Should You Wear Sunscreen in the Winter? Here’s What You Need to Know

Settling the SPF debate once in for all.
BY Sarah Lim
| Last updated Apr, 2023
Sunscreen in the Winter

It’s the dead of winter. Everything is white outside, and changing into outdoor clothes takes at least 15 minutes longer. But at least you can skip sunscreen during your morning skincare routine, right?

You don’t need to wear sunscreen in winter, right?


The truth is that sunscreen is important year-round, even if you’re not lying on a beach soaking up some rays. Here’s why sunscreen should always be a step in your skincare routine, even during the winter.

Why Sunscreen Is Important in Any Season

Why Sunscreen Is Important in Any Season

The sun has its benefits, of course: providing us with light, warmth, and vitamin D. However, the sun also emits ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can cause a range of problems with your skin.

For example, UV radiation can cause skin cancer, decrease collagen production in the skin. It can interfere with the production of new collagen and elastin, two proteins. That can help maintain a supple, firm, and youthful appearance. 

As if all that isn’t alarming enough, damage to your skin from UV rays can be worse if you have additional risk factors for premature skin aging, including smoking and drinking, lack of exercise, and eating an unhealthy diet. 

You can change your lifestyle to help your skin age in a healthier way. But sunscreen is the most important thing you can do to protect your skin from DNA damage. That can lead to cancer and slow the effects of photoaging on your skin. UV exposure is responsible for 80% of visible skin aging. So, protecting your skin from the long-term effects of sun exposure is a must. 

Need another reason to use sunscreen in winter? Research shows sunscreen doesn’t just help prevent skin damage. It may even help reverse the appearance of skin aging, making it important during any season. 

Fact Check: Are the Sun’s Rays Stronger in Winter?

Sun’s Rays Stronger in Winter

While the sun’s rays are not necessarily stronger in the winter, you can still accumulate damage from photoaging and even get sunburn this time of year. 

There are two types of rays from the sun: ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB). While UVB rays can be less strong in the winter, UVA rays remain the same year-round.

UVA rays are most known for causing premature aging of the skin (think A for aging). UVB rays are more responsible for sunburns. The type of DNA damage that can lead to skin cancer (think B for burning). UVA rays are less carcinogenic. Even if you simply spend a few minutes in the sun, they make-up for the majority of the sun’s rays. It can increase your risk for visible skin aging

The winter also brings more of a risk for the reflection of the sun’s rays, especially if you are into winter activities such as snowboarding, skiing, or hiking. Snow and ice can reflect rays from the sun, making them even more harmful to your skin, especially at higher altitudes. Combine stronger sunlight at higher altitudes with its reflection off snow and ice, and you have a recipe for winter sunburn on your hands. 

And in case you’re skipping the slopes this year, even if you are inside, you can’t trust glass to block the sun’s rays enough to prevent skin damage, which makes using sunscreen in winter important. 

The Best Sunscreen to Wear + How to Use for Winter 

The Best Sunscreen to Wear

You can choose from two types of sunscreen: chemical or mineral (sometimes called physical). Chemical sunscreens contain active ingredients such as avobenzone and oxybenzone, while mineral sunscreens typically use zinc oxide or titanium oxide.

As a quick recap, mineral sunscreens are generally better for sensitive skin, while chemical sunscreens are fine for normal skin types. However, which sunscreen you use is up to you. Some people prefer to stick with the more natural ingredients in mineral sunscreen, while others prefer the invisible look of chemical sunscreen without the white cast.

No matter which sunscreen you choose, you should still be using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 30. It doesn’t matter, even if it’s cloudy outside, as 89% of the sun’s rays can still come through on a day with scattered clouds. 

Choose a sunscreen for your skin type and one that you will actually use. If you’re not sure which kind is best for you—there are many options, from chemical, mineral, tinted, powder, and sport sticks. Try a mini size or sample from the company to see which option you like the best. There are a lot of sunscreens out there. So, don’t give up if you don’t find the perfect fit right away.

Other tips for using sunscreen in winter

Other tips for using sunscreen in winter
  • Apply sunscreen daily and follow the directions on the product, as some recommend applying it at least 15 minutes before sun exposure.
  • If you will be outside longer than just walking to your car or driving to the office, you can also apply sunscreen to your hands and use lip balm with sunscreen in it as well. Any exposed areas of skin should be coated with sunscreen.
  • Reapply your sunscreen in winter every two hours or as the product recommends to prevent burns and skin aging.
  • At the end of the day, be sure to double-cleanse with oil to fully remove the sunscreen and prevent clogged pores so you can start with a fresh face the next day.

Get Your Copy of the No-No Skincare Ingredients

When shopping for sunscreen, it’s important to choose the right product for YOUR skin type. You should avoid ingredients that can be potentially harmful to your skin, especially since you’ll be using it daily. Grab your copy of the no-no skincare ingredients to avoid when shopping for winter sunscreen!

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