Sun protection: A 365 day commitment

December 1, 2006

Winter sun protection is a must, as fresh snow reflects more UV radiation than sea surf. An all year sun protection regimen is essential for healthy skin.

Key Points

Smile. Say "cheese."

Click, click. A camera is capturing your favorite winter vacation moments, but what it may not be capturing is the damage that your skin could be experiencing from exposure to the sun's UVA and UVB rays . . . even in the winter!

By now many people know that surf and sand can reflect significant amounts of UV rays. But few people realize that fresh snow actually reflects more UV radiation than sea surf - up to nearly three times as much (according to a 1986 study by U.S. Army scientist David Sliney)! Other reflecting culprits include buildings (particularly those painted white), light-colored concrete surfaces and even asphalt.

If you're staying around your neighborhood this winter, you still need to be careful. The winter sun is potent, and, reflected off of surfaces, can cause burns and premature aging of the skin. Even the simple act of taking your dog for a long walk in the snow on a bright, crisp winter day can expose unprotected skin to harm.

There's good news, however. A new crop of sunscreens is offering a wide range of benefits - they're easy to apply and offer great protection. The introduction of a Food and Drug Administration-approved sunscreen agent this year, Mexoryl XS, has opened up a new degree of protection. Find it in LaRoche Posay's Anthelios XS Daily Moisturizing Cream with sunscreen. Another great new sunscreen to try is Osmotics Age Prevention Extreme SPF 40. And, a new sunscreen that actually works to repair sun damage, while protecting you from more of it, is NIA 24 Sun Damage Prevention 100 percent Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 - available at many dermatologists' offices.

SPECIFIC INGREDIENTS If you find yourself in a drugstore searching for a sunscreen, it's wise to look for specific ingredients that have been proven to be potent against the sun's UVA and UVB rays.

Look for ingredients such as avobenzone and octocrylene. These can often be found in formulas touting Parsol 1789, among their ingredients. Micronized titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are two other easy-to-find ingredients that offer the protection your skin needs.

When looking for a sunscreen in the winter, however, it is wise to look for expiration dates, often stamped on the bottom of the bottle. Some drugstores carry their merchandise past the expiration date, not bothering to order fresh supplies for winter.

If you're really ambitious about protecting your skin, you might also look for new facial cleansers that have a special technology that will give your skin a healthy dose of sunscreen and won't wash away when you rinse. One to try is Freeze 24/7 Ice Shield Facial Cleanser with SPF 18.

Caring for your skin with year-round applications of sunscreen is one way to make sure that when the cameras are clicking away at your 90th birthday party, your skin looks just as radiant and healthy as it did when you were younger!