Snowfall and Sunscreen? The Importance Of Sunscreen During Winter

Winters in New Jersey usually mean long stretches of overcast skies with the occasional sprinkle of sun. We know that nothing feels better than feeling the warmth of the sun after a string of cloudy days, but there is still the risk of UV damage during the winter months. You can prevent the risk of skin cancer, skin discoloration and inflammation by just putting some sunscreen or a moisturizer with SPF on your face before leaving the house.

Why Sunscreen?

We all know we are supposed to apply and reapply sunscreen when exposed in the sun, but in the JAMA dermatology network (the JAMA Dermatology network is monthly peer-reviewed medical journal published monthly on dermatology) states that less than half of dermatology patients know why sunscreen is important and what it really means.  To begin, let’s start by explaining the two main sources of sun radiation called ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB). They are both harmful and cause sunburn, aging effect and inflammation, but how are they different? UVA rays cause skin cancer by causing changes in our DNA, changes in our cell reactions and gene mutations in our bodies.  UVB rays are responsible more for the immediate changes in our skin such as sunburn and skin pigmentation changes (you know that “tan” we’re looking for).  Although UVB rays are stronger in the summer, they can still injury your skin year-round. These rays are specifically damaging when they are reflected off snow or ice and at high altitudes. Regardless of the type, UV rays are the Number 1 cause of premature skin aging and skin cancer. Similarly, spending 15 minutes in the sun without sunscreen increases your chance of skin damage!  15 Minutes!

What to do if you’re going to be in the sun for longer thWoman running in snowan 15 minutes

The best protection against the sun is staying out of the sun!  We know this is hard to do when we’re trapped inside because of COVID-19 and dying to get out. We’re right there with you! So if you’re like us and need to get out for a hike or hit the slopes, don’t forget things like a hat and sunglasses too. In addition to sunscreen, these will both protect you from the sun.

Another way to protect ourselves is by utilizing sunscreen. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) most adults are recommended to:

  • Use about an ounce of sunscreen to cover their entire body (for reference that is about the size of a shot glass full of sunscreen).
  • The first application of your sunscreen should be about 15 minutes prior to going outside.
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen.  It offers the best protection as it protects from both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
  • At the bare minimum you should re-apply sunscreen every two hours.
  • After sweating.  The more active you are, the more frequently you should re-apply sunscreen.

How to pick the right sunscreen

Walking down the sunscreen aisle we all have seen terms such as waterproof, sports, baby, sensitive skin and insect repellent on the  bottles.  They all have differently large SPF numbers, like 15, 30, 75, but the truth is, none of those terms mean anything and do not make certain bottle “better” than the other. This is because none of those terms have been FDA defined or approved. The only one that may make one bottle stand out over another is: water resistant. However, even water resistant sunscreens need to be reapplied every 40-80 minutes.

When it comes to SPF or sun protection factor, numbers like SPF 30, 50, etc. mean that when exposed to UVB radiation, sunscreen will protect the skin until it is exposed to 30, 50, etc. times more UVB radiation than that is required to burn the unprotected skin. For best protection, AAD recommends using SPF 30 or higher, as SPF 30 filters out 97% of the sun’s UVB rays.

Despite the efforts of the American physicians to encourage the population to utilize sunscreen, in a study published by the AAD in 2011, it was found that 34.4% of Americans were affected by sunburn. Unfortunately, this means that 34.4% of Americans were exposed to skin cancer. In order to minimize exposure, it is recommended to stay out of the sun, especially between hours of 10am-3pm. However, if exposed, sunscreen of SPF 30 or above should be applied and reapplied constantly.

Come see us!

If you want to learn more about preventing skin cancer or aging, check out our blogs on summer sunscreen or dehydration prevention. If you still want to learn more, give us a call today! We have Direct Access in NJ, which means we can get you in for an evaluation without you having to see your Doctor. We can see you probably quicker than you could even get that appointment with your MD,  while also saving you both time and money!  

Please, call us to schedule you evaluation at one of BeneFIT’s locations, Bridgewater (908.203.5200) or Chester (908.879.5700)  with one of our highly trained Doctors of Physical Therapy!


Buller, D. B., Cokkinides, V., Hall, H. I., Hartman, A. M., Saraiya, M., Miller, E., Paddock, L., & Glanz, K. (2011). Prevalence of sunburn, sun protection, and indoor tanning behaviors among Americans: review from national surveys and case studies of 3 states. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 65(5 Suppl 1), S114–S123.

Latha, M. S., Martis, J., Shobha, V., Sham Shinde, R., Bangera, S., Krishnankutty, B., Bellary, S., Varughese, S., Rao, P., & Naveen Kumar, B. R. (2013). Sunscreening agents: a review. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 6(1), 16–26. 

American Academy of Dermatology. How To Decode Sunscreen Labels.

Skin Cancer Foundation. Winter Sun Safety: What to Know About Protecting Yourself in the Colder Months.