Winter Skin Care - Cosmetics Magazine January/February 2006
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Winter Skin Care

By David Lackie 

Winter Sun Block 
Why you need to slather on sun block in -30 degree temperatures 

Sometime after Thanksgiving, when the Weather Network replaces humidex ratings with wind chill warnings, most Canadians pack up the outdoor patio furniture, the Mr. Turtle Splash Pool and the sun block for another season. Big mistake. Leading dermatologists are now advising Canadians to wear sun block year-round, especially during winter months when the sun’s rays can be deceivingly strong. 

Snow and ice crystals act like tiny mirrors, reflecting UVA and UVB rays in all directions hitting particularly fragile areas like underneath the eye and across the forehead. The result can be a nasty burn on a frigid day. “Most people associate hot weather with the danger of sun damage,” says Leanne McCliskie, education manager for the International Dermal Institute in Toronto. “Health organizations have been effective in educating the public about the need to apply a strong sunblock before heading for the beach. But when the temperature cools, many think there is no longer a need to apply sun protection. Sun block isn’t seasonal anymore. Everyone should be using a minimum SPF15 every day of the year.” In fact, Cosmetics columnist Dr. Lisa Kellett goes as far to say that if you use only one skin care product each day, make it sun block. Forget the eye cream and apricot scrub. Stock up on a good quality, broad-spectrum sun block. And use it. 

One of the main reasons for using sun block daily is the fact that sun damage is cumulative. The sun’s rays pass through car, office and house windows each day damaging unprotected skin. Even walking to and from the car or taking the garbage out adds to possible skin damage. So even if you aren’t spending a weekend on the ski slopes or ice skating, you still need protection. Don Smith, a retired Hydro worker has always resisted using sun block because of the sticky, heavy texture of traditional sun creams. “You feel like you have to have a shower immediately after applying it,” he says. “I know it’s important, but it just feels so uncomfortable.” 

Cosmetic companies have taken this complaint to heart and reworked formulas into lighter, guy-friendly formulas. Ombrelle’s sport spray is one of the leading brands offering an SPF15 version in a light, oil-free version. A version with SPF30 protection is coming this spring. Shoppers Drug Mart has a great sport spray with SPF30 that is easy to use and again, doesn’t feel heavy and sticky. 

“The goal is to find a broad spectrum sun block that you feel comfortable with,” adds McCliskie. “There are many good ones on the market so experiment. You aren’t going to use it if you don’t like it. Find one with a texture and scent you like.” And cover up for the winter. For more information contact the Canadian Dermatology Association at or the Canadian Cancer Society at

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