SPF in Winter

The harmful effects of UV rays are cumulative, you may not see them for many years but when they do show up they will greet you at best as loss of elasticity, wrinkles, pigmentation and sun spots, and at worse as moles. The ones you swear you didn’t have before that now seem to be changing shape!  You can skip ahead to tips in the last 2 paragraphs if you already appreciate the dangers.

Sunlight contains a spectrum of wavelengths including visible and invisible light; ultraviolet light forms part of the invisible spectrum of which UVA and UVB belong.

UVA light (think sunbeds) contributes to premature ageing and increases the risk of developing skin cancer as it penetrates deeper into the skin.  The intensity with which UV rays are emitted is consistent throughout the day, it penetrates cloud and passes through glass.

UVB light is more intense and we see its effect as sunburn.  Sunburn itself indicates damage to the skin and can be a trigger for genetic mutation.

Before I continue on winter sun, have a think about the other stress winter poses to our skin health.  We go from being outside where it can be cold and damp, bright but windy, frosty yet warm and then we go inside where the central heating is on full and the atmosphere is really dry.  We’re also missing the tan we had in the summer months where the added melanin produced offered us some protection.  Our skin is in a far more compromised state than in the fresh air of summer.

The SPF of sunscreens is measured using 2mg/cm2 but studies show we don’t use anything close to this amount.  Lorna Bowes of Aesthetic Source first introduced me to this fact by holding up a large bottle and asking how much would I return home with after a week in the sun. Like everyone else in the room the answer was at least half.  We should have been using a few of those bottles in a week.  By not using the correct amount and reapplying it we end up with an SPF of 5 instead of 25.

My advice this winter is check with your skin care provider that your current regime offers you everything you need to battle the anti-ageing effects of climate change and central heating, don’t skip the SPF even when it’s dull, and if you are taking a winter holiday, especially snow related, be aware that 80% of UV rays can be reflected off the snow and the higher altitude leads to higher exposure.

To finish on an inspirational note, now is the time to book in for the great treatments you put off all summer… if the shorts are packed away for next year it’s an ideal time to commence laser hair removal, or if you want the best skin possible for Christmas a course of chemical peels started In October will get the results you desire.  Winter is great for aesthetics as the chances are you are not going out straight after.  Make those long winter nights work in your favour – get party ready!