sun protection. Antioxidants not only enhance firmness and provide hydration, they also help fight the effects of free radicals. In addition, a skin care routine that incorporates retinol and growth factors will help to improve the appearance of skin texture and resilancy.
Regardless of the temperature outside, be diligent with sun protection—though we can never underestimate the sun’s effect on our skin, proper protection is the best way to maintain its health and appearance over the long term.