Winter Sports - Do I Need Sunscreen?

There are many misconceptions around the sun and the way it works. One of those misconceptions is that we don’t need to use sunscreen in the winter.

It is critical for your skin health and appearance that you wear sunscreen in the winter and in all seasons. The UV rays that burn your skin are different from the UV rays that cause signs of aging like wrinkles. So, just because the winter sun might not cause burns, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be damaging. In fact, snow on the ground can make the sun twice as harmful as usual.

All year round, you should use full-spectrum, mineral sunscreen to protect your dermatological health. But because it’s so common to skip sunscreen in the winter months, that makes it all the more important to learn the reasons why we are so adamant about applying your winter sunscreen!



The reason we often don’t think that sunscreen is necessary in the winter months is because of a misunderstanding of how sun damage happens and what it looks like.

The sun emits both UVA rays and UVB rays, and they affect your skin in very different ways



You can think of UVB rays as the “burning” rays.

You can remember UVA rays as the “aging” rays.

UVB rays are responsible for short-term skin appearance damage like sun burns.

UVA rays cause long-term skin appearance damage like wrinkles and sagging skin.

UVB rays are linked to most forms of skin cancer.

UVA rays are linked to some forms of skin cancer.

UVB rays affect the upper levels of your skin.

UVA rays damage the deeper levels of your skin.

Because UVB rays cause burns, the SPF number on sunscreen is associated with UVB rays.


The higher the SPF number, the more protection from UVB rays and sunburns.

Only broad spectrum sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays. If a sunscreen isn’t broad spectrum, then it doesn’t protect against UVA rays (AKA- it doesn’t protect against wrinkles).

UVB rays are weaker in the winter, which is part of the reason why you might not burn so often in winter.

UVA rays are just as strong in the winter. So, while you may not get burned, the deeper levels or your skin may still be affected by the sun, causing free radicals, skin damage, and wrinkles.

The most important thing to understand about UVA and UVB rays in the winter months is that if your goal is to avoid most forms of skin cancer and surface level sun burns, then you have less to worry about in the winter as UVB rays are not as strong. But, if you want to avoid wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity, and some forms of cancer, which come from the deep-reaching, year-round UVA rays, then sunscreen in the winter is essential.

Do you need to wear sunscreen doing winter sports?

When we’re all bundled up on the slopes, it might feel strange to pull the sunscreen out of your beach bag. But when you are around fresh snow, it is all the more essential to apply broad spectrum sunscreen.

The sun reflects on snow, meaning double the amount of UV rays.

Fresh snow reflects sunlight, causing double the sun exposure: UV rays reflecting up onto your face, and coming down from the sun.

UV rays also increase in intensity at higher altitudes.

Are you participating in outdoor sports in the mountains? Up there, there is less of a filter form the atmosphere, meaning the UV rays are stronger.

In fact, for every 1,000 meter (~3,280 ft.) altitude increase, the UV radiation level increases 12%.

As you can see, if you’re out on the ski slopes shredding some powder, sunscreen is not only recommended, but essential.

Sunscreen Myths vs. Facts


Myth: If I don’t get burned, then there was no sun damage.

Fact: While sunscreen is typically used to protect against burns, broad spectrum sunscreen also protects against:

  • Skin cancer
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Sun spots (or “age spots”)
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Free radicals
  • Wrinkles
  • Fine lines
  • And more!

Sun damage comes in many forms, not just a sunburn. Don’t just consider the short-term effects on your skin, but also the long-term buildup of sun exposure that can cause permanent damage.


Myth: We don’t need to wear sunscreen indoors.

Fact: You’re not likely to get burned by UVB rays when indoors, but UVA rays can get in through the windows.

Myth: I don’t need sunscreen if it’s cloudy.

Fact: UVA rays can easily penetrate clouds and cause skin damage, even if you don’t “feel the burn.”

Myth: The hotter the sun, the more it can damage your skin.

Fact: UVA rays are not associated with heat, so they can be very strong even in cold weather.


While UVB rays, which cause burns and most skin cancers, are weaker in the winter, UVA rays are not. UVA rays are the culprit for fine lines, wrinkles, and skin sagging, plus some forms of skin cancer. So, to avoid the aesthetic effects of aging, and some deep-skin forms of skin cancer, lather up!

Sunscreen becomes even more important when you’re participating in outdoor winter sports. Fresh snow reflects UV radiation, and altitude increases (common when skiing or snowboarding) also mean less atmospheric protection from sun radiation.

So, yes, we should be wearing sunscreen every day. Even when it’s cloudy, even when we don’t go outside, and even when we aren’t worried about getting burned. Those pesky UVA rays can get to your skin any time of year, and you may not like what they do once they get there!

Protect yourself with a broad spectrum sunscreen. At THINK, we have many healthy, natural sunscreens and sun care items that don’t just protect the skin, but simultaneously work to nourish and moisturize your skin, preventing signs of aging before they even form. We especially recommend our all-sport performance sunscreen for those of us hitting the slopes this year.

So don’t forget the sunscreen in your skin care routine this winter, bundle up, and we hope you make the most of these chilly winter months!