Skin damage comes from UV radiation that is still present during winter, so it is just as important as ever to make sure you are taking the proper safety precautions when exposing yourself to the sun. Here are 5 useful tips that can help you stay skin cancer safe this winter:
1. Pay Attention to The Daily UV Index Forecast
One of the critical things to understand when considering sun protection in winter is that UV intensity is not the same as heat. It is possible to have a cloudy or cold day with a relatively high UV intensity that can still significantly damage your skin.
Therefore, you should make a habit of checking the UV index forecast in your area every day. The UV index is a measure of the intensity of UV rays at any moment in time. An index of 1 or 2 is generally considered a safe level of exposure. Levels 3 and higher are considered progressively more dangerous. Winter days in Australia can often reach UV levels of 3+, meaning that sun protection should still be an essential consideration for anyone looking to spend time outdoors during the colder seasons.
2. Take Extra Care When in The Snow, Especially at High Altitudes
While snow and high altitudes are relatively rare in Australia, many Aussies enjoy a good run on the slopes or a fun winter getaway up in the mountains. For Australians more used to the beach than the mountains, it is important to understand that UV rays work differently at different attitudes.
The higher you go, the more intense UV radiation becomes, increasing by 5% with every 1,000 feet. This means that by world standards, Mount Kosciuszko (a small mountain) sees 35% more intense radiation than places at sea level.
A second reason winter protection is so vital in mountainous areas is that snow reflects up to 80% of the sun’s UV radiation. This means that not only is UV radiation more intense the higher up you go but the snow ensures that you get a double dose.
3. Avoid Sun Exposure When The Sun is at its Peak
The best way to avoid skin damage in winter is to avoid sun exposure during peak hours, generally between 10 am and 4 pm. This ensures that you are not exposing yourself when the sun is at its peak, but if you want to go outside, you should follow all the usual safety precautions that you would in summer.
4. Don't Forget The 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.
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 skin 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.
Winter is The Ideal Time to Get Your Skin Checked
Winter is also an ideal time to get a skin check. It often takes dangerous skin conditions a little while to develop and 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.
A skin check is a quick process that ensures no moles on your body show irregularities that might develop into skin cancer. Book a skin check with SunDoctors online today.