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Sunscreen: A Winter Thing or Not?

The colder, shorter and darker days of winter has dawned along with cozy blankets, long boots, hot coffee and bonfires. Many of us simply cherish and relish these days and remembering one thing: to take care of the skin. As this season makes skin dry and people become crazy for moisturizers during this season. But, do you really believe this is the only thing our skin needs in the cold season.


Many of you forget about sunscreen in winter because of a perception that in cloudy and foggy days, our skin needs no sunscreen or SPF.

Well, it isn’t true at all.

As per scientific research,

“The dense clouds hinder the UV radiations up to 50%, but can’t block”

But, cold weather is not just about cloudy foggy days, there are also the days when the sun is in its full-frame. How our skin reacts at that time? With no doubts, our skin needs sun protection at that time of the winter.

This sun-shield becomes more vital when you go to higher altitudes or at snowy places. Because according to one of the research, “at such heights, the atmosphere is thinner and absorbs fewer UV rays. This enhances the UV rays intensity by 4% for every 300 m of higher elevation. Not only this, snow reflects approximately 90% of UV light, which is far higher than seawater and sand.”

So, Yes, Sunscreen is a Winter Thing!

It is evident from the data published in an article of Plos One, “Weather does play role in UV intensities but no matter what the weather is, at 12:00 (mid-day), the UVA and UVB intensities are found to be the highest each day. Moreover, not only UVA but UVB also present on cloudy days and there is very less difference amongst their intensities during a clear and cloudy day.”

So, whether it is summer, winter or monsoon sunscreen is a must to save your skin from UV damage.

Now the question arises, what is the best sunscreen for winter?

There is no difference in the environment enemies that penetrate deep into the skin and can harm it, whether its summer or winter. In winter the skin needs a broad spectrum sunscreen with some added benefits.

Let’s dive deep.

What is a broad spectrum sunscreen?

Are you aware that broad spectrum is an essential feature to look for while buying a sunscreen?

In a survey “Identifying gaps in consumer knowledge about sunscreen” it is found that only 39% of users understand the importance of broad spectrum protection while buying a sunscreen, rest give importance to price or water resistance and sweat producing property of the product.

Most People Believe that Sunscreen Just Means SPF

Doubtlessly, it is true but only up to a certain extent. SPF is a necessary protective number of a sunscreen because it tells you how potentially capable your sunscreen is in protecting your skin from UV rays.

But, which UV rays?

Collectively sun emits three major forms of UV rays: UVA, UVB ad UVC.

· UVC radiations: These are very hazardous but entire rays are absorbed by the ozone layer.

· UVB radiations: Some of these are absorbed by the ozone layer but most of these reach earth’s surface. These can penetrate the outer layer of skin and known as a potent cause of sunburns.

· UVA radiations: These radiations are less hazardous but penetrate deep into the skin and are the major reason behind photoageing (wrinkles, fine lines and discoloration).

Now as you have understood the concept of UV rays and their capability to harm your skin, it is easier for you to find out what is the loss of buying sunscreen that only mentions SPF number.

Sunscreens with SPF can protect us only from UVB radiations. They are not specialized to block UVA rays and therefore, still after using a sunscreen you are prone to UV rays.

So, what should be present in sunscreen to block UVA rays?

Some of you definitely have noticed the PA rating on sunscreens along with SPF. But do you know what this rating is meant for?

PA stands for ‘Protection Grade’. This tells us how efficient our sunscreen is to block UVA rays. It is based on persistent pigment darkening (PPD) readings at 2-4 hours of sun exposure.

It is generally ranked as PA+, PA++, PA+++ or PA++++. The plus sign here represents the protection efficiency of a sunscreen. A sunscreen with 3 or 4 plus sign helps to protect skin from UVA rays more efficiently.

Your sunscreen must have this rating, only then it can provide you with broad spectrum protection.

Well, these two factors are sufficient to tell that your sunscreen is efficient enough to protect you from harmful UVA and UVB rays. But, sun rays are not only harmful factor from which our skin needs protection. There is something more and that is environmental pollutants. Neither SPF nor PA factor protects our skin from these pollutants, but antioxidants can.

A broad spectrum sunscreen must have the power of antioxidants

Antioxidants are the best thing when we talk about protection against pollutants. Thanks to the degree of protection, antioxidant-embedded sunscreens are becoming the first choice of everybody’s skincare routine.

WHY ANTIOXIDANTS?

Are you aware when UV rays, blue light (from digital devices) and pollutants strike the skin, it leads to the production of free radicals?

These free radicals are highly active molecules that may lead to inflammation, premature aging, fine lines and deep skin damage. Antioxidants help to offset these problems by neutralizing free radicals.

Therefore, alongwith SPF and PA, antioxidants are also essential.

So, always choose a sunscreen that is embedded with UV protectants, anti-oxidants, urban pollution protectants, IR and Blue light protectants.

However, the search for finding sunscreen for winters not ends here. There are some other features which are must to consider while shopping for sunscreen for cold weather.

· What SPF number is best for skin? No doubt, there is no such cream that blocks 100% sun rays but yes, a number which can protect 97-98% of UV rays are best to use. For best results, choose a sunscreen with SPF more than 30, ideally SPF 50.

· Another thing that is also necessary to consider is that the sunscreen should be non-sticky. In winters, we apply tons of moisturizer to provide intense hydration deeper into the skin and that is why the sunscreen should be light enough and non-tacky. For that, always go for a gel based sunscreen as it never makes your skin too greasy. Moreover, it spreads smoothly and evenly on your skin.

So, don’t forget to cherish your skin with a gel based sunscreen with the richness of SPF, PA and antioxidants this winter.

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