What happens to your skin when you skip sunscreen?

What are you actually doing to your skin when you skip that sunscreen step? We’re told to make sunscreen application a daily habit, or at least use it on days where the UV Index rises above 3. But why is sunscreen such an important ingredient in everyday life and what happens if you forget to put it on?

What happens if you skip sunscreen?

Sunscreen is one of the major aspects of protecting your skin health, over and above all the other ways you should be protecting your skin, like wearing a hat and avoiding sun exposure during the middle of the day. Besides the fact that sunscreen helps lower your risk of skin cancer, it also reduces pigmentation and helps prevent premature skin ageing.

Applying sunscreen every day might seem like a costly habit, but it’s worth it. You could spend hundreds on serums and treatments to reduce the appearance of lines, wrinkles, sunspots, uneven skin tone and sagging skin (yes, the sun causes that too) – or you could make a much smaller investment in sunscreen that helps slow down the ageing process for a little while longer.

It also worth the time and money to avoid getting skin cancer, which can be a costly and anxiety-inducing experience. Additionally, skin cancer can cause significant scarring, disfigurement and even death. One Australian dies from melanoma every five hours, so prevention is better than a cure!

But what if it’s overcast or cool outside?

Unfortunately, the weather doesn’t correlate with UV levels. While you may not be able to see or feel UV radiation, you can still be exposed to high levels on overcast days. This is because up to 80 per cent of the sun's UV rays can pass through clouds (that’s why you can still get sunburnt on an overcast day).

You should wear sunscreen every day of the year – even in winter – and especially when the UV Index reaches 3 or higher, when the sun’s radiation is considered high enough to damage skin cells. In Australia, UV levels are almost always this high during the day. You can check the daily UV forecast in real-time by downloading the SunSmart app.

How can you make sunscreen more wearable?

One big challenges with wearing sunscreen every day is that it’s often too thick or greasy, or incompatible with makeup. There are plenty of products ideal for everyday use, even for people with sensitive skin. Look for an SPF30+ broad-spectrum and water-resistant sunscreen that is lightweight and non-greasy. Moisturisers and makeup containing SPF don’t provide adequate sun protection.

How should you apply it?

Sunscreen should be applied after your skin care and before your makeup, leaving a few minutes between steps so the product has time to absorb. Apply it to all parts of your body where skin is not covered by clothing. You need about 3ml (half a teaspoon) for the face, ears and neck. Don’t forget: if you're outdoors for an extended time, you'll need to reapply the same amount every two hours.