Why you need to wear sunscreen when you're indoors

Assuming you don’t need sunscreen when you’re staying indoors is a trap that’s easy to fall into.

If you’re not sitting outside and bathing in the sun’s damaging rays, you’re all good to skip the sun cream, right?

Well, no. Sorry.

You really do need to wear sunblock every single day – even if you’re not planning to go outside or are spending most of your waking hours working from home in front of a laptop.

This is because the sun can damage your skin even through windows.

‘Standard glass windows block UVB but not UVA rays, which can penetrate deeper into the skin than UVB [rays], [and] are the main contributing factor to photo-aging — which are changes seen as dark spots, wrinkles, and leathery textured skin,’ Joyce Park, a California-based, board-certified dermatologist, tells Allure.

UVA rays can not only lead to signs of ageing, such as sagging skin, wrinkles, and discolouration, but can cause cancer.

That means that even if you’re sitting indoors all day, the natural sunlight streaming in through your windows could be causing all sorts of harm.

The good news is that there’s a (very) easy solution to this alarming issue: wear sunblock.

You can also deck out your windows in special photoprotective films, but that feels like far more effort – and might not be an option for those of us who are renting.

Emma Coleman, a dermatology RGN and the founder of a skincare range, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Sun damage through windows is otherwise known as ambient solar UV radiation and most of us are actually exposed to this radiation throughout our daily routine.

‘Many studies have provided evidence that cumulative and excessive exposure to UV radiation can be one of the causes of skin cancers, skin damage, premature skin ageing and sun-related eye disorders.

‘As a result of this data, there have been some major advances in photoprotection of glass by the development of specially designed photoprotective windows and films.

‘If you are working from home close to a window regularly, and particularly if you have Fitzpatrick skin type I to IV; investing in photo protection and wearing sunscreen on exposed areas including your face, neck, chest, arms and back of your hands is essential to protect your skin from ageing and more serious skin cancer risks.’

It’s worth noting that you must wear sunscreen even if you’re someone who doesn’t burn easily, who doesn’t have any prior skin damage, or someone with darker skin – while lighter skin tones are more at risk, you still need sunblock.

There’s another reason it’s vital to wear sunscreen and keep an eye on your skincare routine when you’re spending your days in front of your laptop screen, and that’s the potential for damage from blue light (HEV) exposure.

There’s no evidence that HEV light – which is also found in natural light, FYI – that we get exposed to through screens can cause skin cancer, but there’s a huge amount of discussion in the world of dermatology about whether blue light from our screens could cause skin damage in the form of premature ageing and discolouration.

Many sunblocks will now include protection from HEV light along with UVA and UVB light, so while there’s far more evidence that the latter two types of light are the ones to worry about, if fears that staring at a screen may be wrecking your skin make you slather on sun protection, that’s a great thing.

Along with the sunblock, you’ll want to keep an eye on how your skin is responding to time spent working from home and treat it accordingly.

But, we repeat, the most important – and easiest – thing you can do to look after your skin is applying sunscreen every single day, even when you’re going to be indoors.

‘Time spent staring at your screen can also affect your facial skin in many ways if it is not appropriately nourished around Zoom calls, virtual team meetings, and internet browsing,’ says Emma. ‘Excessive time spent in front of the screen poses elevated risk of pigmentation; dry, rough skin formation and possibly eczema and psoriasis flare ups.

‘This is partly due to blue light exposure, but actually the feedback I’m getting from clients is that video meetings and calls can be intense and stressful for many people which can also affect the skin.

‘Include some antioxidant moisturiser in your skincare preparation whilst you’re getting ready in the morning.

‘I recommend applying a product with sun protection factor 30 or above for those working from home.’

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