Most people think about sunscreen as something for hot summer days. You’re sure to pack extra on trips to the beach when you’re out baking all day in direct rays. Maybe you even incorporate it as a part of your daily skincare routine during the warm, sunny months. But sunscreen during the winter? What’s the point of that?
As it turns out, even when you don’t “feel” the sun, its rays are still affecting your skin. That is true even when there is heavy cloud coverage. Most damaging sun rays aren’t affected by clouds at all.
You’re particularly vulnerable if you’re going skiing or doing any other outdoor activity in the snow or at high elevation. But even if you’re staying home for the winter, it’s vital to incorporate sunscreen into your skincare regimen year-round. Let’s break down why, and take a look at the best winter sunscreen products.
Sunburn is the most common type of damage to the skin that most people associate with UV rays. But did you know there are actually two different types of UV rays? One is much more noticeable, but the other is far more common and very capable of damaging your skin at all times.
Ultraviolet B rays are the ones that are primarily responsible for sunburn. These are the rays you feel when you’re standing in the beating sun, with no shade. They have a shorter wavelength, and are particularly active during the sunniest parts of the day, from spring to autumn. They’re not as prevalent in the winter and don’t pass through clouds as easily.
Ultraviolet A rays, on the other hand, are much more common, making up nearly 95% of the UV rays that reach us here on earth. UVA rays are responsible for a more subtle but still significant type of damage to the skin. They cause your skin to age, leading to dark spots and heavy wrinkles. And unlike UVB rays, they are just as strong year-round and aren’t impeded by clouds or even glass.
Everyone associates sunscreen with preventing sunburn, and that is indeed a widespread and important use. But it also plays a significant role in preventing your skin from aging. Do you know those celebrities that seem to look exactly the same at 50 as they did at 20? You can bet the house that sunscreen is a major part of their skincare regimen.
And believe it or not, this can actually be more important during the winter. While the sunburn causing UVB rays aren’t as prevalent during the winter, aging UVA rays, and they can sometimes hit you even harder.
In the northern hemisphere, the earth is actually closest to the sun in the middle of the winter. Plus, snow reflects and amplifies UV rays, meaning they could hit you twice. And if you’re skiing, snowboarding, or doing any other activity at high altitude, UV exposure gets stronger in a thinner atmosphere.
If you want to keep your skin looking soft and young, make sure you’re using winter sunscreen products.
So, you’re interested in skincare and want to purchase some winter sunscreen products. But how do you know what to choose? Here are some of the most critical factors to look for to help you find the best sunscreen for winter:
One of the first things to think about is the level of SPF. Winter is unique, and the sun presents a different, subtler threat than the one you’re used to on a day at the beach in the summertime. But it’s still important to make sure you have sufficient protection. To avoid the aging effect caused by UVA rays, we recommend using a broad-spectrum SPF 15 sunscreen at a minimum.
While sunburn-causing UVB rays aren’t as intense during the winter, if you’re going to be spending time out in the snow, the reflecting rays still leave you at risk for sunburn. In this case, we recommend aiming a little high—look for an SPF 30 to 45.
Some of you surely have a very crowded cabinet of beauty and skincare products and are probably dreading finding space for a new winter sunscreen product. But you don’t need to get something that’s exclusively a sunscreen. Plenty of other types of products contain necessary winter sunscreen protection. Those include:
By purchasing one of these hybrid products, you can save space in your medicine cabinet, and knock out two birds with one stone during your morning routine.
Additionally, winter sunscreen products typically come in one of several different forms: creams, sprays, powders, or sticks.
Take some time to familiarize yourself with the ingredients in the product. Keep in mind, you will be regularly applying this product directly to your skin. It’s up to you whether you want to prioritize all-natural, all-organic ingredients. But either way, be sure to avoid toxic, harmful ingredients like parabens and phthalates.
Without further ado, here is our list of the best winter sunscreen products in no particular order:
This formula is a sunscreen/moisturizer hybrid that’s great for dry skin. It offers high-quality protection from UV rays, having been awarded the Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation. It also includes Vitamin E and a blend of antioxidants to nourish your skin for long term health.
A lightweight cream, it absorbs well and isn’t oily or filmy. Further, it is entirely non-toxic and features no synthetic dyes or scents.
The Freeze 24/7 Ice Shield Facial Cleanser is an innovative product that helps you immediately incorporate sunscreen into your morning skincare routine. It’s a face wash with sunscreen built-in, so you don’t have to worry about adding an extra step; every time you wash your face, you’re automatically applying SPF 15.
It’s on the lighter side, so if you’re regularly going out in the snow and at risk for sunburn, you might want to look for a higher SPF. But this product is excellent for providing a baseline to fight against the aging effects of UVA rays.
This sport sunscreen is perfect for active winter days on the slopes. It’s SPF 50, so you’re protected from sunburn even if you spend all day out in the snow. Plus, it’s water and sweat-resistant and lasts for 80 minutes before it starts to fade, so you don’t have to worry about continually re-applying even if you’re getting a workout in skiing or snowboarding.
COOLA Suncare Classic Sport Sunscreen is made with organic, plant-based ingredients, and it infuses your skin with vitamins and antioxidants.
If you have sensitive skin, it likely gets even more irritated in the cold winter months. Supergoop’s skin-soothing mineral sunscreen is perfect for you. Designed with olive polyphenols and omega fatty acids, this lightweight sunscreen calms redness and reduces skin irritation. The broad-spectrum SPF 40 formula immediately protects against UVA and UVB rays.
Most of the products on this list are cream-based sunscreens. But if you already have several moisturizers and creams in your skincare routine, you might not be eager to add another one on top of the rest.
That’s where this powder sunscreen comes into play. Simply use the included brush to dust a layer of sunscreen over your favorite moisturizer. It’s lightweight but effective, with a strong mineral-based SPF 45 formula. Plus, it’s compact, which makes it easy to take on the go and re-apply as needed throughout the day.
Obagi Professional-C Suncare Broad Spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen not only helps to prevent the effects of aging by fighting off UVA rays, it actually helps reverse some signs of aging in your skin. That is thanks to its infusion of Vitamin C. Vitamin C is rich in antioxidants and helps smooth out wrinkles and fine lines.
It also works to moisturize dry skin and applies with a soft matte finish. And works on all skin types, and contains an effective broad-spectrum SPF 30 formula.
While it is traditionally considered a summer product, sunscreen is essential in the cold winter months, as well. While short wave UVB rays aren’t as strong in the winter, UVA rays remain just as intense year-round. Without including sunscreen in your daily skincare regimen, you risk not only prematurely aged skin but also sunburn and potentially even skin cancer.
Thankfully, there are several high-quality winter sunscreen products available on the market. With so many out there, it can be challenging to find which one is best for your needs. But if you follow our simple guide, you’ll be sure to find the best sunscreen for winter.