The Best Winter Sunscreens
The best winter sunscreens need to block UVA well. Yes, they need to also protect your skin from UVB, but winter sun is all about UVA. Add protection for visible light and you've got the perfect protection from winter's free radical skin damage.
What is the best SPF to use during the winter months?
The best SPF to use in the winter
- is labeled 'Broad Spectrum'
- has an SPF of 30 to 50.
The term 'broad spectrum' tells you that a sunscreen protects from UVA well.
FAQ: UVA rays have longer wavelengths than UVB rays and this allow them to penetrate more deeply into your skin. This layer, called the dermis, is where the collagen producing cells (called fibroblasts), and the strands of collagen that they produce, reside. Collagen creates the structural support and strength that your skin needs to be healthy, strong and youthful - it's precious!
You don't want UV damage to happen in your skin's dermis because it thins your skin and leads to crepey skin and wrinkles. Protect your skin from UVA rays 365 days a year. Dr. Bailey
My Sheer Strength Pure Physical Sunscreens are all zinc oxide-based sunscreens that provide the best broad spectrum UV protection for both UVA and UVB; trusted protection of the highest quality for both winter and summer sun. Two of my sunscreens are also formulated with iron oxide for visible light protection including blue light from devices.
How do the UVA rays from winter sun cause photodamaged skin?
Collagen decreases in the dermis due to UVA
UVA is known to damage dermal fibroblasts resulting in suppression of collagen synthesis. UVA rays also start the matrix metalloproteinase cascade of collagen degradation that breaks down existing collagen, leading to thin, crepey and wrinkled skin.
UVA makes skin pigment problems worse
UVA rays are capable of triggering both long-term and short-term pigment skin problems such as melasma, sun spots and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) of acne scars.
UVA suppresses your skin's important immune protection cells
Lastly, UVA suppresses your skin's immune system just like UVB does. You want your skin's immune system working at all times to keep your skin healthy.
FAQ: UVA rays do not produce vitamin D in your skin!
Nope, UVA does not stimulate vitamin D production in your skin. Vitamin D production is only stimulated by UVB. When you hear someone use this as their excuse for not wearing sunscreen in the winter, you will know it's not true.
FAQ: UVA passes through most window glass.
UVB rays don't penetrate through glass but UVA does. UVA filtering window technology exists but unless you specifically know that your windows are made with this technology, it is best to assume that UVA comes right through the glass. This includes the side windows in your car.
The bottom line is that winter's UVA rays are abundant and harmful to your skin. Yes, the sun's rays in winter feel good but you want your skin to be UVA sun protected.
But why does the sun feel weaker in the winter?
Winter sun feels 'weaker' because there is less UVB, the UV ray that is absorbed as sunlight passes through the Earth's atmosphere and ozone.
FAQ: In winter, sun is in the Southern Hemisphere and its journey to your skin here in the Northern Hemisphere is longer and tangential. During the tangential journey through the ozone, much of the UVB is absorbed. In contrast, UVA is not appreciably absorbed by the Earth's ozone and atmosphere. Thus, UVA is essentially as intense in the winter as it is in the summer. Your sunscreen needs to block UVA well. I prefer zinc oxide for UVA protection and recommend mineral zinc oxide sunscreens for broad spectrum protection.
Your winter sunscreen should include a hefty concentration of zinc oxide for broad spectrum sun protection. - Dr. B
Block visible light including blue and red light with iron oxide in winter
Visible light (400–700nm) is not UV light but it also causes skin damage. 45% of the sun's radiation is visible light. We now know that it can make skin pigment problems worse and generate skin damaging free radicals. Blue light is part of the visible light spectrum and we are especially exposed to from smart phones and computer screens. Blue light is known to cause free radical skin damage and contribute to skin pigment problems.
How do you protect your skin from blue light in the visible light spectrum?
Iron oxide, a mineral commonly found in mineral makeup and now some sunscreens, is the best way to protect your skin from visible light.
The trick is finding out how much iron oxide is in a product. The amount of iron oxide in sunscreens is proprietary so don't expect to see it labeled on your makeup or sunscreen products. You want an iron oxide concentration of 3.2% or higher. My Sheer Strength Pure Physical SPF 50 Refresh Powder Sunscreen has the requisite 3.2% iron oxide. I recommend layering it top of your liquid or cream sunscreen.
My Sheer Strength Powder Sunscreen has over 3.2% iron oxide in it. I top my facial sunscreen with this every day to protect my skin from visible light damage. This trick also helps to tint any whiteness from mineral cream or liquid sunscreens on darker skin tones. - Dr. Bailey
Wearing sunscreens fortified with added antioxidants are a good idea in winter
Free radicals are neutralized when there are abundant antioxidants available for the job. Sunscreens with added antioxidants are trending for good reason; evidence is mounting that they help to reduce UV skin damage. My Sheer Strength Pure Physical Sunscreens are all enriched with the best scientifically substantiated antioxidants to fight UV skin damage including vitamins E, C and green tea. They are packed with even more antioxidants including Phyllanthus emblca fruit extract, ubiquinone (Coenzyme Q-10) and resveratrol.
How to pick the best winter sunscreenI recommend my Sheer Strength Pure Physical Liquid SPF 50+ Spray Water-Resistant Sunscreen for hands, neck, chest and daily facial wear for those who don't want a tinted product. Benefits:
- it comes in a generous 6-ounce spray aerosol-free canister,
- it's lightweight on the skin even if your complexion is oily,
- it is non-comedogenic.
- the tinting softens complexion flaws and provides some iron oxide (though not the full 3.2%),
- the matte base absorbs oil and sweat to fight shine,
- it is light weight for even oily complexions and is also non-comedogenic.
I top my facial and neck sunscreen with my Sheer Strength Pure Physical SPF 50 Refresh Powder for the added iron oxide needed to protect from visible and blue light. Benefits:
- iron oxide over 3.2%!
- an easy solution for SPF reapplication on-the-go.
- tinting technology that blends into all skin tones.
The bottom line on why it important to wear sunscreen during the winter:
UVA is terrible for your skin and it's just as strong in the winter as it is in the summer. You want your skin well protected from UVA 365 days a year - even in winter!
What are some sunscreen ingredients that are dermatologist-recommend for dry winter skin?
Dry skin benefits from occlusive ingredients that prevent Trans Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL). Occlusive ingredients include oils and siloxanes such as dimethicone. Other skin barrier replenishing ingredients such as shea butter, ceramides, phospholipids, squalane and glycerin will help hold water inside your skin.
What are some sunscreen ingredients that work well for oily skin?
Siloxanes such as dimethicone is are also great ingredients for oily skin because they feel light on the skin. Look for them in mattifying sunscreens that help absorb oil throughout the day.
Dermatologist's Holistic Complete Skin Care Routine for winter
I always recommend that you use a holistic Complete Skin Care Routine for the best results. This includes the 4 essential steps of cleanse, correct, hydrate and protect (your sunscreen). This means that I recommend layering sunscreen on top of your moisturizer, which is the product where you ultimately dial in the right level of water-binding ingredients and occlusives for your skin with each season. My Complete Skin Care Kit is a great starting point for a holistic Complete Skin Care Routine that's perfect 365 days a year. It includes our most popular facial cleanser, the Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy, a choice of one of my two facial moisturizers depending on whether your skin is dry or oily skin, and a choice between my Sheer Strength Liquid or Matte Tinted Sunscreens. Ultimately, I encourage you to think holistically about your skin care and this kit is a great starting point - compatible products that care well for your skin.