Debunking the Myth That We Don’t Need Sunscreen on a Cloudy Day
“I won’t get a tan or a sunburn on a cloudy day, so there’s no need to wear sunscreen, right?”
Wrong. One of the biggest myths associated with sun protection is that we only need to wear sunscreen when the sun is shining. Our skin is just as exposed to harmful rays on cloudy days, and susceptible to rapid aging if it’s not adequately protected.
Understanding Different Types of UV Rays
There are two types of UV rays that cause harm to our skin – UVA and UVB.
UVB rays only penetrate into the top layers of our skin. They can lead to acute, immediate damage to our skin, and cause us to tan or burn under the sun on clear, bright and sunny days.
UVA rays on the other hand do long term damage to the skin, because they’re able to penetrate into deeper layers of dermis. They can cause skin to age prematurely and make it appear dry, thin and wrinkled. Plus, UVA rays can penetrate more easily through layers of cloud in the sky, which means they can damage our skin even on overcast days.
The reality is that up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays can pass through cloud, which means you’re exposed to the harmful sun even when you least expect it. Not only that, but UV rays can in some cases reflect from the edge of clouds and become more intense. Depending on the thickness and position of clouds, you may actually be exposed to more intensive UV rays on overcast days than on clear days. With the risk of sun damage being so high no matter the weather, it’s vital that you wear sunscreen every single day.
Choosing a Suitable Daily Sunscreen
There is a huge variety of sunscreens on the market, but they’re not all created equal. For starters, you should ensure that a sunscreen offers both UVA and UVB protection (often referred to as “Broad Spectrum”) so that you’re shielded from both acute and long term skin damage. Secondly, you should always opt for SPF 30 or above – the higher the better – to achieve protection against as much of the sun’s rays as possible.
It’s also wise to choose a sunscreen made with zinc oxide. This is a natural mineral compound which works to reflect and scatter UV rays more successfully than chemical-based sunscreens. Plus, it’s often much more gentle for sensitive skin than chemical-based products.
You should also consider the practicality of your daily sunscreen – it should feel comfortable on your skin and not inhibit your usually activity. Waterproof sunscreens are particularly useful, because they won’t start to run and wear off when you sweat, which makes them suitable for those who are very active, sporty or into swimming. EltaMD UV Sport is one of our most popular waterproof sunscreens; it’s broad spectrum and offers SPF 50 protection, which is perfect for daily wear in cloudy weather.
Finally, you might want to consider a paraben-free and fragrance-free sunscreen. Parabens are synthetic preservatives which are linked with cancer. Many people choose to avoid products which contain them, particularly if they’ll be wearing the product every day. Although there aren’t any dangers associated with fragrances, it’s often a good idea to opt for fragrance-free sunscreens because they can cause irritation for those with sensitive skin.