The weather is cooling down in some parts of the country, which means the issue of sun safety isn’t front of mind anymore. The further we get from summer, the more readily we discard hats and sunscreen from our daily routine.
But just because the days are slightly cooler, it doesn’t mean the sun’s UV rays (which are responsible for tanning, burning and ageing our skin) get much weaker. Living in Australia, we need to protect our skin all year-round, even in winter.
It’s a common myth that we don't get sunburnt on cool or cloudy days. In fact, UV levels are usually strongest between 10am and 3pm every day of the year regardless of the weather or season. While UV rays are usually more intense during the summer months, the rays can't be seen or felt and aren’t actually associated with heat, so we often don’t realise we’re getting sunburnt until after it happens.
UV rays cause damage to the skin cells in as little as 10 minutes of unprotected sun exposure, leading to premature ageing and skin cancer. These rays are highly reflective, which means they're more potent near the snow, water, sand, glass, and concrete.
So with all this in mind, let's get the sunscreen back out of the cupboard and have a look at six ways we can stay sun safe outside of summer.
1. Don’t put away the sunscreen
We probably won’t head to the beach as the weather gets cooler, so we won’t need to slather on so much sunscreen. However, we can’t put the bottle away altogether, either! We should still apply sunscreen to any exposed skin like the face, hands, neck and lips before leaving the house. Choose a product with a high SPF (above 30) and re-apply often if sweating or getting wet.
2. Cover your skin
We wear more clothes in the cooler months anyway, but a good way to protect ourselves from the sun’s UV rays is to minimise exposed skin. Donning a hat or beanie and long sleeves can go a long way in protecting us from both the cold weather and unwanted skin damage!
3. Avoid solariums
Even though commercial tanning beds are illegal in Australia, some people unfortunately seek them out to maintain a “summer tan” during the cooler months. Using a solarium before the age of 35 increases the risk of skin cancer by 75 per cent, so opt for a spray tan or tinted moisturiser for a summer glow instead.
4. Pack the sunglasses
We mentioned that UV rays can easily reflect off high-glare surfaces, which means sunglasses are a must all year-round. Skin cancer forms very commonly around the eye area, and the under-eyes is also a common area to experience ageing concerns like sagging and fine lines which are exacerbated by sun exposure.
5. Protect the lips!
Many of us forget about our lips when we apply sunscreen (not our fault – it tastes terrible). During the cooler months, an SPF lip balm can protect the lips from UV rays, while also helping to keep them hydrated against cold weather.
6. Get a skin cancer check
Did you know that winter is the best time of year to get a skin cancer check? Our summer tans tend to be less visible, revealing the damage from the summer sun and making it easier for doctors to detect changes to the skin cells which might indicate skin cancer. That’s why winter is the ideal time to add a skin cancer check to the to-do list!