The sun works in mysterious ways. If you stand outside in direct rays, you’ll burn in less than 30 minutes, but if you take one step into the shadow, you won’t feel a thing! If we maintain the same logic, in the cloudier, muggier days of winter, you shouldn’t be worried about roasting during the day, right? Alas, that’s not the case. Like, at all. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation in the winter is a lot stronger than we think, and still has the power to cause sunburns and a plethora of other health issues. But before we get a jump on recommending the best winter sunscreens for your next trip to Lake Tahoe, let me tell you why the winter sun still calls for a little SPF.

It’s all about the UV rays

The sun produces a powerful energy called ultraviolet (UV) radiation. There are multiple types of UV rays that reach the surface of the earth. The most harmful to us? That would be UVA and UVB. Here’s why:

Ultraviolet A rays (UVA):
They make up 95% of the rays that reach the surface of the earth! They can penetrate the skin much deeper than UVB rays. Therefore, they cause extreme damage. If overexposed, you can develop early signs of aging (i.e. wrinkles), skin discoloration, and, in worst case scenarios, skin cancer.

Ultraviolet B rays (UVB):
When sun exposure is at its peak in the summer, UVB rays are the reason behind those lobster-esque sunburns we all know and hate. Although these rays dwindle in the winter, many still reach the earth’s surface and reflect off snow and ice. This explains that sun-kissed tan you get after a week of skiing in the mountains!

To protect yourself from the undesirable effects of both UVB and UVA rays, which are still very present in the winter months, put on sunscreen every morning. And it doesn’t hurt to do some light reapplication throughout the day, either.

What to look for in your sunscreen

With countless sunscreen products to choose from, it can be tough to find the perfect pick for you. Luckily, we went ahead and did all the digging for you. We scoured the internet for the best winter-appropriate sunscreens. And here’s what we based our top picks on:

Your sunscreen’s SPF level should depend on your location, since that will determine how much sun you’re typically exposed to. If you’re in Minnesota, for instance, you might not need to wear as much SPF as if you’re in Florida.

Moisturizing Level
Opt for a more moisturizing sunscreen to fight winter’s dryness. Ingredients like glycerin, lanolin, oils, silicones (like dimethicone), and aloe are ones to look for in your sunscreen. They’ll give your skin a rejuvenating boost and a healthy glow.

Skin Complexion
The lighter your complexion, the more prone you are to sunburns –– and the more SPF you’ll need. If your skin complexion is dark, and therefore less sensitive to sunburns, don’t pass on the sunscreen. You still need protection, even if you can afford a lower SPF.

Our top product recommendations

  • Off to the slopes this winter break? Coola’s Classic Face Organic Sunscreen Lotion is the perfect buy for all skiers. Coola’s organic face SPF 50 moisturizer is sweat-resistant, and packed with antioxidants! That means you won’t need to re-apply every 30 minutes, and won’t get those dreadfully painful cheek burns!
  • For those who prefer an everyday winter sunscreen,  La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios AOX serum is your new go-to! This rich, hydrating sunscreen will not only protect your skin from the sun’s UV’s but also shield it from the winter’s harsh, dry air. Added perk: It’s super light-weight so you won’t have to deal with the white sheen most sunscreens leave behind!
  • Derma E’s Even Tone Brightening Day Cream is a hydrating and sun-screening moisturizer all in one! We love that it helps lighten existing age spots, and smells like freshly squeezed lemonade. Trust us when we say it will transport you back to those good ol’ summer days (even in the dead of winter)!