It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the sun can’t hurt you, especially on cloudy days. After all, how could you possibly get a sunburn when it’s overcast and cold out? The answer is, easily enough that you’d be smart to make putting on sunscreen part of your daily routine. Because, if you’re not careful, even the shade can mess you up:
In The Car: “We see lots of truck drivers who have considerable sun damage on the left side of their body, while the right side is relatively unharmed,” says Dr. Paul Massey, Dermatology Resident at the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. Why the distinction? While normal window glass filters UVB radiation (the kind that causes sunburns), it doesn’t filter UVA radiation, which, as Dr. Robert Brodell, Professor and Chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center explains, “penetrates deeper into the skin and causes Melanoma skin cancer and wrinkles.” So unless you want to look like Two-Face, stay lotioned up—even in the car.
While Wearing Clothes: If you think that hip statement shirt will keep you from getting burned, think again. “Lightweight, light-colored fabric offers little sun protection, especially if loosely woven. And if clothing gets wet, it can lose up to half of its UV protection,” says Dr. Massey. Luckily, UV absorbent clothing is widely available (as long as looking cool isn’t high on your priorities list).
When it’s Cloudy Out: It’s easy to skimp on the sunscreen when it’s overcast outside, but cloud cover doesn’t provide as much sun protection as you may think. “About 80 percent of the sun’s emitted UV rays will reach your skin on cloudy days,” says Dr. Massey. The necessary truth is, dermatologists recommend wearing sunscreen on a daily basis, not just when it’s sunny outside. Which really isn’t that bad considering it’ll help you avoid looking like you’re 50 when you’re 30.
In The Shade: Lounging poolside under an umbrella or under a palm tree may seem like the best way to enjoy the outdoors without experiencing the effects of the sun, but UV rays don’t always come from above. “UVB light is easily reflected off of different surfaces, such as glass, sand and water. Though you might be under cover, you can still get burned,” says Dr. Brodell.
While Wearing (The Wrong Kind Of) Sunscreen: Not all sunscreens are created equal, and that SPF 4 tanning oil isn’t going to keep that massive fireball in the sky from burning you up. Which is why Dr. Massey suggests “wearing SPF 30 or greater on a daily basis, and looking for sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection.” That way, you’ll be protected against sunburns, Melanoma and wrinkles.