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Winter Sun Protection

During winter activities, we may associate injuries with conditions such as hypothermia, frostbite, and windburn.  Outdoor workers and winter sports enthusiasts are also at an increased risk for sun damage due to overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.  This, combined with high wind, higher altitudes, and the reflection from the snow can significantly increase your chance of getting skin damage, “as more than 90% of skin cancers are associated with sun exposure” (SCF 2010).

The following tips will help protect you and your family against sun damage:

  • Face: Use a sunscreen product with at least an SPF 15 rating for your face. If you work outside during long periods of time, use sunscreen with an SPF 30 rating or higher. Apply a nickel-sized amount to your face 30 minutes before heading outside and reapply after 2 hours of outdoor activities (NSC 2018).
  • Nose: The area most commonly affected by sun and windburn is the nose. Using sunscreen on your nose is critical because more than 30 percent of all facial basal cell carcinomas (skin cancers) occur on the nose (SCF 2010).
  • Head and neck: The head, ear, and neck areas are highly susceptible to the deadliest form of skin cancer--melanoma. Apply sunscreen to your head and neck, including areas where bald or thinning spots are exposed. The top of the head or “scalp,” is often overlooked when applying sunscreen. The Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF) also advises workers to wear wide-brimmed hats with at least a 3-inch brim and dense, tightly-woven fabric (NSC 2018).
  • Lips: Apply sunscreen to your lips or use lip balm with an SPF rating or 15 or higher (SCF 2010).
  • Eyes: Wear goggles or sunglasses that offer UV protection. Wraparound or larger frames can help protect your eyes and eyelids, which are extremely sensitive to skin cancers and sun-induced aging (SCF 2010).

In addition to wearing wide-brimmed hats, wearing protective clothing (e.g., ski masks, gloves, long sleeves, and ear muffs) can also help prevent sun damage.  Sunglasses or goggles with 99% or greater UV protection are recommended.  Regardless of the season, if you are spending time outdoors, be mindful of the time when the sunlight is most intense (i.e., before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.) and use appropriate protection (SCF 2010).


National Safety Council (NSC).  2018.  Sun protection in the winter.  Available from:  https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/17706-sun-protection-in-the-winter.

Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF).  2010.  Essential Outdoor Sun Safety Tips for Winter.  Available from: https://www.skincancer.org/healthy-lifestyle/outdoor-activities/essential-sun-safety-information-for-skiers-and-snowboarders.

Brian Pelan
Brian Pelan
OSE Director, Laramie, WY

Brian has over 20 years of professional experience in environmental, health, safety, and security (EHS&S). His areas of expertise include EHS&S risk management; ISO systems management & auditing; fluid recovery/recycling; and industrial hygiene services.

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