Think sunscreen should only be worn during the summer? Think again. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin at all times of the year, even during the colder months. Over time, accumulated sun exposure can exacerbate signs of premature aging and hyperpigmentation, and can even lead to the development of cancer if you don’t properly protect yourself.
Just because summer’s coming to a close doesn’t mean you should ease up on sun protection. Here are three easy ways you can ensure year-round protection from the sun’s harmful rays:
Establish a Sun-Safe Beauty Routine
One of the easiest ways you can protect yourself from the sun is by switching up your beauty routine. Consider swapping your makeup (moisturizers, foundation, powders, and lip balms) for dual-purpose products that contain a broad-spectrum SPF of at least 30. With so many products now providing sun protection, it’s easy to switch out a few of your beauty essentials with ones specifically formulated with SPF.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, certain skincare products can also make you more or less sensitive to the sun. Think about which products you already use, and be sure to make the necessary adjustments for optimal sun protection. For example, retinol-based skin care products are commonly used to treat acne, melasma, and premature aging. However, these products can make you more susceptible to the sun when used incorrectly, so it’s best to only incorporate them into your nightly routine.
2. Consider External Conditions
Sand, water, and snow can reflect UV radiation, making you susceptible to sun damage when you least expect it. Furthermore, the sun’s rays can also penetrate through clouds and glass, putting you at a greater risk of sun exposure whether you’re spending time indoors or outside.
Before stepping outside, be sure to consider any external conditions that could put you at an increased risk of UV exposure. Certain factors, such as altitude, time of day, and cloud coverage, can all impact your level of risk. For instance, UV rays tend to be strongest around midday when the sun is directly above you, so it’s best to avoid spending time outside between 10am and 4pm. In addition, UV radiation is stronger in higher elevations, so you may need to wear more protection if you are in a highland climate.
Regardless of external conditions, wearing sun protection year-round is the most surefire way to mitigate sun damage and ensure you’re always shielded from the sun’s harmful rays.
3. Check the UV Index
The UV Index is a great indicator of the strength of UV rays and your risk of getting a sunburn on any given day. You can use the UV index to help plan out your outdoor activities and determine the amount of protection you need. When the index is moderate to high (3-7), you should protect yourself by applying an SPF 30+ sunscreen to any exposed skin and reapplying generously every two hours. When the index level rises above 8, additional protection will be necessary. In these instances, you should limit time spent outdoors and wear sun protective clothing and accessories, such as wide-brimmed hats and polarized sunglasses, to protect your hair, skin, and eyes.
Though index levels tend to be lower during autumn and winter, and on overcast days, long-wave UV rays are still prevalent and may threaten your health year-round. That’s why you should use sun protection every day throughout the year to ensure you’re always shielded from UV radiation.
Even when the sun is out of sight, it should never be out of mind. Regardless of the time of year, be sure to use these best practices to keep yourself safe from the sun.
To learn more about the effects of sun exposure, check out this infographic: