5 Unexpected Ways You’re Getting Sun Exposure (and Damage)

Listen, ladies: We get that it’s summer. Time spent sipping cocktails in the backyard or stretched out on a sandy beach are the little, sun-shiney moments life is made of.

Most of us know the sun damages our skin (and if you weren’t aware, you need this article all the more) and have the foresight to apply SPF to our faces and bodies while lounging poolside at high noon—but what about incidental sun exposure from daily activities in our lives? The average woman is exposed to 840 minutes of sun a week, no matter the season. The sun is sneaky that way: Unless you’re being proactive about protection, harmful UV rays can cause long-term damage when you least expect it.

We partnered with Olay to discuss five key times you should be protecting your skin from sun exposure:

1. While commuting

Think you’re protected from the sun in the car? Think again.

Different parts of your car will block specific types of UV rays. Glass generally blocks UVB rays, and your windshield will protect you from UVB and UVA rays. However, your side and rear windows won’t protect you from UVA rays, which can cause uneven damage.

“Dermatologists have observed that patients in the U.S. often have more sun damage on the left side of their faces than on the right,” says Olay Principal Scientist Dr. Frauke Neuser. “Research explains the cause of this to be UVA radiation penetrating through car windows.”

2. While sitting at your desk

If you sit by a window at work, you’re exposed to eight extra hours of radiation per day. “When sitting next to a window all day you are receiving the more damaging rays without the normal protective benefit of vitamin D production,” Neuser says. “These rays are responsible for premature aging.”

Consider applying a UV film to your work window to help filter out those harmful rays, and—as always—never forget your SPF.

3. While running errands

A trip to the post office, a short walk to the market, walking in and out of the gym: These moments of sun exposure add up, even though they may seem negligible at the time.

These small instances reinforce why it’s crucial to apply a daily moisturizer with SPF, regardless of the weather forecast or how much time you think you’ll spend outside. Go for an SPF 30 moisturizer that provides UVA and UVB protection and has vitamins and anti-aging properties to counteract previous damage (like Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream with SPF 30, which has Vitamin B3 and amino-peptides to smooth and brighten skin).

4. On cloudy days

If you think you get a free pass on overcast days, you’re dead wrong. A thin cloud cover might cool down temps, but according to Neuser, it only reduces UV radiation by 20 to 40 percent. Clouds can do an OK (but not perfect) job of blocking out UVB rays, which cause harmful sunburns, but won’t block out UVA rays, which penetrate deep into the skin and cause lasting damage and premature aging.

In other words, just because the sun isn’t out doesn’t mean you should skimp on SPF!

5. On snowy days

Ever been sunburned at a ski resort? If you haven’t, it’s not something I recommend. Even when it’s cloudy, snowing, and below freezing, UV rays can penetrate the cloud cover and reflect off of the snow, turning the world around you into a huge, dangerous tanning bed. Be extra vigilant about applying SPF to exposed skin on these days and be sure to pick up a lip balm with SPF, because sunburned lips are the (actual) worst.

According to Neuser, fewer than 30 percent of women report they regularly use sunscreen on their faces and exposed skin. Simply integrating an SPF 30 moisturizer (which will protect against 97 percent of harmful UV rays) into your daily routine will enhance and preserve your skin’s appearance well into middle age.

Don’t wait. Start now!

Are you using SPF every day and do you notice a difference in your skin’s health? Start a discussion in the comments!


This story was sponsored by Olay but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.