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Do You Really Need Sunscreen in the Winter?

Do You Really Need Sunscreen in the Winter?

Do You Really Need Sunscreen in the Winter?

There seems to be some misconception every year about whether you need sunscreen in the winter. The simple answer to this is YES times a 100! Sunscreen really is the most important skincare product you can use every day to prevent premature skin ageing.

Even though the days may be cloudy and dark, invisible radiation from the sun can still inflict skin damage so it is essential to wear sunscreen in the winter.

Sun Damage in the winter

There are two types of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) that we are concerned about when it comes to skin damage - UVA and UVB. Although we often associate sun damage with hot, sunny days, UVA in particular is present all year round and is responsible for the majority of premature skin ageing.

This is why it is just as important to wear sunscreen in the winter as it is during the summer months.


- Long wavelength

- Can penetrate clouds, clothing, glass

- Cannot be felt

- Responsible for ageing


- Short wavelength

- Blocked by clouds, clothing, glass

- Felt as sunburn

Even though small amounts of UV radiation (UVR) are vital for Vitamin D synthesis and the immune function of the skin, it is responsible for 90% of premature skin ageing, known as photodamage.

UVR accelerates the destruction of collagen and elastin in the skin. These are essential structural proteins which give skin its strength, elasticity and suppleness. The amount of hyaluronic acid in the skin is decreased which reduces the skin's water binding capacity.

UVR exposure can also cause abnormal melanin (pigment) production. The combined result is reduced cushioning support for the skin and the development of signs of ageing.

Sun induced damage to the skin can result in:

- Wrinkling

- Freckles

- Sun spots

- Hyperpigmentation

- Melasma

- Dry and dehydrated skin

- Broken capillaries

- Blotchiness

- Rough, uneven texture

It is well known that UVA and UVB radiation can cause skin cancer. Prolonged UVR exposure from natural sunlight, artificial sun lamps or tanning beds leads to damage of skin cell DNA directly or indirectly by the production of free radicals.

Our skin's normal immune response to abnormal cells may also be switched off by UVR which further allows development of skin cancers. Skin cancer is the 5th most common cancer in the UK. Furthermore 86% of melanoma skin cancer cases are preventable by using sunscreen regularly.

How much SPF do you need in the winter?

There are two types of sunscreen: chemical and physical.

Chemical sunscreens absorb UVR and dissipate it as heat. Physical sunscreens act as a barrier, reflecting and scattering UVR.

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rates how well the sunscreen protects against UVB. PA rating is the Protection Grade against UVA. When buying a sunscreen, it is important to ensure it is broad-spectrum and a minimum of SPF 15 to ensure protection against UVA and UVB. Newer sunscreens also offer protection from bluelight, pollution and infrared which all contribute to skin ageing.

If you normally burn within 10 minutes, an SPF with factor 15, multiplies this time by 15. However, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, higher altitudes, snow and strong winds can wear away sunscreen, reducing its effectiveness so it is recommended you reapply every two hours to ensure all day protection during the winter.

Snow also reflects sunlight, making you more susceptible to sunburn, so an SPF of 30 or higher is recommended.

A higher SPF is also recommended for people with very fair skin, history of skin cancer, skin conditions like system lupus erythematosus, recent chemical peel, using retinol or taking oral isotretinoin. For those with sensitive skin or rosacea, avoid sunscreens with fragrances, alcohol and preservatives.

For those with skin sensitivity issues, sunscreens which contain ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide may be beneficial.

Newer formulations have significantly improved and no longer give a white complexion.

For those with dry skin which is even more common in the winter, consider sunscreens combined with moisturisers or those in cream or balm form. Gel sunscreens are also available with ingredients for blemish-prone skin.

The best Sunscreens for the winter

1. La Roche Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Invisible Fluid SPF50+

A dermatologist recommended favourite, this formula is ultra-resistant, offers broad-spectrum protection and specifically designed for sensitive skin. The non-greasy cream, doesn’t leave white marks and doesn’t migrate after application.

2. Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50 | PA ++++

This lightweight, 100% mineral SPF for all skin types, blocks UVA/UVB, bluelight, pollution and infrared radiation. The formula absorbs quickly and helps correct and even skin tone, leaving a luminous, pearlized finish.

3. Medik8 Advanced Day Total Protect

This advanced light-weight, vegan friendly, moisturising cream includes Pollution Shield, anti-infrared, anti-blue light and anti- A.G.Etechnology (a process inducing skin ageing) alongside SPF 30 and 5* UVA protection. It’s the ultimate daily hydrator, protecting skin from environmental free-radical damage.

4. Institut Esthederm Photo Reverse High Protection

Photo Reverse protects against UVB and UVA, inhibits the pigmentation process, making skin progressively brighter. It prevents photo-ageing and dark spots: protects the skin’s DNA and prevents cell damage thanks to their patented Global Cellular Protection Technology.

5. SkinCeuticals Brightening UV Defense SPF 30

This lightweight, hydrating formula provides high broad-spectrum protection against photo-ageing. Enriched with HyperBright Complex, it helps prevent the occurrence of future brown spots and pigmentation and diminishes the appearance of fine lines and uneven skin tone.

6. Ultrasun Face SPF 50+

This formula offers and advanced combination of lamellar broad-spectrum SPF50+ protection with GSP for Infrared protection, titanium dioxide for blue light protection and Ectoin. It restores optimal moisture levels, reduces the appearance of sun-induced ageing (lines, wrinkles, larger pores). It features incredibly fast-absorbing, lightweight and non-greasy textures and is deal for sensitive skin

7. Bioderma Photoderm AKN Mat SPF 30

Great for oily, acne prone skin, this formula guarantees a very high UVA/UVB protection and improves sebum quality and prevents the appearance of blemishes (Fluidactiv™ patent). It provides a long-lasting mattifying effect as well as activating the skin's natural defences and protecting from risks of cellular damage. It’s non-greasy, non-comedogenic and doesn’t leave any white traces.