Living Well

Start your year-round sun care regimen this deadline season

"Do I really need to wear sunscreen all year long?"

We hear that a lot around here. Which is why we're even more motivated to remind readers of just how important year-round sun care really is. Because even though most of the country spends the winter months covered in layers of warm clothing, any exposed skin is still at risk of damage if it's not protected.

Whether it's sun glare from snowy hills, or just raw, irritated skin from bitter air and wind, cold weather months can take their toll. So, we recommend finding a proven line of year-round sun care products to keep your skin safe, even when you think you're completely covered.

MDSolarSciences, founded by noted dermatologist Dr. Robert J. Friedman, is responsible for a growing line of highly effective skin care solutions that can be used year-round to prevent sunburns, skin aging and skin cancers. With the 12/31 flexible spending account (FSA) deadline just around the corner, the company wants to remind account holders about the importance of year-round sun care and to take this opportunity to spend your remaining funds on qualifying sun care products.

What makes sunscreen FSA-eligible? It all comes down to prevention of sunburn and other medical conditions. If a sunscreen is SPF 15+ and offers broad spectrum protection against UVA/UVB rays, it's eligible! Let's dive and learn more about how these products protect your and your family from the sun's rays year-round.

Understanding "broad spectrum"

Ultraviolet light rays that travel from the sun can be classified by their length; the long-wave rays are UVA and the short rays are UVB. Together they make up the spectrum, but individually each damage our skin in different ways.

UVB: Causes burning

These short, intense rays cause painful sunburns on the top layer of skin. In the summer these rays are stronger—and they're also stronger at higher altitudes -- which is why you can get a sunburn while skiing!

UVA: Causes aging

These rays feel less intense than UVB rays that cause sunburns, but they make up 95% of the radiation that reaches the earth. Since UVA rays are longer, they penetrate the skin more deeply, which leads to cumulative damage and noticeable signs of aging like brown spots and wrinkles. While you might not feel these rays burning your skin, UVA rays are consistent throughout the year and can pass through clouds and even glass.

Since we need protection from both types of rays, it's important to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen. (It's also a key part in determining which sunscreens are FSA-eligible. Only a broad-spectrum product keeps you safe from both types of rays.)

The mineral sunscreen difference

In recent years, mineral sunscreen has emerged as one of the top eco-friendly sun care products on the market. But how does it differ from traditional sunscreen and is it just as effective?

In addition to having different active ingredients to combat UV rays, mineral sunscreen has a unique texture that is different from chemical sunscreens that feel more like a moisturizing lotion. Mineral sunscreens utilize active ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium oxide, and as such have a different texture than chemical variants. Dr. Friedman knew the best sunscreen is "the one you actually want to wear," so MDSolarSciences products are formulated to feel truly amazing when on, fitting seamlessly into your everyday skin care routine.

However, the key difference with mineral sunscreen is that while chemical versions are absorbed into the skin, mineral sunscreen sits on top of the skin layers and forms a physical barrier reflecting or scattering the UV rays.

So, they may be safer choices for those with sensitive skin, as well as small children. Lastly, because mineral sunscreen uses active ingredients that are derived from natural materials, it is eco-friendly and safe to wear everywhere.

MDSolarSciences products never use oxybenzone or octinoxate, two chemicals commonly found in sunscreens that can irritate skin and have been proven harmful to coral reefs. Also, MDSolarSciences' proprietary formulations are oil- and fragrance-free, water-resistant and lightweight, and won't leave a white, chalky film like many mineral-based sunscreens.

MDSolarSciences mineral-based sunscreens

MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème SPF 50, 1.7 oz

Lightweight "barely-there" formula goes on silky smooth and blends quickly, leaving a matte finish.

$30.00

MDSolarSciences Travel Bundle (a $101 value!)

MDSolarSciences' trio of bestselling tinted and non-tinted mineral sunscreens effectively protects all skin types from harsh UV rays and premature aging.

$75.00


Yes, you need sunscreen in the winter

Even when it's cold outside, the sun doesn't care that it's not beach season. Snow and ski-related sunburns can be a real problem if you're not careful. But you can keep these problems away if you use a few precautions.

Winter sunburns often happen from the snow itself, because snow is an excellent reflector of sunlight. This means not only are you getting rays directly from the sun, you're also getting UV hitting you from all directions.

Of course, many people think they're safe because they're covered in layers. But don't forget about your eyes and face. Not only should you keep using FSA-eligible sunscreen all year-round, but also protective eyewear. A good pair of snow goggles doesn't just protect your eyes from tree limbs and flying ice. They provide major protection from the intense rays bouncing all around you. And if you're not on the slopes, sunglasses with UV protection are just as important.

Don't forget the UV Index!

According to the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection (EPA), the UV Index is a calculation conducted by the National Weather Service for most ZIP codes across the U.S. to forecast the expected risk of excessive UV radiation.

No sunscreen will be able to block 100% of UV rays, but broad spectrum sunscreens are the most effective in reducing the chance of sunburn and skin damage from prolonged sun exposure. Always use sunscreen when heading outdoors, but another tip to reduce your UV exposure year-round is to check on the UV Index in your area.

Living Well

5 outdoor sun safety tips for winter

Wondering about sun safety during the year? Read our post about 5 outdoor sun safety tips for winter on the FSAstore.com blog. 

For the vast majority of Americans, winter is a time of year when we're trying to keep warm rather than worrying about sun care, but good sun care is important all year! Ultraviolet rays that contribute to sunburns and the formation of skin cancers are ever-present throughout winter, and they are just as dangerous now as during the spring and summer. Going to hit the slopes or do some work outdoors?


WearSun Protection lip balm

Lips can become chapped very easily during the winter months with dry air, wind and snow constantly pelting your face. This skin is very sensitive and can dry out and burn very easily after being exposed to sunlight, so make sure to wear a lip balm with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher with moisturizing benefits to support the underlying skin.

Shop for SPF Lip Balm at FSAstore.com

Use broad spectrum sunscreen - and re-apply!

During extended time outdoors, make sure to use broad spectrum sunscreen that can safeguard skin against UVA and UVB radiation, which is the source of sunburns and aids in the development of skin cancer. Use a sunscreen SPF 30 or higher, and apply 30 minutes before heading outdoors. Be aware that snow and strong winds can reduce the efficacy of sunscreen, so re-apply every 2 hours.

Shop for Broad Spectrum Sunscreen at FSAstore.com

Shop our Dermatological Sunscreens

Shop for Mineral Sunscreen from MDSolarSciences

Use moisturizing sun protection

The winter weather can wreak havoc on your skin, which can lead to dry, peeling and painful skin that can linger throughout the season. When shopping for sunscreens, make sure you pick one with moisturizing ingredients, such as lanolin or glycerin. This is an easy way to support your skin health and stay protected from UV rays.

Shop for Aveeno at FSAstore.com

Cover exposed skin

Because of cold temperatures, there's a good chance that most of your skin will be covered throughout winter. However, there are some trouble spots to keep in mind. First, make an effort to cover your head to protect your scalp from sun damage, as well as wearing sunglasses or goggles that can block out 99 percent or greater of UV rays. The skin around the eyes is a common site for skin cancers and sun-inducted aging, so make sure this area is protected all winter long.

Be mindful of reflected UV rays

Many skiers and snowboarders have learned the hard way about the reflective nature of snow and ice, as about 80 percent of UV rays will reflect back up to the nose and face and can cause sunburns. As such, it's vital to apply sunscreen to parts of the body we would normally overlook, such as underneath the nose and chin where those reflective rays will hit. Of course, always remember to re-apply every few hours to maintain your skin's sun protection.

Improve your sun care regimen and make the most of your healthcare benefits at FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA-eligible products to keep you and your family healthy year-round.