Ask Grace: Do I Really Need To Use An SPF In The Winter?

Hey Grace, 

I totally understand why I should be wearing SPF every day in the summer, but when it comes to winter, is there really any need? It’s overcast and most days I don’t even leave the house during daylight hours. Can I just rely on the SPF in my foundation instead? 

Bella, 26 

You’re right, by now we all know the importance of wearing SPF during the summer. Of all the seasons summer is when we’re exposed the most to UVA rays (which cause pigmentation, fine lines, and wrinkles) and UVB rays (responsible for sunburn and most skin cancers). While it may be colder, darker, and cloudier during the winter, those rays are still there. And yes, they are capable of penetrating cloud cover and windows, so just because it’s not a bright, sunny day, doesn’t mean we’re not at risk of exposure. 

During the winter, there is a slight decrease in exposure to UVB rays (which are partially weakened by cloud cover, glass, etc), but UVA rays are still very prevalent and can cause a lot of long-term damage to your skin which won’t be immediately apparent. This is what makes winter sun exposure particularly dangerous. You might think that because you can’t see or feel the burn, no damage is occuring, but in reality, UV is causing invisible damage to the DNA of your skin cells. Additionally, if you’re using peels, acid exfoliators, or retinol, these ingredients can make your skin more sensitive to UV and therefore even more at risk. So yes, the fact that those pesky UV rays will find you – even in rain, even indoors, even through your clothes – is exactly why you do still need to wear SPF during the winter. 

As for SPF makeup, unfortunately foundations, primers, and even some moisturisers that contain SPF aren’t as effective as a dedicated sunscreen. This is partly because they don’t tend to have a very high factor, and also due to the amount that you’d need to apply to get decent coverage – half a teaspoon is what experts recommend for your face and neck.  

Old school sunscreens were thick, heavy, left a white cast, and often triggered breakouts or made skin look greasy, so I understand why you might be rolling your eyes at this point. Fortunately, nowadays there are plenty of innovative new formulations designed to be lightweight, non-comedogenic, and easily layered into your morning skincare routine. Serum textures and multitasking formulas that also help to hydrate skin or deliver antioxidant protection are the easiest way to get your daily sun protection 365 days a year. 

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