A Reminder to Use Sunscreen As We Go Outside Again

Following several months spent mostly indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the weather is heating up again and the great outdoors is calling our names, asking us to enjoy some sunshine. 

However, experts warn that after spending so much time indoors, our skin may burn easier.

Dangers of Excessive Sun Exposure After Lockdown

In general, every one of us should always be cautious of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and skin burning. But since we’ve spent so much time indoors during quarantine, we should be more careful than ever.

“The skin hasn’t had time to slowly adjust to the increase in ultraviolet light outdoors,” explains Dr. Joseph Zahn, an assistant professor of dermatology at GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C., during a discussion with Healthline.

Though the sun is a natural source of vitamin D, for those of us who’ve spent most of our time indoors due to stay-at-home orders, we may experience more sensitivity to sunlight.

Skin Cancer in the United States

Skin cancer is the most common malignant disease in the United States. Most skin cancers are the result of excessive exposure to UV light from the sun, tanning beds, and sunlamps. However, 1/3 of Americans don’t know tanning can lead to skin cancer and only 33 percent of adults apply sunscreen, which could be why an estimated 1 in 5 Americans will have skin cancer by age 70.

The Role of Sunscreen in Skin Cancer Prevention

To protect ourselves from melanoma and other skin cancers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 before heading outdoors.

There are two types of sunscreens:

  • Physical sunscreens. Physical or mineral sunscreens reflect ultraviolet light almost like a mirror. The minerals zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are common ingredients in these products.
  • Chemical sunscreens. Chemical or organic sunscreens absorb ultraviolet light to prevent it from damaging the skin.

A physical sunscreen might not be the ideal choice for people with oily or acne-prone skin, as its consistency is often thicker and heavier compared to a chemical sunscreen with the same SPF. In addition, mineral actives alone sometimes offer less protection from damaging UVA radiation when compared with chemical filters.

Check out Ingredients to Avoid in Sunscreen and Toxic Sunscreens to learn more about the right sunblock for you.

A Final Word of Advice

As we slowly but surely adapt to the new normal and rekindle our love for the great outdoors, we need to keep in mind that our skin might need to acclimate to the sun after months of barely any exposure.

Fortunately, wearing sunscreen to block the sun’s harmful rays is helpful against sunburns and the associated skin cancers. Tightly woven clothing, which we cannot see through or has a high UPF (ultraviolet protection factor), also offers added protection from the sun, says Dr. Brittney K. DeClerck, a dermatologist and pathologist at Keck Medicine of USC in California.

As long as we follow these guidelines, our skin should get the sun protection it needs.