Here’s why you need UV protection even during winter

Warm winter days often lead to more people outside without protecting skin

Sunrise Cocoa Beach (Samara Cokinos, WKMG)

ORLANDO, Fla. – This week has been a warm one, with highs above average in the low 80s each day.

Many people, not just tourists, step outdoors to enjoy the mild weather. Some even head to the beach. Yes it’s winter, but that doesn’t mean the sun goes on vacation. The harmful ultraviolet rays are still out there even during our shorter winter days.

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This is a sunset view of the Indian Ocean from the International Space Station. The deep oranges are from the troposphere, where we get all of our weather. The pink to white region above the clouds is the stratosphere. The stratosphere absorbs much of the harmful UV rays from the sun. The blue layers make up the upper atmosphere including the mesosphere, thermosphere, ionsphere and exosphere. The astronauts aboard the space station see 16 sunrises and sunsets per day.

It’s all about location for us Floridians. We are closer to the equator and while the sun isn’t beating down as hard or as long as the steamy summer months, our UV index is usually moderate. That means in about 40 minutes, you can end up with a sunburn even in winter.

On the UV Index, the level moderate means it only takes about 45 mins for a sunburn to happen or to cause damage to the skin. (WKMG)

A sunburn is not something most people think about when the air is cooler and the daylight is less. In fact, it can create a false sense of safety even up in the cold northern winters.

Have you ever gone on a winter vacation up north and come back with a sunburn? The snow was most likely the culprit. It has a very high albedo, or reflectivity, which sends the sun back up toward your face. So you’re getting hit twice with harmful UVB rays. Those are the ones responsible for sunburns. Once coming down plus the 80% that’s being reflected back up.

The intensity is often overlooked because playing in the snow can be fun and then when it’s cold outside, it’s not as noticeable than when it feels like 100 degrees outside. That’s very similar to playing in the water while in the heat. In shallow water, the sand or the bottom of the pool reflects 50% of the rays back up. Your body isn’t as hot as it would be out of the water and often times, people spend longer in the sun without reapplying proper protection as it gets washed off.

Here are a few tips this winter, whether a trip to the beach is in the books or not.

Watch the weather

Keep in mind even when there’s a little more cloud cover while UVB rays are blocked, there are UVA rays that cause cancer and wrinkles that get through and can cause harm to the skin. Also, don’t let the cooler days make it feel like you don’t need to protect your skin. Sure, UV rays are stronger in summer, but they don’t hibernate in the winter.

Protect your skin

Applying a good SPF 30 or higher always helps, but adding a hat adds a benefit. Shading the sensitive skin on the face adds an extra layer of protection to the SPF that was applied. It also helps protect your eyes, which is the next tip.

Sunglasses. More than just a fashion statement

Sunglasses can protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. (Pexels.)

Investing in a good pair of sunglasses that block out UVA & UVB rays does more than keep you from squinting. Did you know that too much eye exposure to the sun can actually aid in cataract development? The National Eye Institute research shows UV rays damage the lens protein on the eye known as glycation which is oxidative stress to the lens.

Location, location, location

Think about where you will be spending your time outdoors. The lighter the surface you’re standing on, the more it will reflect the sun double exposing skin the ultraviolet radiation.

Cocoa Beach, Florida. (WKMG)

Try to take frequent breaks in the shade. In the summer, this gives the body a break from constantly keeping the body cool, which lessens the risk of heat stroke or overheating. In the winter, it’s important too but more to lessen sun exposure.


About the Author:

Emmy Award Winning Meteorologist Samara Cokinos joined the News 6 team in September 2017. In her free time, she loves running and being outside.