Should sunscreen be worn only during summer? Here’s what experts say

There is a misconception that sunscreen is only required during summer or when you go outside. Dr Vanita Rattan, doctor and cosmetic formulator, says it’s a common misconception that we should only wear sunscreen in the summer months. “When we feel hot, we’re reminded to wear it,” she told ESSENCE, a lifestyle, fashion and beauty magazine, “But heat and sunshine do not solely represent the presence of UV radiation, which causes skin damage”.

”Exposure to UV can cause a breakdown of collagen and elastin in the skin — two things that are essential for maintaining its firmness and elasticity. When collagen and elastin become damaged, your skin loses its suppleness,” says Dr Rattan, who added that a daily application of sunscreen protects against the loss of collagen and elastin.

A US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report indicates that protecting yourself from UV radiation is crucial throughout the year and not just during summer, as these rays may reach you on gloomy, chilly days and reflect off of water, cement, sand, and snow surfaces. You might assume that staying indoors is enough to protect your skin from UV, but it’s not quite so cut and dry. According to Dr Rattan, UV rays may enter windows even when there doesn’t seem to be any sunlight or heat present and then damage your skin.

Dermatologist Dr Phillips, a consultant, and spokesman for the British Skin Foundation, told ESSENCE that “you are exposed to UV rays whether you are at your desk or walking to your car,”. Furthermore, he makes clear that sunburn is less of an issue in the colder months, but he reiterates that UV exposure can pass through clouds. “Yes there is less intensity, but it can still accumulate damage that can lead to skin cancer, ageing and other untoward effects,” he says

A report by the United States Environmental Protection Agency found that up to 80 per cent of UV rays can penetrate cloud cover. Additional research suggests that clouds can actually increase UV radiation by scattering it, resulting in a large concentration of UV in certain areas. Then there’s the fact that snow reflects UV rays, posing a risk to skin.

“UV rays can penetrate the clouds and damage our skin year round,” ESSENCE quoted Ron Robinson, CEO and founder of BeautyStat, as saying, “It’s crucial to wear sunscreen every day, regardless of the season.”

If you haven’t been wearing sunscreen in any season, you may already be noticing the damaging effects on your skin, said Robinson. But how do you repair your skin from sun damage? Robinson suggests that frequent face peels with a little exfoliation and a vitamin C serum might aid in the healing of damaged skin. “These products even out skin tone, treat hyper-pigmentation, smooth and brighten skin that can become dull and discolored from too much sun exposure,” he added.

As part of a comprehensive strategy to prevent skin cancer, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention (NCSCP) strongly advises the public to use sunscreen products. Sunscreens work effectively to prevent sunburn and the early indications of aging skin in addition to lowering the risk of skin cancer. Also, their study states that sunscreen should be applied 15 minutes before going out.

Dr Priyanka Reddy, a renowned dermatologist and cosmetologist and founder of DNA Skin Clinic and Wellness Centre, Bengaluru, while speaking on YouTube channel titled ‘Morning skincare routine for glowing skin’, said that applying sunscreen should be a regular part of your morning routine. It is essential that you use sunscreen after using a moisturiser.

Dermatologists recommend using sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 30 and that blocks 97 per cent of UV rays from the sun. Although no sunscreen is 100 per cent effective at blocking UV rays from the sun, higher SPF sunscreens do a somewhat better job of it. Well, how frequently and how much should you use sunscreen? Dr Rattan says that sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours.

Dr Derrick, while speaking to the magazine, advised its readers to apply a teaspoon amount of sunscreen to the face and neck. However, if they don’t want to get technical, he suggested them to consider the “three finger” method. “A slick of SPF down the entire length of your index, middle and ring finger should be enough. There’s no harm in over-applying sunscreen, but under-applying is a real danger,” he says.

So how can you choose the best sunscreen for you when there are so many options available? As per the study conducted by the Skin Cancer Foundation, the best sunscreen is the one you are most likely to use—as long as it is wide spectrum, with SPF 30, and offers safe and effective protection. Also, it’s crucial to remember that not all products suit everyone. It is therefore essential that you select sunscreen based on your skin type. If you are still unsure about the type of skin you have, you must see a dermatologist.