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A Hat, Scarf, and Sunscreen??

Frozen winter landscape. Trees with the hoar-frost

College of DuPage Nursing Student Melissa Zielke wrote for Healthy Health in the winter months everyone remembers their hats, scarves, gloves, and coats, but is anyone remembering sunscreen? Sunscreen is most often thought of in the hot and sunny months, however, the cloudy, cold days of winter require the application of sunscreen as well. Sunscreen offers protection from the ultraviolet rays of the sun.

The Risk

The sun’s UV rays can cause damage to the skin in about 15 minutes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020) states that 4.3 million adults are treated for basal and squamous cell cancers per year, which are the most common types of skin cancer (2020). The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD, 2020) warns that an estimated 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their life. Sun protection can help minimize the risk of skin cancer and keep the skin healthy and protected.

Why Use Sunscreen in the Winter?

The CDC (2020) recommends using sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher even on cool or cloudy days. Sunscreen contains chemicals that help protect the skin from UV rays. The (AAD, 2020) states that on cloudy days, up to 80% of UV rays can penetrate the skin. Snow, water, and sand can increase the need for sunscreen because they can reflect the rays of the sun. Sunscreen should be used every day that you will be exposed to the sun, even if the sun is hiding behind the clouds.

Proper Use and Application

Not only should we be applying sunscreen daily, but it is also essential that we apply it properly. When choosing a sunscreen look for a product with broad-spectrum, UVA, and UVB protection, to ensure safety from the sun. UVA and UVB are rays of light emitted from the sun, it is essential to be protected from both kinds of light to ensure thorough protection (AAD, 2020). Sunscreen should be applied 15 minutes before going outside. All exposed skin requires sunscreen. Skin cancer can also occur on the lips so apply a lip balm with an SPF 30 or greater is recommended because the lips are sensitive to UV rays. Sunscreen should be applied according to the directions on the bottle, but typically it needs to be applied every two hours.


Sunscreen use is crucial for protecting the skin to prevent skin cancer. Sunscreen should be a daily routine year-round to provide safety when exposed to the sun. Even if it is a cloudy winter day, sun protection is still necessary due to the UV rays that shine through the clouds. Sunscreen needs to be applied effectively and frequently.



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, April 9). Sun Safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sunscreen FAQs. American Academy of Dermatology.












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