Summer is fast approaching, and with it comes trips to the beach, patio dining and outdoor sporting events. These are the occasions when people are most aware that they need sun protection — when they can see and feel the sun’s rays shining down on them. But these aren’t the only times ultraviolet (UV) rays hit your skin. There are a few sneakier situations where UV radiation can reach you, and it’s just as important to protect yourself against potential skin damage at these times as it is on sunny days.
If you work indoors, you may think you’re safe from the sun’s rays while you’re on the clock. Not so fast: Do you work near a window? If so, UVA rays are coming to work with you. UVB rays, the primary sunburn ray, are largely blocked by glass; but more than 50 percent of UVA rays, the main cause of premature skin aging, can penetrate glass. (Both UVA and UVB rays contribute to the development of skin cancer.) If you’re anywhere within several feet of the window, the rays will reach you.
You’re driving out of town for a weekend getaway. You know you’ll need the sunscreen when you get to your destination…but are you protected for the ride? By law, front windshields are treated to filter out most UVA, but side and rear windows generally aren’t.
Consider installing professional protective window film (both in your car and in your home), but check local regulations first. And if you’re flying to your vacation, be aware that sun comes through airplane windows as well. In fact, this sun exposure may be stronger than the exposure you get on the ground (more on that in a bit).
If you don’t install window film in your car or at home, it’s safest to wear sunscreen and sun-protective clothing just as you would outside.
On Rainy Days
It’s pouring, and so cloudy you can’t even see the sun, so you don’t need to worry about sun protection, right? Wrong! Just because you can’t feel the sun beating down doesn’t mean you’re not at risk for UV exposure. UVA rays can penetrate through clouds, rain and fog, leaving you exposed. Also keep in mind that summer storms can pass quickly, so when the sky clears, you might be caught unexpectedly in the sun.
At the Nail Salon
Heading to the nail salon for a mani-pedi? Be careful sitting under the dryer. Some nail lamps are called “UV” lamps, and some are called LED lamps, but both emit UV radiation (predominantly UVA). Although these lamps present only a moderate risk, it’s best to avoid using them if you can. If you’re setting a gel manicure, apply sunscreen to your hands 20 minutes before putting your hands under the dryer. If you’re getting a regular manicure, the safest bet is to allow nails to air-dry naturally, or see if your salon has a mini-fan you can use.
On a Mountaintop
Spending your summer vacay communing with nature? If you’re getting ready to ‘climb every mountain’, you’ll need to pack the sun-protective clothing and sunscreen. In fact, the sun’s rays are stronger at higher elevations — UV radiation exposure increases 4 to 5 percent with every 1,000 feet above sea level. The threat is even greater in winter climes, when UV rays reflect off of ice and snow, hitting your skin a second time. Be sure to reapply your sunscreen at least every couple of hours, and cover up. Then go have your Fraulein Maria moment.