The simple answer to this is, yes, but many people are under the assumption that even here in Florida sunscreen only needs to come out during the summer months when temperatures are above 90 degrees. When the lower temperatures and decrease in humidity comes around, the beach towels and swim suits are traded in for sweaters and scarves. Some of us even bring the boots out! Make sure that you still keep that bottle of sunscreen out and ready to be put on daily. We might not be applying to as large of a body area since a little more body surface area is covered up, but it is still important to keep exposed areas protected.
Substituting beach days for picnics and book reading outside on a breezy day leaves our skin exposed to the elements. It is true that the UV index is lower in the fall months, but this does not mean that the UVA/UVB rays are non-existent and sun damage does not occur. UVA rays are still intense and can cause not only wrinkling but also irreversible damage and possibly skin cancer, such as melanoma. Broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 is recommended to apply to all exposed skin during outdoor activities. Wearing a zinc oxide or titanium dioxide based sunscreen would be best! Although daily application of sunscreen is preached, sunscreen alone won’t keep you fully protected. It is also important to wear wide brimmed hats, protective clothing, and sunglasses as well as seek shade as much as possible. Darker clothing is a better option than white or lighter colors. When deciding on outfits, keep in mind your activity, if it’s going to be an outdoor sporting event day, pick the navy blue top and save the white for an indoor lunch. A good general rule of thumb is it you can see through the fabric, the rays can penetrate it.
It is not only important to wear sunscreen year round in Florida. If people are traveling up north to the cooler climates for ski or holiday vacations, some might skip the sunscreen when packing up the winter clothes and snowboards. Just like the sun reflects off of the sand and water during beach activities, it also reflects off of snow. Some reports even state it reflects at a much greater intensity off of the snow. Since not much is left uncovered while gearing up for activity in the snow, it is very important to focus on the areas of skin left unprotected. Your face, lips and ears are vulnerable areas that should have sunscreen applied at the beginning of and every 2 hours during any outdoor activity. Make sure the lip balm you wear also has an SPF in it. Many have SPF 15, but if you look hard you can find the SPF 30 and even products with zinc oxide are available. There are newer products available that make reapplication easy. Ask us about the tinted zinc powder with application brush that goes over makeup very elegantly but can be used on men and children as well.
As previously stated, the simple answer to the question “is it still important to wear sunscreen in fall months?”, is yes; but I hope the explanation will leave people a little more inclined to keep out those bottles year round and not tuck them away after summer fun. If your post-summer sunscreen supply is low, stop by our office this month to pick up more– ALL of our sunscreens, UPF50+ sun hats and umbrellas are 20% OFF this month!
By: Lauren McConeghy, MPAS, PA-C