There is a misconception that during the cooler months, sun protection isn’t a necessity and the winter sun is nothing to worry about. While you are more at risk during summer, skin cancer can happen anytime. This is especially true in a country like Australia, where UV rays levels are some of the highest in the world.
Therefore, it is important to practise sun protection and skin care throughout the year. Skin damage in winter comes from the UV radiation which is still present during the winter season. That said, let’s take a look at some of the top skin protection tips during the colder months.
1. Wear sunscreen
Whenever you plan to spend time outside, it should be second nature to apply quality sunscreen, regardless of the time of year. Sunscreen creates a barrier on your skin against UVA and UVB rays, greatly improving your skin’s protection. We highly recommend purchasing sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 30+ and applying it to your skin 20–30 minutes before heading outside. This allows the sunscreen time to absorb and provide the most protection.
2. Pay attention to the daily UV index
A common misconception is that heat and UV levels are the same thing. However, UV levels can be high even on a relatively cold day. When checking the temperature in your area for the day, look at the UV index forecast to get an idea of the most UV intense times.
3. Avoid sun exposure when the sun is at its peak
Peak sun hours still apply during winter, especially in a country like Australia. Though applying sunscreen is one of the key steps for protecting your skin, it’s not a hundred per cent impenetrable, so limiting your time during peak hours will help reduce your risk.
4. Don’t let the weather fool you
We understand how people can conclude that UV rays don’t exist during cooler weather or on overcast days, but this is simply a myth and a dangerous one at that. The damaging effects of the sun can catch people off guard when they forgo sun protection on these colder, cloudier days.
Performing a few simple steps, like applying sunscreen, wearing clothing that protects your skin and knowing when to seek shade, can greatly reduce your chances of sunburn in winter and worse.
5. Wear sunglasses
Your skin isn’t the only part of your body that is vulnerable to the sun. Your eyes can be harmed by exposure to UV rays and the best protection is a pair of quality polarised sunglasses. Along with guarding you against sun damage (and making you look pretty swish), sunnies have the bonus of making it easier to see when driving, walking or cycling, making your journey safer in more ways than one.
6. Wear a wide-brimmed hat
The face and neck are the most common places skin cancers occur due to the exposed skin getting more UV exposure. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat provides 360-degree shading that a cap doesn’t provide.
7. Be wary of snow
Snow isn’t an everyday thing for most Australians, so the average local might not even consider there would be any UV radiation risk from snow. The higher your altitude, the more severe UV rays become. On top of that, you may be surprised to learn snow, like water, is highly reflective and this contributes to UV levels being higher in alpine regions. So, even if you go somewhere snowy for your holidays, don’t forget to put on sunscreen and wear protective clothing.
8. Be aware of the skin you’re in
Keeping an eye on your skin isn’t something you should take a break from during the winter months. Even if you were to get skin damage during the summer, lesions on your skin or changes in moles might not become apparent until the winter.
Knowing what’s normal for your skin and keeping an eye out for changes is the best way to catch suspect marks. Melanoma can appear in pre-existing moles, so we recommend using the ABCDE method to spot any potential symptoms.
A for asymmetrical moles.
B for borders that are unclear or jagged.
C for the colour change, multiple colours in a mole or spot.
D for a diameter larger than 6 mm.
E for evolving moles or any changes.
Keep an eye out for lesions, odd bumps, rashes and sores that won’t heal, or anything else unusual with your skin. Self checks are great for staying on top of changes in your body, but the only way to diagnose whether that mark is anything to worry about is to see a professional.
9. Get a skin check in winter
Skin lesions and cancer can take months to develop and though they may seem to come out of nowhere, most skin cancers take a little while before visible signs are noticeable. Never assume how old or serious a suspicious lump is and always have it checked by a professional.
Early detection is key. Skin cancer is much easier and less invasive to treat when caught in the early stages. Leaving it for a few months can be enough time for it to develop into a tumour or to reach your blood.
It makes sense that when summer comes around, people suddenly remember they should get a skin check. While we’re all for that, it can get a little busy. Having your skin checked in winter has all the benefits of a summer booking, plus you’re more likely to find a parking spot.
10. Book an appointment with SunDoctors
The sun doesn’t take a break during the winter months and nor should your sun protection routine. Our research shows that number of adults who practise adequate sun protection drops to as low as 31% during winter. That is something we want to change. Taking a few minutes to slip, slop and slap could save you and your loved ones years of trouble.
Along with sun protection, your best defence against skin cancer is regular skin checks. SunDoctors are skin cancer experts and our friendly professional team is here to take care of you and your family. Book your skin check appointment today!