UVA can damage skin in winter too

The change in season doesn’t just call for a different wardrobe and a warmer home. Everything from cooler, less humid weather,hanging out too long in dry environments can deprive your complexion of moisture and wreak havoc on your skin.

Cosmetologist Dr Madhulika Rustagi and Dermatologist Dr Sonali Kohli tell you how the sun’s rays can be damaging in winter too and suggest ways in which you can take care of your skin.  Dr.Priyam Kembre elaborates on the mal-effects of pollution on the skin.


As the winter sets in, we all prepare to flaunt our colourful cardigans and fancy boots. And along with winter comes the weather changes bringing with it sudden skin changes. As the weather is gloomy and sun is a rare commodity, we often neglect our suncare protection routine.

Winter skin 1

Even though UVB radiation intensity reduces during winter, long UVA rays are still in full force. UVA forms the majority of UV light and contributes to skin ageing, hyperpigmentation and the development of skin cancer as it penetrates deeper into the skin. It has a consistent intensity throughout the day, all year round and can penetrate through cloud and glass. UVA rays are responsible for premature ageing and wrinkles, pigmentation disorders, sunspots, immediate darkening of the pre-formed melanin. UVB rays are a cause of sunburns and tanning.

Therefore, even during winter, sun protection should be practised as clouds do not stop the penetration of UVA light. It’s a myth that during winter no sun protection is required, the rays of the sun are equally harsh during all seasons.

During winters also one should apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection and preferably a high PPD (Purified Protein Derivative) protection. The ideal amount of sunscreen to be applied in a single application is one FTU (finger-tip unit) which should be repeated every 3 hours.

Winter skin2

A common mistake is the judgement of the efficacy of a sunscreen based on its SPF. However SPF (sun protection factor) is only an indicator of the duration of time after single application an individual can be out in the sun without developing sun damage. SPF indicator indicates protection only against UVB rays and not UVA rays. PPD is the factor that determines protection against UVA rays. Ideally, the sunscreen should have SPF factor of 50+ and PPD factor.

Also important to keep in mind during the cold weather is to have a sunscreen which is dry touch to ensure the hydration is maintained in the skin and emulsion is for very oily acne prone skin. It is always good to ensure the sunscreen is non-comedogenic( which does not block the skin pores). Also, sunscreen should  be free from fragrance and  colour additives  to prevent skin sensitivity.

Some other tips to prevent sun-damage during winters include:

  1. It is important to keep yourself hydrated.  Ensure you have a minimum two litres of water.
  2. Avoid going out in sun between 11 am to 4 pm.
  3. Keep your skin hydrated and moisturized by using an emollient (moisturizing cream) which consists of natural skin moisturizing factors like ceramides.

Pollution seems to be the buzzword and trending these days. It is a major global and Indian issue. Pollution includes any unwanted or deleterious changes in the environment. It includes air, water and noise pollution. Air pollutants have been divided into two categories – primary which are toxins released directly into the environment and secondary pollutants which are created or modified after being released. The urban smog is one example of secondary pollutants.

Skin is the largest organ of the human body and constitutes the major barrier between outside environment and the internal milieu. Since pollution has increased and the timing is along with the onset of winters it has become an environment of not only suffocating smog for the lungs but also for the skin.

The impact of pollution of skin, in the form of skin diseases, includes acne, skin reactivity and allergies, ageing and hyperpigmentation. Smog, dust and other particulate matter in air irritate the skin and alter the nature of sebum. This can lead to formation of acne and can lead to break-outs. As the particles and allergens penetrate  the pores of skin, the risk of allergy increases. Pollution also causes collagen breakdown leading to premature ageing and wrinkles. It stimulates melanin formation leading to hyperpigmentation.

The important preventive steps to protect against pollution include:

  • Cleansing of face and exposed body parts using a pH balanced cleanser which protects the acidic mantle of the skin. The cleanser should ideally be free from parabens and fragrance.
  • Exfoliation to remove dead skin but gentle in nature also prevents premature wrinkling and ageing.
  • Antioxidants- As the pollution largely impacts the skin by generation of reactive oxygen species. Both oral and topical antioxidants should be a part of daily regimen. A good antioxidant spray like spring water should be handy whenever you are outside for longer periods of time.
  • Sunscreen forms an essential barrier between skin and environment. An ideal sunscreen should be protective against both UV-A and UV-B rays and hypoallergenic. It should ideally possess physical filters to ward off the pollutants as well.
  • Moisturizers especially resembling the natural moisturizing factors like ceramides and squalene should be a part of daily regimen after bath.
  • Daily shampooing with a mild scalp and hair shampoo should prevent excessive deposition of dust and grime on the scalp preventing hair loss and dandruff.
  • Shampoos with extra conditioning and even hair masks can be used to prevent frizzy and unruly hair.

A careful choice of mild, non-drying shampoo which is pH balanced will prevent excessive scalp itching and dryness.

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