Is your sunscreen packed away with your beach clothes and sandals? You may want to reconsider and take out that sunscreen for winter. Activities such as shoveling, skiing, and even sitting by a window can put you at risk for sun damage, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Skiing down high altitudes can be just as dangerous to your skin as tanning in the middle of July without sunscreen. That's because the higher your elevation, the more exposed you are to UV radiation. Experts estimate that your risk increases by 8 to 10 percent with every 1,000 feet you are above sea level. Not only that, 80 percent of UV light reflects off of snow.

When you head indoors for warmth, your risk is still the same. The reason? While UVB rays are effectively blocked by glass, UVA rays aren't. At least 50 percent of UVA radiation can pass through home windows and 60 percent of UVA rays can pass through car windows.

According to Peter A. Anderson, a professor of health communications at San Diego State University, there's absolutely no correlation between temperature and UV radiation.

There is good news, however, and the solution is simple: Use a moisturizing, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. Look for one with UVA-blocking ingredients such as avobenzone, ecamsule, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide and with moisturizing properties that help protect against dryness cause by harsh winter weather.

If you're planning to enjoy the slopes all day, boost your SPF protection to 30; reapply it every two hours and after sweating or exposure to snow or wind (since these elements can wash or wear away sunscreen). Apply the sunscreen to your nose and chin. Don't neglect your lips, ears, eye area, neck, scalp, or hands. And keep on hand an SPF 15 lip balm for extra protection.

A few other items to complete your UV protection when spending your day outside include the following:

  • A broad-brimmed hat
  • Gloves
  • UV-blocking sunglasses with a wraparound or large frame




Rabin, R. (November 18, 2010). Perceptions: UV radiation poses hidden risk for skiers. The New York Times,

Essential sun safety for skiers & snowboarders, Essential sun safety information for skiers, UVA radiation: a danger outdoors and indoors.