Winter Sun Protection

Rayward Apparel

Does sun protection matter in the winter? The days are shorter and the air is colder, but the sun’s UV rays don’t take a winter break. In fact, staying sun safe requires year-round defense, and sun protection is equally important in the winter or cold weather.

Short Days, Long Waves

While the shorter wavelength UVB rays are strongest during the summer, they certainly don’t disappear in the winter. In fact, winter conditions like ice and snow can reflect and magnify UVB damage. More critically, their counterpart—the longer wavelength UVA rays that penetrate deeper into your skin—are just as strong throughout the year, independent of the temperature.

Layers of Defense

When it’s cold, you’re likely already dressing in multiple layers. To really ensure sun safety, however, start with a lightweight and breathable UPF base layer that keeps you comfortable and protected. Plus, if you work up a sweat shoveling snow and need to shed layers, it’s best to do so knowing you can still depend on the UV protection from your base layer.

Dangerous Reflections

Your snow-covered winter wonderland may be beautiful, but it’s also reflecting as much as 80% of UV rays. This means you aren’t just at risk of exposure from above, but also from left, right and below! This shouldn’t be cause for alarm, but should lead you to consider if your sunglasses, sunscreen and apparel really have you protected from all angles of winter’s UV attack.

Sun Reflecting Off Snow for Winter Sun Safety

Overcast and Overconfident

Don’t let that gray overcast sky fool you—most of those UV rays are still pouring through and hitting your skin. Some evidence even suggests that clouds occasionally magnify the impact of UV rays by reflecting and scattering light in different directions. The moral? Just because you can’t see the sun, don’t think it isn’t seeing you.

Check Your Altitude

When you’re at a higher altitude, such as when hiking, skiing or snowboarding in the winter, the thinner atmosphere is allowing more UV penetration. According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), every 1,000 feet of elevation increases your UV exposure by as much as 5%. Therefore, if you’re skiing a mountain at 5,000 feet above sea level, your UV exposure is about 25% worse than with equal conditions at sea level.

High Altitude Sun Protection from UV Damage

Healthy Habits

The last reason sun protection is important in the winter is because you want sun safety to become habitual. Maintaining consistent yearlong sun safety helps you develop and prolong the healthy habit of intentional sun protection. Habits are hard to break, so start a good one by making sun protection a daily goal. Consider even the less obvious sun risks of your environment, apply safe and effective skin products and carefully choose protective apparel.

Winter may be a break from the heat, but it’s not a break from the sun. Stay protected and keep exploring, no matter the season, with Rayward Apparel’s UPF clothing.

Sources: Skin Cancer Foundation,; National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration,