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Hat, Mittens, Scarf … Sunscreen?!

Dermatologist offers tips for skin care in the winter

It has been a brutal winter here in Illinois. We never forget to wear plenty of winter layers to keep our body warm and covered, but too many of us forget to keep our face, neck, hands, and exposed skin protected from the sun’s harmful rays.

“But why bother?” you ask. Well, take a little dermatology advice from our Naperville-area practice. For one thing, there is a thinner ozone layer in the wintertime. That means there is less ozone in our atmosphere to absorb the sun’s UV rays. It may feel like the sun has little to no affect when it is -15 out, but there are actually more of the sun’s harmful rays hitting your skin through your windshield as you drive to work, shovel your driveway, or take old Fido for a walk. Furthermore, the snow and ice surrounding us reflects the sun’s rays, so we are actually getting hit by the same ray twice! This only increases the risk of damage.

What does this mean? It means you should keep up with your SPF routine every day, regardless of the forecast or time of year. I often get asked which sunscreen is best, and my first response is “the one you will wear!” But all joking aside, when picking out your protectant, keep the following guidelines in mind:

  1. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen. This means it covers both UV-A and UV-B sun rays. (Remember, UV-A causes premature aging and skin cancer, and UV-B causes sunburns.)
  2. Use an SPF 30 or higher. And no, using an SPF 15 moisturizer and an SPF 15 makeup doesn’t mean additively you are wearing an SPF 30 — nice try. You are only as protected as the highest number you are applying. (So in this case, SPF 15.)
  3. Apply liberally and evenly. It takes about a teaspoon or more to cover your face effectively.
  4. If you have intolerant skin, are prone to breakouts, or feel you are “allergic” to sunscreen, often you are sensitive to chemical sunscreens. I recommend looking for products that contain only zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as their active ingredients. These organic substances are thought to be the gold standard for ultimate sun protection as they block and deflect the sun’s rays. Try SkinCeuticals® Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50. This product contains a transparent zinc and titanium mix, so it never looks like clown makeup.

You can find more helpful info at www.skincancer.org. Have a healthy and happy winter!

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