Do You Need To Wear Sunscreen In The Fall?

by Tyler Atwood

The conclusion of summer is bittersweet in a myriad of manners, but autumn weather does bring with it a number of blessings. You can finally pack away your handheld fan and the worn-in jorts you've sported all summer, but can you also retire your sunscreen for the fall season? The question is well-founded; after all, autumn weather is notorious for greater cloud coverage and reduced temperatures, which might cause even the most logical consumer to believe sunscreen is optional. Moreover, those who favor lazy days spent luxuriating on the beach during the summer aren't likely to continue the same behavioral pattern when the temperature dips 30 degrees come November. Therefore, the question remains: Do you need to wear sunscreen in the fall? Prepare yourself for a spoiler alert, because the answer is a resounding "yes".

Sun protection shouldn't be considered a seasonal practice tied to the summer, knowledge which lauded New York dermatologist Dr. Jeremy A. Brauer wishes to impart to his patients. "It is very important that we are aware of and protect ourselves from sun exposure year round," Dr. Brauer tells me over e-mail. If you're hoping to enjoy an autumn sans sun damage, read on for Dr. Brauer's top sun care tips for the season.

1. Sun Damage Can Occur During Any Season Of The Year

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Forget your preconceived notions regarding the decreased probability of sun damage when there is cloud cover or temperatures decline. A severe sunburn can occur during any month of the year. "When discussing sun exposure it is important to understand that we are talking about two main wavelengths of ultraviolet radiation," Dr. Brauer insists. "Ultraviolet A and B (UVA and UVB) light are the cancer causing wavelengths. UVA is present year round, at all times of day, and is unaffected by a cloudy day."

2. You Should Avoid Sun Exposure Between 10 a.m And 4 p.m. — Even In The Fall

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"Time of day does matter when discussing UVB, which is strongest around the time of solar noon, and therefore we advise minimizing exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m," Dr. Brauer advises. Therefore, if you decide to take advantage of a rare, cloudless October day by bringing your lunch outside, do so under the protection of an umbrella or awning after lathering up with sufficient sunscreen.

3. Certain Autumnal Conditions Can Increase The Likelihood Of A Burn

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The temperature outside may read 30 degrees mid-November, but you can still incur a sunburn thanks to the reflective properties of ice. "In late fall and winter months, with snow and ice on the ground, a large percentage of these ultraviolet rays are reflected back off the Earth's surface," Dr. Brauer explains. Moreover, your weekend excursions to the ski slopes or the nearest scenic hiking ridge can put your skin in harm's way. "Altitude also plays a role, as the higher up you are the closer you are to the sun. Therefore it's important to employ safe sun practices during those fall hikes and winter ski trips just as you would your summer days at the beach," Dr. Brauer notes.

4. You Shouldn't Change Your SPF Between Summer And Autumn

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Don't ditch your high SPF when you turn the calendar page or swipe left into September on your iCal, and make sure to widen your perspective to other sun protection components. "The conversation of sunscreen and sun protection needs to move away from a focus on SPF, which only accounts for protection from UVB rays, to a focus on broad spectrum, or UVA and UVB coverage," Dr. Brauer clarifies.

So enjoy those lovely autumn days outside before it gets unbearably chilly — just don't forget your sunscreen.

Images: Masson/Fotolia; Courtesy Brands