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Ask a Doc: Is there a need for sunscreen when it is cold outside?

AAD MateenOur answer comes from Dr. Zubeena Mateen, HMC Director of Oncology 

Question:  Is there a need for sunscreen when it is cold outside?

Answer:  The summer is not the only time you are at risk for damage from the sun. You are probably in the habit of packing sunscreen for a day at the beach or pool. But the sun is up there 365 days a year, and you need protection much of that time to reduce your lifetime sun-exposure total. Everyday exposure counts; you do not have to be actively sunbathing to get a damaging dose of the sun. This applies to all outdoor activities: athletics, shopping, picnicking, walking or jogging, gardening, even waiting for a bus. Practice these sunscreen basics all year round to give your skin the best chance of long-term health:

  • Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Apply liberally and evenly to all exposed skin. The average adult in a bathing suit should use approximately one ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen per application. Not using enough will effectively reduce the product's SPF and the protection you get.
  • Be sure to cover often-missed spots: lips, ears, around eyes, neck, scalp if hair is thinning, hands, and feet.
  • Reapply at least every 2 hours, more often if some of the product may have been removed while swimming, sweating, or towel-drying.
  • Choose a product that suits your skin and your activity. Sunscreens are available in lotion, gel, spray, cream, and stick forms. Some are labeled as water resistant, sweatproof (especially for sports), fragrance-free, or hypoallergenic (especially for sensitive skin or children).

Mark your calendars for a lecture on“How’s Your Skin?” with Dr. Vinodray Shah on Thursday, June 27th at 5pm as he will provide an update on skin cancer and provide a question and answer period with the audience.

‘Ask a Doc’ is a weekly post by Holyoke Medical Center. To ask a question, please feel free to submit to and we will do our best to answer it.

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