Despite the cold temperatures, you can still get sunburned during the winter months. The cold temperatures can make your skin even drier than in the warmer months.
The reason being, the Earth is closest to the sun in the winter and the Earth’s Ozone Layer, or sunscreen, is thinnest during the winter months. Even if you remain inside, you are still at risk for long wave ultraviolet A (UVA) skin damage because 50 to 60 percent of UVA rays can be received through windows.
Sometimes, the lure of winter’s outdoor activities is hard to resist. Did you know that if you are skiing, the snow can reflect back 80 percent of the UVA rays, nearly doubling your exposure?
The strength of the winter sun’s rays (UVA) can cause redness and cracked skin, which is common when the cold, dry winter air takes moisture away from your skin. The top layer of skin is made up of dead cells embedded in a mix of natural oils. The oils in this layer help keep water inside the body and prevent irritants and germs from entering.
The dead cells and skin oils lock some water into the top layer, which keeps the skin soft and smooth. Cold, dry air can damage the top skin layer, allowing water to escape and cause small cracks that expose underlying cells to irritants and germs. This irritation may cause nerves in the skin to send “itch” signals to the brain.
Weather-related itching may be accompanied by other dry skin symptoms, such as dullness, flakiness, roughness and more visible fine lines. Fortunately, weather-related dry skin isn’t usually serious and is easily treated.
When you plan to be outside, it is a good habit to apply sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 about 30 minutes before going out. If you are out for longer periods of time reapply the sunscreen every couple of hours.
If your skin has become red and cracked, you may want to make an appointment with the Flushing Hospital Medical Center’s Ambulatory Care Center. To schedule an appointment, call 718-670-5486.
All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.