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Protect Your Skin in Winter
Skin Institute
May 10, 2015

Even on a cloudy day UVA and UVB rays penetrate into the skin. So it’s important to use sunscreen even in winter. We sat down and spoke with the Appearance Medicine team at our New Lynn clinic about the importance of SPF. 

Why do we need to use sunscreen in winter?

Sunscreen is just as important in winter as it is in summer. Even on a cloudy day UVA and UVB rays penetrate into the skin. A common presentation seen at our clinics is people with Actinic Keratosis (pre-cancerous cells). Recent research suggests people who use sunblock on a regular basis have fewer AK’s to those that don’t.

What are the active ingredients to look out for?

Zinc Oxide based sunblocks are best. Zinc Oxide provides protection from UVA and UVB rays. Often people will be reluctant to use sunblock, as they are concerned that their skin might break out or become too oily. Zinc calms the skin rather than irritating it. Zinc also has an anti-inflammatory component, known as noncomedogenic. Its a winner!

Most good formulations now contain Antioxidants. Nutrients such as Vit A, E, green tea and licorice. Antioxidants protect the skin against free radicals (unstable molecules), environmental effects, pollutants, smoking and stress. It’s the UVA rays and free radicals that age our skin prematurely.

Is there anything to watch out for or avoid in a sunscreen?

Personally I avoid sunscreens that contain chemicals like para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), artificial colours or perfumes. These ingredients often irritate my skin. At the Skin Institute, we recently formulated our own facial sunscreen, “Cherry Black” – this contains no nasty chemicals and includes the added benefit of being 20% zinc. It can be also be challenging finding a zinc based sunblock that suits your skin colour, that also does not irritate your skin – we stock various brands that can do this.

How often should you apply sunscreen in winter – is once in the morning enough?

It depends if you are planning on hitting the slopes or working in an office all day. When you are out in the snow, pack a pocket sized sunscreen that is easy to apply and carry with you so you can reapply regularly throughout the day. I also recommend carrying a protective lip balm when you are out in the elements.

UVB rays alter at different times of the day and season, whereas UVA are the same strength through summer and winter. Remember it’s the UVA rays that age our skin prematurely. Therefore if you sit in front of a glass window all day, you really should reapply some form of sun protection. BB creams and mineral powders are ideal for this.


Is a moisturiser with an SPF enough in winter?

Yes, undoubtedly. Just remember most sunblocks last an average of two to three hours. So although the moisturiser can be enough, if you’re out in the elements, you’ll need to reapply.

What is your favourite sunscreen and why? 

I prefer using Cherry Black for my face because it doesn’t irritate my skin. Oasis was definitely a family favourite for us this year as it is reasonably priced and contains mostly natural ingredients.

What does UVA, UVB & SPF mean?

A simple analogy is A is for ‘Aging’ and B is for ‘Burn’. UVA Rays – age our skin prematurely and also increase skin cancer risk.
UVB Rays – burn our skin. These rays are primarily responsible for all skin effects.

SPF (Sun Protection Factor) – provides a measure of how long you can be protected in sunshine. The SPF rating is calculated by comparing the time needed to burn protected skin versus the time needed to burn unprotected skin.

For example, if Ava turns red after 15 minutes in the sun, then 15 minutes becomes her initial burning time. Now if Ava uses a sunscreen with SPF15, it multiplies the initial burning time by 15 i.e 15 x15 = 225 minutes (3 hours, 45 minutes).

Most sunblocks last an average of 2-3 hours. If you do swim/sweat then you need to reapply your sunblock more often.

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