We’ve been warned by our doctors, by the Cancer Council and by news media; we need to continue wearing sunscreen and getting our regular skin cancer checks even in winter.
It’s true that the sun isn’t as strong in the winter as it is in the summer, but a recent report from Australia’s peak Skin Cancer authorities found that small amounts of cumulative damage over the year can become significant. This includes short exposures to the sun such as walking out to get lunch and waiting for the bus in the morning.
Sunscreen is just as important in the winter as in the summer, but do you need to apply the same amount? Should you reapply as often?
Our Skin Cancer Doctor, Dr Ahmad Sayed, recommends using the Sun Smart app on your phone because it’s a quick and reliable guide to the level of ultraviolet radiation outside (you can download it free from Google play or the app store). If the app predicts that UV levels will reach a level of 3 or higher, then you should apply sunscreen.
During winter, there may be days on which the UV levels don’t reach a level of 3 until mid-morning, and they drop again in the afternoon. It’s still important to wear sunscreen if you aren’t outdoors during these hours. Unless your windows are specially treated to block UVA and UVB radiation, you could be exposed without realising it. Most offices and meeting rooms are designed to let in natural light, but most are not treated to prevent UVA and UVB rays.
It’s easy enough to make sunscreen a habit if you fit it into your existing routine. You can apply sunscreen every morning (winter and summer) after a shower. Keep a bottle in the bathroom to make it more convenient. You can also keep a spare bottle on your desk or purchase a key-chain sized travel bottle. If you’re going to have lunch outside, and especially if you work outdoors, reapply as needed. Remember, just because you aren’t sun burnt, it doesn’t mean you aren’t developing cumulative damage in your skin.