Escaping the Cold? UV Protection Tips for Winter

January 8, 2024
Picture of a female skier applying sunscreen to her face while standing on a mountain.

Are you heading out of town this winter? Maybe you’re going skiing with friends, trying your hand at winter camping, or taking your kids snow tubing. You’ve probably packed hats, mittens, and boots, but what about sunscreen? Can you get sunburned in the winter? Below, we answer this question, and we also offer winter sun protection tips that can help keep you safe this season.

Can You Get a Sunburn in the Winter?

Many people associate sunburns with the warm summer months. While it’s true that the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are strongest during the summer, they can still cause sunburns and skin aging even during the winter. Indeed, according to an article published by the Skin Cancer Foundation, “[s]un protection is necessary every day, regardless of the weather or time of year.”

You’re at an especially high risk for sunburns if you’ll be around snow or ice—because snow reflects up to 80% of the sun’s UV light, you’re essentially getting hit twice. Don’t think that you’re safe just because it’s cloudy out, either, since most UV rays can pass through clouds, and many can even penetrate glass. Notably, your risk of sunburn also increases at higher elevations, which could be a concern for skiers—according to an article from NIH MedlinePlus Magazine, UV levels can increase by approximately 6% for every 1,000 feet in the Alps.

Sun Protection Tips for Winter

Now that you know why you need UV protection even during winter, the next step will be figuring out how to guard yourself against the sun’s rays. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to cover as much of your skin as possible (luckily, cold temperatures make that a lot easier to accomplish in winter). Wear a hat, sunglasses, earmuffs, a scarf, a coat, gloves, long pants, and shoes when you’re outdoors, and apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 to any skin that’s still exposed (don’t forget your hairline and the tops of your ears). If your skin tends to be drier during the winter months—a common problem—you may want to look for a moisturizing sunscreen that contains glycerin or lanolin. You should also try to avoid venturing outside during the sun’s peak hours (usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.).

What if You End Up Getting Sunburned?

If you need treatment for a sunburn in the winter months (or any time of the year), you can turn to PhysicianOne Urgent Care. We’re a physician-founded practice that’s been in business since 2008, and we proudly serve patients in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. We treat a wide array of non-life-threatening injuries—including sunburns—and we’ll deliver the high-quality care you deserve with ease and speed. Plus, we’re in-network with most major health insurance plans, and we offer affordable self-pay rates for patients who are currently uninsured.

Visit one of PhysicianOne Urgent Care’s locations today for in-person sunburn treatment—we’re open 365 days per year with extended hours, and you can walk in or book a visit online. Or, take advantage of our 24/7 integrated telehealth service to speak to a local provider from the comfort of home.

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