Fall Weather and Sun Damage: Should You Wear Sunscreen?

Posted by Dr. Natasha Ryz on

Fall weather changes can worsen dry skin.

As the temperatures start to get colder, the air gets dryer. Cold air has less moisture than warm or hot air, and cold air can be intensely drying on your skin.

Strong winds and UV damage from the sun can strip moisture from exposed skin and disrupt the skin barrier (Engebretsen et al, 2016).

Daily insults from the environment, such as low humidity, wind, and sun exposure, can lower the skin's water content, causing improper desquamation (cell shedding) and the appearance of dry, flaky skin (Verdier-Sévrain et al, 2007).

Dry vs. dehydrated skin

Dry or dehydrated skin appears dry, rough, and may scale and flake. It may also show premature signs of aging, like surface wrinkles and loss of elasticity.

Dry skin and dehydrated skin both develop from a lack of water and water-holding substances in the skin, called humectants. However, dry skin is also lacking fats that are found naturally in the skin, and these essential fats can be re-introduced through skincare products and dietary changes. 

Dry and dehydrated skin can be relieved with the use of moisturizers and humectants, including glycerin, hyaluronic acid and natural moisturizing factors.

Learn more: Dry vs. Dehydrated Skin - What is the Difference?

Sun Exposure

Ultraviolet (UV) exposure from sunlight can damage dry skin. 

UV energy includes UVA, UVB and UVB radiation. Each component of UV can exert a variety of effects on cells, tissues and molecules (D'Orazio et al, 2013). 

Chronic exposure to UV irradiation leads to photoaging (sun spots), immunosuppression, and ultimately skin cancer (Matsumura et al, 2004).

In temperate latitudes, UV peaks on the summer solstice and is lowest at the winter solstice, though indirect, diffuse UV can still be high in winter. 

While the UV Index can be high in early September it decreases quickly, and by the end of October it is much lower.

UV exposure from the sun is still a concern during the fall months in Canada and proper sunscreen or sunblock should be worn, especially when spending time outdoors. 


As the fall weather gets cooler, dry and dehydrated skin becomes a concern, and environmental insults can weaken the skin barrier. UV exposure from the sun can further irritate and damage skin.

It is best to continue wearing sunscreen or sunblock during the fall months to protect your dry skin, especially if spending time outdoors.

As always, sunscreen should be a part of your daily skin care routine.


D'Orazio J, Jarrett S, Amaro-Ortiz A, Scott T. UV radiation and the skin. Int J Mol Sci. 2013 Jun 7;14(6):12222-48.  

Engebretsen KA, Johansen JD, Kezic S, Linneberg A, Thyssen JP. The effect of environmental humidity and temperature on skin barrier function and dermatitis. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2016 Feb;30(2):223-49.

Matsumura Y, Ananthaswamy HN. Toxic effects of ultraviolet radiation on the skin. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2004 Mar 15;195(3):298-308.

Verdier-Sévrain S, Bonté F. Skin hydration: a review on its molecular mechanisms. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2007 Jun;6(2):75-82.
Canada Dehydrated Skin Dry Skin Fall Outdoors Skin Barrier Sun Damage Sun Safety

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