Skin experts: Even in a cold, gray winter 'everyone needs sunscreen'

6abc Digital Staff Image
Monday, January 29, 2024
Even in cold, gray weather, we all need sunscreen: Skin experts
A Temple Health expert explains why sunscreen with both mineral and chemical protection is so important for all ages and skin types.

FORT WASHINGTON, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- With the bitter weather of late, you're probably not thinking much about sunscreen. But it should be a priority, even in winter, say skin experts.

Dennis Leigh of Wyncote has always had sensitive skin.

"I can't really use anything that has fragrance or perfume stuff, because I break out," says Leigh.

Gabriella Amige, a physician assistant with Temple Health's Dermatology department has been helping Leigh with dry skin, and making sunscreen an everyday routine.

"Whether it's mid-August or whether it's the depth of the winter in February, we should be applying sunscreen," advises Amige.

She explains that both UVA and UVB rays contribute to skin cancer.

"One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime now," she notes.

UVA rays stay strong all year and can get through clouds, fog - and glass - such as car windows.

"Where the sun came in. And I got burned here," Dennis recalls.

UVB rays are weaker in winter but reflect off snow and ice. Snow reflects up to 80% of the UV light, so you get hit from above and below.

Amige says a broad-spectrum product with both physical and chemical blockers is a must.

"The main thing we need to be looking for on the back of the sunscreen is zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide," she says.

Minerals in sunscreen act as a physical shield to block UV rays. Chemicals absorb UV energy and are represented in the SPF number.

A 30 SPF will block 97% of the UVB rays and Amige says higher SPFs aren't necessary.

"After 30 SPF, it doesn't give us much more coverage," she notes.

Also, look for products marked "face."

"A lot of the "'ace' mineral sunscreens actually have zinc that is super micronized. So, when it's applied to the face, it doesn't leave such a chalky white cast," she says.

Tinted formulations are good for skin of color. Sunscreen-moisturizer combinations sound good, but Amige says most lack mineral blockers.

"It's definitely not going to do the job when it comes to preventing skin cancers," Amige says.

She says moisturizers go on first, then sunscreen.

And don't forget sunscreen on the back of your hands! They get a lot of UV exposure while you're driving.