Products featured are independently selected by our editorial team and we may earn a commission from purchases made from our links; the retailer may also receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.
When you think of sunscreen, your first thought is probably summertime. After all, we’ve been inundated with countless images of people applying their sunscreen as they lay out at the beach or pool to avoid sunburn. But the sun isn’t limited to just shining during warmer months of the year.
Though that may seem obvious, there’s a misconception that sunscreen is something that doesn’t need to be applied throughout the year. In fact, sunscreen is the most crucial step to any successful skincare routine according to Shane Miller, a licensed esthetician and the creator of the popular skincare Instagram account @howtohydrate.
Do You Need to Wear Sunscreen in the Winter?
“One of the most common misconceptions of sun damage is that it can only happen throughout the summer or in high exposure environments, This is totally false!” Miller says. “Sun damage happens anywhere we experience unprotected UV exposure, including the walk we take to grab coffee in the morning, driving to work on a cloudy/rainy day, and even indoors if we’re sitting by a window.”
The damage done to our unprotected skin by UV rays isn’t something that isn’t always noticeable; you may think that since you haven’t sustained sunburn, you’re fine. That is a damaging myth, one that could lead to long term damage over time in the form of more wrinkles as you age or worse: skin cancer. By wearing sunscreen, you’re not only protecting your skin from those harmful UV rays but are providing it with the assistance needed to maintain other skin conditions and concerns.
“Other key benefits include prevention of premature aging, sunburn prevention, collagen and elasticity preservation, assistance in fading hyperpigmentation, and a healthier moisture barrier,” Miller advises.
How Do You Apply Sunscreen for Winter?
Sunscreen should be applied as the final step in your skincare routine; think of it as the cherry on top. If you were to apply something else over your sunscreen, say a serum or moisturizer, you could potentially disrupt the UV filters and make it less effective in combatting those UV rays. The reapplication of sunscreen throughout the day is also a key point that Miller highlights as an essential role in protecting your skin.
“Over time, sun exposure breaks down the protective film provided by the UV filters in our sunscreen. Most sunscreens will disclose on the bottle/tube how long its protection lasts until the UV filters are no longer effective, requiring a reapplication in order to continue proper protection. Every formula is different, but a safe rule of thumb for reapplying is after about 2 hours of outdoor exposure,” he says. However, if you are planning to spend your day inside, applying the proper amount of sunscreen in the morning should be sufficient.
As for how much sunscreen you should be applying, Miller recommends two milligrams per square centimeter of your face. “This generally equates to 1/4 teaspoon for your face, and 1/2 teaspoon for your face and neck,” he advises.
Sunscreen Buying Guide
Here are some criteria we looked at when rounding up our list of the best sunscreens for winter.
Texture and finish: It’s important to select a sunscreen that leaves our skin looking and feeling fresh. According to Miller, that has a lot to do with the actual formula. “Most mineral sunscreen formulas inevitably leave a white cast on deeper skin tones,” he says. If you’re someone with darker skin, you may want to consider a chemical based sunscreen formula. Not only do they not leave that infamous white cast that most associate with sunscreen, but they’re much easier to apply.
Size and price: These two go hand in hand. You may gawk at the price tag of some sunscreens, but you may actually be paying for how much product you’re getting as opposed to simply a brand name. Make sure to compare the price tag with the ounces in the bottle; it’s all about getting the most bang for your buck.
What is the Best Sunscreen for Winter?
Here’s our roundup of the best sunscreens you should be wearing this winter, all of which are available to buy online now,.
1. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Sunscreen
A few months ago I switched over from my long-trusted mineral based sunscreen to Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost sunscreen, and haven’t looked back since. Where my previous sunscreen did its job well enough, it was often tough to apply and left a white cast no matter how hard I was rubbing it in. The Hydro Boost’s water based formula gives my skin all the protection it needs, without the hassle. Since I’ve made the switch, I’ve noticed a major difference in my skin looking more vibrant and smooth.
The Hydro Boost formula, which contains Hyaluronic Acid and Glycerin, is an effective weapon against the dry air that comes with the colder months that can ravage our skin, while still protecting us from UV rays.
“Layering a hydrating toner with a serum that contains humectants before applying your Hydro Boost SPF will leave your skin with a healthy, supple finish,” Miller recommends, also adding that it’s ideal for all skin types.
2. Black Girl Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF
This sunscreen was specifically designed with the intention of working for any, and all, skin tones and types, leaving a dewy, invisible finish on virtually all melanin levels. Miller describes this sunscreen as being “a dream” for dry skin, thanks to the Jojoba, Avocado, and Carrot Oils found in its formula.
“This will provide a thick protective layer from the winter climate,” he says. “Depending on preference, this can most likely double as your moisturizer, unless you have extremely dry skin that requires an additional layer of moisture beforehand, not after.”
3. Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protector Lotion
This sunscreen’s weightless application allows for a quick final step in your morning skincare routine, but its shielding properties are what makes this a must have as it continues to get colder outside.
“This sunscreen’s occlusive finish acts as a barrier to shield our skin from intense cold or windy temperatures, making it a great option for the short, brisk walks we take during the winter,” says Miller. As an added bonus, this sunscreen contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties thanks to the Rose Apple Leaf Extract found in its formula.
4. Apostrophe ‘Screen SPF
Far from just having a cool name, this sunscreen’s unique mineral and chemical hybrid formula makes this stand out from other sunscreens on the market. Where other mineral-based sunscreens leave a white cast or residue, this sunscreen is an invisible defender; it disappears as soon as you’ve applied it to your skin. Miller recommends this as an effective sunscreen for winter, though it works just as well no matter the season.
“The gorgeous finish left on your skin is accompanied by equally gorgeous ingredients,” he says, highlighting the Hyaluronic Acid to hydrate, plus Panthenol and Allantoin found in the formula that work in tandem to moisturize, soothe and provide additional hydration.
5. innisfree Daily UV Defense SPF
If you’re someone whose skin is prone to redness irritation as the air gets drier, you’ll want to consider this water-based SPF from Innisfree, which contains a soothing blend of Centella Asiatica, Green Tea, and Prickly Pear Extracts. Miller highlights these elements as an effective tool in fighting this sensitivity that comes with the colder months.
6. Avène Solaire UV Multi-Defense Tinted Sunscreen
Those looking to restore the warmth to their skin this winter should consider Avène’s Multi-Defense sunscreen. Unlike many other mineral-based sunscreens, Avène’s is lightweight in texture and the tinted finish doesn’t leave a white cast.
“The tinted finish blends seamlessly into the majority of skin tones,” says Miller. “It contains soothing ingredients such as Allantoin, Bisabolol, and Niacinamide.” He also recommends users patch testing both the tinted and un-tinted formulas, to ensure that it agrees with your specific skin tone.
7. Paula’s Choice Resist Skin Restoring Moisturizer SPF
A sunscreen that makes your skin feel tight or dry after applying should not be a part of your winter skincare regimen. You want to shield your face from UV rays, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of its moisture. This SPF from Paula’s Choice has all of the benefits of a sunscreen, while providing the nourishing finish of a moisturizer.
“This formula contains Shea Butter to keep your skin feeling moisturized throughout the day, while Aloe and Oat Extracts work together to soothe sensitivity,” Miller says. There’s also Licorice Extract that helps ease potential redness.