It’s no secret that too much sun exposure can be detrimental to one’s skin and health. When you spend too much time outdoors without the proper sun protection products, you’re risking a myriad of unpleasant and dangerous ailments, from cosmetic issues like wrinkles and sun spots to life-threatening conditions such as melanoma and carcinoma. But none of this should make you want to stay inside for the rest of your life. There are plenty of simple, preventative measures that you can take to avoid sun damage.
First and foremost: make sure to always wear a high-quality sunscreen made with titanium dioxide, zinc oxide or a mix of the two to ensure that you get broad-spectrum sun protection without the risk of skin irritation or dryness.When we say always, we mean it! Wear sunscreen year-round, on sunny days and snowy days alike.
You can also prevent unexpected sun damage with a pair of sunglasses and sun-protective clothing, as well as products such as UV film that is applied to glass in order to prevent the pass-through of damaging UVA and UVB rays. But beyond the obvious, here are 10 ways we get sun exposure without even knowing it — and what to do about it.
On Cloudy Days
Don’t risk going outside on overcast days without a good 30+ SPF sunscreen. Thankfully, it’s now widely accepted that clouds don’t block ultraviolet (UV) rays. In fact, even on the cloudiest days, as much as 80 percent of sunrays can pass through clouds.
Furthermore, there’s a phenomenon called “broken-cloud enhancement,” which occurs when skies are partly cloudy. This effect causes higher levels of UV exposure on cloudy days than on sunny days as the rays bounce and reflect off of dense clouds. The takeaway: make every day a sunscreen day!
In the Winter —
We’re all guilty of going outside in the winter without proper sun protection. Because the sun seems so elusive during the cold-weather months, it’s almost hard to remember to wear the proper sun protection products. The Skin Cancer Foundation cautions against going outdoors year-round without sunscreen, emphasizing the need for a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher during the colder months.
At the Nail Salon —
Who doesn’t love a good gel manicure? Those handy-dandy little light devices that cure your polish are pretty amazing, but they work by emitting ultraviolet light onto the nail bed and the skin on the hands and fingers.Although the risk is low — even the Skin Cancer Foundation labeled the most intense UV ray curing nail lamps as “moderate risk” — they can cause issues if used excessively. It’s OK to get UV-cured gel manicures occasionally, especially when you wear sunscreen on your hands.
Through the Window —
Unfortunately, damaging UV rays aren’t generally blocked by windows. You can still experience high levels of UV exposure while you’re sitting inside or driving. UV rays bounce off the materials in your environment — the sides of buildings, water, and sand, for example — and can penetrate glass. You can protect yourself from sun damage through the window when you wear a quality sunscreen all year long and use UV protective window film to limit UV rays from passing through.
In the Water —
It may seem obvious, but the ocean, lake, and pool are three of the most dangerous places for sun damage to occur, since UV rays are heightened when they bounce off highly-reflective surfaces. What’s not so obvious, though, is that UV rays can and do penetrate the surface of the water, so you’re even at risk when you’re paddling underwater. Additionally, because the sun reflects off water and windows, you’re at risk for damage even when swimming indoors.
Through Your Smartphone —
The light that emits from your sunscreen varies from the kind that comes from the big, golden star, but it may not be any less threatening. Called blue light or high-energy visible light (HEV), this type of light is worrying many scientists, and some studies even suggest that it could be more damaging than the sun. What’s more, the reflective nature of your smartphone’s screen can intensify both the sunlight around you and the blue light that radiates from your devices.
While You’re Driving —
Just like with house or office windows, UV rays aren’t deterred by the glass on your driver’s side window or windshield. In fact, dermatologists say that many of their patients tend to have more sun damage on the left side of their faces and arms than the right side due to their tendency to soak up rays while in the car. A UV-blocking glass film and some quality sunscreen will help quell this concern.
When You Don’t Wear Sunglasses —
As far as the Skin Cancer Foundation is concerned, sunglasses are just as important to a good sun protection regimen as a quality sunblock. When you step outside without your specs, you’re exposing your eyes to damaging light that can cause vision loss over time as well as eye conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration. To ensure that your eyes aren’t at risk, always wear a pair that blocks 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays.
Once You’ve Already Got a Tan —
One of the most common skin cancer myths is that if you have a darker skin tone or have already gotten a tan,then you’re at less risk of sunburn and skin cancer. Unfortunately, it’s just not true. All skin types and skin colors are vulnerable to damage from ultraviolet light.
When You Wear the Wrong Clothing —
Your clothes are the body’s first line of defense against sun damage, so they should be equipped to handle it. Investing in some high-quality hats and tops with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 50 or more can help guard your entire body against sun damage throughout the day. The tightness of the weave, as well as the color, thickness and type of the fiber, can affect how much sunlight your clothing lets through.