Jan 11, 2019 2:00 PM


Did you know you need to practice sun safety year-round? You may think about sun safety only during the summer, when temperatures are high. But temperature doesn’t affect the strength of the sun. Radiation from the sun is what causes skin damage. Rays from the sun can damage your skin any time of year.

Living at a high elevation—like we do here in Utah—increases the chance for skin damage. Plus, we often travel to even higher elevations for winter activities like sledding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, skiing, or snowboarding. This means the risk for sun damage goes up even more.

Why do winter activities and high elevations increase the chance for sun damage? 

  • UV (ultraviolet) rays become stronger as you gain elevation. At 10,000 feet, UV rays are 40% stronger than at sea level.
  • Just like sand or water, snow is a reflective surface. It can reflect up to 80% of UV rays from the sun. Even if you are not in direct sunlight, exposure to harmful UV rays can still cause skin damage.
  • Snow can wear sunscreen away, and strong winds can reduce your skin’s natural sun protection.

Follow these tips year-round to protect your skin:

  • Cover up. Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, scarves, hats, and gloves to protect your skin from the sun.
  • Wear sunscreen on skin not covered by clothes. Re-apply SPF 30+ sunscreen every 2 hours, or more often as needed.
  • Choose the right sunscreen. Look for these words on the label:
    • SPF 30 or higher
    • Broad spectrum
    • Active ingredients of zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or both
  • Avoid tanning or burning your skin. Tanning beds expose you to harmful rays. Often this type of UV light is stronger and can cause more damage in less time than UV rays from the sun.
  • Protect your eyes. Wear UV-reflective googles or sunglasses while outside.
  • Protect your lips. Use lip balm with sunscreen to protect your lips from sun damage.

Remember, sun damage can occur on even cloudy and overcast days. Use the tips above every day—even if it is cloudy, raining, or snowing. When you and your loved ones practice sun safety, you can more fully enjoy all of the beautiful seasons Utah has to offer. Have fun and stay safe out there!

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