Should You Wear Sunscreen Inside? Here’s What a Dermatologist Says
You're not off the hook just because you're barely leaving your house these days.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, you probably won't be enjoying many of your favorite springtime activities this year—like spending most of your time outside. While, yes, some states are beginning to lift restrictions on stay-at-home orders, others are warning residents they might have to stay home a bit longer than expected.
But just because you're spending most of your time at home now, doesn't mean you can totally skimp on your daily routine—brushing your teeth morning and night, showering on the regular, remembering to eat three square meals a day. Also on that list: wearing sunscreen every day—even while you're stuck inside.
Yep, even if you're not doing your daily commute and only seeing sunlight through your windows at home, you still need to protect your skin from harmful rays, Chris Adigun, MD, FAAD, a practicing dermatologist based in North Carolina and spokesperson for the Skin Cancer Foundation, tells Health. According to Dr. Adigun, UVA rays—which make up 95% of the sun's rays that reach the Earth—can go through your windows and make contact with your skin, and these rays can cause skin cancer. (For context, modern tanning beds—which dermatologists frown on—mostly emit UVA rays, according to the American Cancer Society.)
“Unless you’re working (from home) in a dark box with no windows, you’re exposed to those UVA rays,” says Dr. Adigun. “UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply,” she explains, adding that, in addition to playing a role in developing skin cancers, UVA rays can contribute to premature aging. UVA rays can go through car windows as well as the regular panes in your house, says Dr. Adigun, who adds that, sadly, many people buy into the myth that they don’t need sun protection indoors. “I think that’s a very common misconception. If you have windows, you are getting UVA rays,” she explains.
So how can you continue to protect yourself while staying home? First of all, make sure you’re wearing the right kind of sunscreen. Specifically, make sure the label says the bottle provides “broad spectrum” protection. If it doesn’t say “broad spectrum,” you’re not going to be protected from UVA rays, Dr. Adigun explains. To keep it simple, you can hunt for a bottle that has the Skin Cancer Foundation’s daily use seal, she advises.
Dr. Adigun also says to make sure you like the sunscreen you plan to use. This might seem like obvious advice, but it’s important to make sure applying the type of sunscreen you have feels less like a chore and more like a necessary safety precaution. The reasoning? If it makes your skin feel weird or you don’t like the smell of it, you’re less likely to slap it on each morning. “If you like it, you will wear it,” Dr. Adigun says. And, as always, make sure you’re covering all exposed areas with sunscreen—your face, your ears, the backs of your hands—with the right amount of sunscreen.
Lastly, be mindful of where you’re sitting in your house, and how you can minimize your risks by closing curtains and blinds. But, Dr. Adigun warns, don’t cut off your sun exposure to try and keep yourself safe, as this can have detrimental effects on other aspects of your wellbeing. “We’re going to have to be indoors. That’s going to take its toll on mental health,” Dr. Adigun says. There’s no need to snap your blinds shut if you usually WFH in a sunny area of the house—just make sure you protect yourself with sunscreen before you settle in for the day.
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