New Research Exposes Alarming Truth About Winter Sun

New Research Exposes Alarming Truth About Winter SunIt may be frigid and gloomy outside this time of year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re any safer from harmful UV rays. In fact, a lot of people put themselves more at risk in the colder months because sun care gets ignored.

One of the biggest precursors for healthy skin is proper sun care all year round. That’s why experts are constantly urging us to put on lots of sunscreen before heading outdoors, whether it’s summer or winter. Not only does proper sun care protect you from developing skin cancer, but it also protects you from what is arguably the biggest visible sign of aging: wrinkles.

According to a study published in the journal JAMA Dermatology, just two days of exposure to UV rays, specifically UVA1 rays, causes cell damage and molecular changes, which is all it takes for wrinkles to start forming. And this damage can occur even after just brief exposure to the rays without adequate sun care.

The study exposed 22 volunteers to low levels of UVA1 rays on a small spot on their buttocks. The skin was then assessed for any molecular changes. The findings were surprising and alarming; it took just two exposures to develop the enzymes that break down collagen, the protein responsible for firm, toned skin. In other words, negligent sun care can lead to the accelerated breakdown of collagen in the body, which means the development of wrinkles.

New Research Exposes Alarming Truth About Winter SunThe findings of this research are significant for the study of sun care, because previous research has focused mostly on UVB rays. While UVB rays are just as dangerous for your skin, the majority of sunlight is made up of UVA rays, especially UVA1, which is also what’s used in tanning beds. Furthermore, while UVB rays are mostly only present around midday, UVA is beaming down on you all day, making your sun care practices that much more critical if you want healthy skin that’s free of wrinkles.

UVA1 rays are also more alarming because, unlike UVB, they aren’t filtered out by glass. So, if you sit by a window, you want to make sure you’re practicing proper sun care. Plus, all types of UV rays, including the ones that cause wrinkles, bounce off elements like snow and rain, and most of them penetrate through clouds. So just because the temperature has dropped, it doesn’t mean sun care isn’t still necessary. If you’re going to be heading outside, even for a short time, you should always apply sunscreen and reapply every two hours if you want to prevent wrinkles, regardless of what the weather’s like.

When shopping for sunscreen and other sun care products, pay close attention to the ingredients. Zinc and avobenzone are two ingredients that are known to protect against the UVA1 rays that cause wrinkles and skin cancer. Also, make sure that your sun care products offer “broad spectrum” protection.

Elias, N., “What’s Really Giving You Wrinkles,” Prevention web site, December 2013;
Ericson, J., “Daily Exposure To UVA1 Sunlight Could Accelerate Skin Aging In Just Two Days,” Medical Daily web site, December 8, 2013;
“Shining a light on the damage that daily sun exposure can cause: U-M study highlights need for better sunscreen,” University of Michigan Health System web site, December 4, 2013;