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Family First: Protecting your skin during the winter

You need to protect yourself and your children from too much sun, even in the winter.

HARTFORD, Conn — It’s a reminder that dermatologists send out every year around this time of year, even though it seems like the wrong time of year to do it.  You need to protect yourself and your children from too much sun, even in the winter.  As UConn Health dermatologist Doctor Hao Feng said, it’s especially important to get kids started down a healthy path, because it’s far too early for them to see the consequences of their actions.

“Any time there’s sun exposure outside you are at risk of UV sun damage and that UV sun damage may not necessarily manifest itself right away, but it tends to manifest itself decades down the line,” said Dr. Feng, “and a lot of the sun damage I treat, whether it’s the dark spots, the discoloration, or whether it’s pre-cancerous spots of skin cancers, a lot of it is really the cumulative sun damage that people have had over the last several decades.”

Keep in mind that, while the harmful rays aren’t as strong, they have more ways to get to you when it’s snowy out.  The Skin Cancer Foundation said snow can reflect up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV light, so the rays are hitting you twice. 

“So, even in the wintertime and fall where you feel like there isn’t as much sun as there has been in the summertime you still want to be careful, especially if you’re at risk,” said Dr. Feng.

Of course, the sunlight does bring benefits, like stimulating vitamin D production, but Dr. Feng said, for those purposes, a little bit of sun goes a long way.

“What I tell patients is you should definitely enjoy the outdoors, but you should protect yourself.  Still wear cross-spectrum sunscreen and re-apply every two to three hours,” said Dr. Feng, “you get more than sufficient light exposure for your vitamin D production when you’re out for five minutes, so that’s a myth that you need to get a lot of sun exposure for that.”

Lastly, thanks to the pandemic, your little one’s skin may be extra sensitive to getting dried out and irritated…  

“I always encourage patients, especially as it gets colder, and the air becomes drier, to make sure to also use a good moisturizer multiple times a day to protect your skin especially now that we’re wearing masks, we’re seeing a lot of irritations around the mask areas, so it’s even more important to be vigilant about applying those moisturizers,” he said.