If you’re on your way to a long day at a beach in the middle of July, chances are you’re automatically slathering yourself in sunscreen. It’s a no-brainer!
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But what about on the days that you’re not at the beach? Or the days you’re inside for most of the time? And what about the non-summer months? In other words, what about every other day that you’re being exposed to the sun in one way or the other?
The answer is yes: If you want to keep your skin happy, healthy and unscathed by the sun’s rays, you should be wearing sunscreen. Every. Single. Day.
Dermatologist Melissa Piliang, MD, breaks down exactly why this is important, as well as tips for daily sunscreen use.
Should you wear sunscreen every day?
The short and sweet answer is: Absolutely.
Sunscreen isn’t just reserved for playful days at the beach or relaxing days on the boat. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, anyone over 6 months of age should be applying sun protection every day. This is because you’re being exposed to more of the sun’s harmful rays than you might think.
“We get a lot of sun exposure just going about our daily lives,” says Dr. Piliang. Often, when we’re out and about, we may lose track of time, run into a friend at the grocery store or end up having to be outside longer than we expected, which could result in more sun exposure than we expected.
Basically, while you may not be lounging by the pool, even a day of running errands can expose you to a decent amount of sun.
What about wearing sunscreen indoors?
It may feel counterintuitive, but you should wear sunscreen every day even if you’re mostly indoors (yes, we’re talking to you, remote workers). Unless you live in a cave or submarine, you’re still getting a hefty dose of the sun’s rays through your windows and windshields.
“The fluorescent lights in our offices even produce some ultraviolet light,” notes Dr. Piliang. “This is why wearing daily sunscreen is really important.”
How about when the weather is cloudy?
Usually, it’s the intensity of the sun’s rays on our skin that gives us the signal: Oh, time to put on that sunscreen! But even on a cloudy day, the sun is still there and it can sneak up on you. About 80% of the sun’s rays still come through cloud cover and right onto your skin.
“It might even be a bit breezy out, so you don’t even think about the sun because you can’t see it,” says Dr. Piliang. “But you do still get a significant amount of sun exposure.”
So, yes, even on cloudy days you need to have daily sun protection. “It can catch you very easily on a cloudy day, so you have to be extra vigilant,” she adds.
Should you wear it in the winter?
You may think: There’s no way the sun is just as intense when there’s snow on the ground. But in fact, you do need sun protection during the winter months as well.
“You’re still getting that exposure from the windows, even if you’re mostly indoors,” points out Dr. Piliang. She also notes that if you live somewhere at high elevation like Denver or Mexico City, you’re technically closer to the sun and it could put you more at risk.
This means that even your winter or snow-related activities need sunscreen. “If you’re going on a winter ski vacation, make sure you’re wearing your sunscreen,” she advises.
Benefits of using sunscreen daily
A layer of sunscreen every day can go a long way. Here are some benefits of using sunscreen daily:
Helps maintain your skin’s protective barrier
In general, wearing sunscreen daily can help build up your skin’s protective barrier. Even when you’re out and about for a quick walk, the sun’s rays can still get to you. Wearing daily sunscreen is the easiest way to avoid harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays and prevent any surprise sunburns or skin irritation.
Plus, sun exposure can also magnify certain skin conditions like rosacea, eczema and acne. By wearing sunscreen, you can help prevent flare-ups and manage these conditions.
Reduces risk of skin cancer
By wearing sunscreen with a high SPF (sun protection factor), you can significantly reduce your exposure to these damaging rays that can lead to skin cancer. Sunscreen protects against UVB (ultraviolet B) rays, which are a large cause of sunburn and a major contributor to the development of skin cancer like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Helps stop premature aging
There’s no shortage of advertisements trying to sell us anti-aging products. But the best way to avoid premature aging on your skin is by protecting it from the sun.
“Exposure to the sun is a significant contributor to an aged appearance on the face,” states Dr. Piliang. A 2016 study found that people who used broad-spectrum sunscreen every day for a year saw significant improvement in their skin’s appearance.
Daily sunscreen use can prevent signs of aging, including:
- Brown spots.
- Irregular pigmentation.
What kind of sunscreen should you wear every day?
As the skin care aisle in the drugstore shows, there are quite a few topical options for sunscreen. When it comes to daily sun protection, Dr. Piliang recommends a light, mineral sunscreen that is at least 15 SPF — although it wouldn’t hurt to have a 30 SPF one handy for those extra sunny days.
Most of the skin care routines you find online will always include facial sunscreen as a crucial part of the process. This is why Dr. Piliang recommends getting a two-in-one solution by choosing a daily moisturizer that already has SPF in it. That way, you can blend your sun protection and skin care routine in one, swift step in the morning.
“These are often formulated in a way that doesn’t leave a film or anything on your face like some stronger sunscreens for the beach might,” notes Dr. Piliang.
You’ve probably also seen foundations, concealers and other makeup products with SPF in them that can provide an extra boost.
But be aware: The sun protection in makeup may not be enough — so be sure to still pair your makeup routine with sunscreen to keep you fully protected. Most SPF makeup also may not be enough to protect your ears and neck, so stick to your regular sunscreen lotion for some of those often-overlooked areas.
Plus, you should also apply sunscreen to the rest of your body that will be exposed — especially if you’re rocking short sleeves and shorts out in the sun. This includes your arms, legs, back of the hands — even tops of your feet if you’re wearing sandals. Some sunscreens can be applied to both your body and face, but if you’re using specific facial sunscreen, it’s best to switch to a full-body sunscreen for other burn-prone spots like your arms, legs and stomach. You can even get a two-in-one body lotion with SPF if your skin tends to be dry.
The bottom line
Sunscreen should absolutely be part of your daily routine. Think of it as your invisible protection from sun damage, even on the days when you don’t see it coming. Make sure you have a good everyday sunscreen routine that meets your needs. If you’re unsure about what kind of daily sunscreen is best for your skin, talk to a healthcare provider or dermatologist.