It’s winter in the Southern Hemisphere and summer in the Northern Hemisphere… So, who should be using more sunscreen? The answer is both! Because the radiation levels are what predict the necessity for daily screening up. A marked increase in the incidence of skin cancer in fair-skinned populations worldwide is strongly associated with excessive UV radiation exposure from the sun. 

Even in winter, it’s important to apply a good sunscreen when going outdoors.

WHAT ACTUALLY IMPACTS UV RADIATION LEVELS? 

  • Time of year: UV radiation changes throughout the year. The highest levels occur in the summer months, and the lowest levels in winter months. Although there are many factors that affect the intensity of the sun’s rays, damage can occur even on the coldest and cloudiest days – damaging UVA rays from the sun are present throughout the year and protection against them should always be worn. A great way to check how intense the sun’s rays are each day is to use your smartphone to check the current UV index. 
  • Cloud cover: Clouds also do little to prevent UVA rays from reaching the earth’s surface. Thick, unbroken clouds can absorb and reflect certain UV rays and reduce their intensity. However, the sides of clouds can also magnify UV radiation back down to the earth’s surface and increase the amount we are exposed to. 
  • Air pollution: Urban smog, smoke, and other forms of air pollution can reduce the intensity of UV radiation. The particles that make up air pollution can absorb or reflect UV rays back out of the atmosphere. However, there are many other health risks associated with pollution and the free radical damage to the skin is very high. 
  • Altitude: UV radiation is much more intense at higher altitudes because the atmosphere is thinner and has fewer particles in it that can absorb or reflect the sun’s harsh rays. This is the reason to wear sun protection whilst skiing or doing any other such activities in the mountains – summer or winter. 
  • Latitude: The most intense UV radiation occurs at the equator, where the sun is directly overhead. It reduces as you move away from the equator, but this does not mean use less sunscreen. The rays are still very prevalent. 

A study by the US Food and Drug Administration stated that chemicals used in most sunscreens are absorbed into your bloodstream after just two hours. That means your body has already absorbed harmful, toxic chemicals before your fun in the sun has begun. Furthermore, these chemicals really make themselves at home. Oxybenzone can be found in the bloodstream up to seven days after a single application. 

This new information is not surprising to us, as skin cancer rates have been steadily rising over the last few decades. People are using more sunscreen than ever, and skin cancer is more common than ever. This highlights the alarming reality that while sunscreen is meant to protect us from skin cancer, it simply cannot do that job when it contains known carcinogens like benzones. You can avoid these chemicals altogether by choosing a sunscreen that relies on minerals rather than chemicals to protect your skin. Minerals like zinc and titanium dioxide sit atop the skin and reflect rays, much like mini umbrellas. 

Click HERE to learn about SA’s very own Dr Janine Ellenberger and her pursuit for safe, chemical-free skincare products.