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Enjoying the outdoors this winter?
You’re missing something crucial if you’re not wearing sun protection in the winter. It’s easy to relegate shades and sunscreen to the same hot weather category as shorts and bug spray. Many of us remember to protect out skin — after all, sun exposure is the number one cause of aging and more than 90% of skin cancer cases are caused by sun exposure. But many of us forget to protect our eyes by wearing sunglasses.
But you should protect your skin with sunscreen and keep those delicate peepers safe with sunglasses! With up to 80% of the sun’s rays still making it through the clouds, it’s important to remember sun protection in winter (Skin Cancer Foundation).
How Dangerous Are UV Rays in Winter?
It’s true; the UV-rays aren’t necessarily as strong in winter as they are in the summer months. But that doesn’t mean what UV rays there are aren’t dangerous or that your risk doesn’t go up at certain times.
Sun protection is especially important for winter sports enthusiasts. A study cited by USA Today showed that those engaged in winter sports were much more concerned about wearing proper gear for the cold than wearing proper gear to protect themselves from the sun (USA Today).
And this can be especially dangerous. For every 1000 feet above sea level, the UV radiation goes up 4-5%. Meaning that skiing at an altitude of 9,000-10,000 feet above sea level ups UV-radiation by 35-45%. Worse still? The snow reflects up to 80% of the sun’s rays, meaning the rays hit you twice (Skin Cancer Foundation, National Weather Service).
Your Eyes and the Sun
UV exposure is, undoubtedly, bad for your eyes. But what can it do?
Well, first and foremost, UV-rays on your eyes regularly can cause cataracts to form and cloud your vision. Eventually, if left untreated, cataracts can result in blindness. So time spent with your eyes unprotected in the sun could result in the loss of your vision (Time, EPA).
But that’s not the only issue that can come from unprotected eyes.
Photokeratitis, also known as snow blindness, is temporary blindness that results from time spent around reflective surfaces areas, such as those with sand or snow, as well as the bright lights of tanning beds. It comes from a bad burn to the cornea, or the transparent covering of the eye.
While cancer of the eye is rare, UV-exposure can cause melanoma in the skin around the eyes, including eyelids (MedlinePlus). And though cancer is rare, sun damage can still cause a growth, known as a Pterygium, that can obstruct vision by covering the cornea.
What You Need to Protect Yourself
Unlike your summer shades, though, you might want to consider something a little lighter so that you can see more easily in the gray winter months. Nonetheless, it still needs to have 99% or greater UV-protection. And it’s a good idea to invest in a pair that’s polarized so that you don’t have issues with glare — especially because snow can be very problematic.
As for skin protection — that’s pretty simple. Stick with a sunscreen that’s SPF 30 or higher and reapply every two hours. Something like Neutrogena Ultra Sheer SPF 45 ($13.34 for two, amazon.com) should do the trick!
Remember, sun protection in winter is crucial and too many of us forget to put it on. While there’s a lot of information on there about wearing sunscreen — though too many people still forget it! — there’s not as much information about wearing sunglasses.
While it’s particularly important that winter sports enthusiasts protect themselves, everyone needs to worry about winter sun protection. So, be sure to slather on that sunscreen (SPF30 or higher, ever two to three hours) and pop on those shades (99-100UV protection with polarized lenses) and enjoy the outdoors during the winter season.