It’s probably been a few weeks since you’ve worn anything other than sweatpants or yoga pants. With many of us relegated to the occasional Zoom meeting as the sole form of our professional and social interactions, grooming—at least, from the shoulders down—quickly began to feel unnecessary.
It’s probably been a while since you applied some sunscreen, too. After all, if we’re not venturing out (much), what’s the point, right?
Wrong. One of the biggest misconceptions about sunscreen is that we don’t need to wear it indoors. Take a look around you. See all that sunlight pouring in? It’s only marginally safer than if you were sitting outside right now. The typical glass window blocks UVB rays, but not UVA rays. And they can penetrate even deeper than UVB rays. They’re the primary force behind the various kinds of photo-aging, which include wrinkles, dark spots, and leathery skin.
UVA rays can also contribute to skin cancer.
So, even though we’re stuck inside for the foreseeable future, you should be applying sunscreen as though it was business as usual. A quick refresher, in case that practice lapsed over the winter: Find a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
Broad-spectrum means that the sunscreen offers protection from both UVB rays, which burn skin, and UVA rays, which cause the aforementioned damage. SPF refers to sun protection factor. The number listed with it is a measure of how much solar energy is required to produce a sunburn on protected skin. As the value increases, so does the sunburn protection.
SPF 30 is the minimum recommended for year-round use. However, for beach days and outdoor activities in the summer, when the sun’s especially intense, go with an SPF of at least 50. It’s also a good idea to turn to a water-resistant sunscreen during the summer. You’ll see a lot of related descriptors on sunscreen bottles, like “sport” and “sweat-proof.” But, “water-resistant” is the only one regulated by the FDA.
As for how often you should be reapplying as long as you’re staying indoors (it’s every two hours if you head outdoors), it depends, believe it or not, on where you’re sitting. If you’re near a window, stick with every couple of hours.
There’s nothing wrong with easing up on the grooming while we’re quarantined. It can be a relief to have one less thing, however small, to worry about it during a time like this. But don’t lump sunscreen in with that lot. Think of it this way: Get back into the habit of applying (and reapplying) it now, and, later on, when the restrictions ease, it’ll be second nature.