We might think it’s obvious when our skin has been exposed to too much sun. It sometimes happens when we’ve gone to the beach and forgotten to re-apply sunscreen, or when we’ve headed out for a walk in the middle of the day and returned home red and regretful. But there are a few sneakier ways we might be getting too much sun without realising it.
What’s wrong with unprotected sun exposure?
The majority of skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun’s UV radiation. UV rays can damage our skin after just a few minutes and start to burn after just 10 minutes. Even when it doesn’t cause sunburn or a harmful tan, unprotected UV exposure can still permanently damage our skin cells, which can lead to skin cancer and premature ageing. You can read more about sunburn in one of our past blogs: What’s so bad about sunburn?
That’s why it’s so important to be sun safe every day, even if you’re not planning to be out in the sun for a long period of time. Sun exposure can happen incidentally and you might not even notice when you’ve gotten too much sun.
5 sneaky ways you might be exposed to too much UV
1. At work
Outdoor workers are at an extremely high risk of skin cancer due to their constant UV exposure, but you might be surprised to learn that indoor workers aren’t safe either. Up to 50 per cent of UVA rays can penetrate glass, so if you work near a window the UV rays can reach you.
2. While driving
We talked about this in a recent blog, where we revealed that skin cancers appear more frequently on the side of your body that faces the driver’s side window. Keeping a tube of sunscreen in your glove box is a good idea, especially during holidays and road trips.
3. On cloudy days
If you can’t see the sun, it can’t get you, right? Unfortunately, no. UV radiation is different from the sun’s heat or light and it can’t be seen or felt, which means you can get sunburnt on cool or cloudy days without even realising it. UV rays can easily penetrate cloud cover, so UV levels can be high even on cold or rainy days.
4. At high altitudes
If you enjoy climbing mountains, skiing, or travelling by plane, you’ll need to make sure you’re sun safe. The sun’s rays are stronger at higher elevations — UV radiation exposure increases 4 to 5 per cent with every 1,000 feet above sea level and can also reflect off snow, water and glass, thereby hitting you for a second time.
5. At the nail salon
The sun isn’t the only source of UV radiation. It’s also emitted from the little UV lamps used to dry nail polish at some nail salons. You can avoid damage by applying sunscreen to your hands before getting your nails done, or opting to dry the polish with fans instead of UV.