Is Wearing Sunscreen Everyday Really Necessary?
You are unique, and your circumstances are too. So, generic messaging like “wear sunscreen every day” might not necessarily apply to you. The truth is that sunscreen usage largely depends on various factors such as where you are, what time of day it is, and your individual burn time. According to Cancer Council Australia, it is advisable to use sunscreen when the UV index is forecasted to be three or above. This in itself tells us that it’s not always recommended to wear daily, but there are other factors too.
Consider Your Environment:
First off, take a look at your geographic location. If the UV Index is going to reach 3 or above, where you are, right now?
Next, think about the time of day. In most places, the UV levels don't rise above 3 until late morning. So rethink applying it at 7am if there’s minimal UV until 11am.
Are you working outdoors or spending a lot of time near reflective surfaces like snow? These situations increase your UV exposure.
Don't forget to take into account cloud cover and altitude. These factors can affect the strength of the sun's rays.
Consider the duration of your sun exposure. If you're just stepping outside for a quick lunch break, a hat might be a handier option.
Further, did you know that even when we're indoors, we're not completely protected from the sun's UV rays? Glass windows don't block UVA rays (these are the rays that are prematurely aging us - DNA damage) which is something to consider when driving in the car or sitting by a window at work.
Now Let’s Consider You:
Everyone's response to UV exposure varies. The Fitzpatrick skin phototype system, developed in 1975, is a widely used method to determine your skin type based on its reaction to UV. The system predicts your response to UV by considering the amount of melanin in your skin. To take the test, visit here.
It's important to note that not everyone's skin neatly fits into one of these categories. Think of the Fitzpatrick system as a helpful guide rather than a rigid classification.
If you have impaired skin due to conditions like eczema or rosacea, or if you've undergone skin treatments like chemical exfoliation or skin needling, your skin is especially vulnerable to UV penetration. Take extra caution in protecting your skin in these cases.
As you can see, all of these things can change daily, and your sunscreen use should reflect that.
Why wouldn't you wear sunscreen every day?
Wearing sunscreen when you don't need it can be a waste of money and product. All products have an environmental cost, including the often overlooked packaging, manufacturing and transport costs. Secondly, many formulations can clog pores due to the makeup-like formulations (looking at you silicones), and there’s still a lot of feedback that people don't enjoy wearing it due to its occlusive nature. Empowering people on when to use sunscreen, rather than making them feel bad for not wearing it 24/7, assists with people being more compliant when they need to.
- Know Yourself and Your Environment: Know your burn time and sensitivity, and to be aware of your exposure levels to the sun.
- Download a UV App: UV apps like our faves UVIMate, UV Index and SunSmart give you a UV reading to the minute and location. All have free versions.
- Protect Yourself in Alternative Ways: Wearing a hat, sunglasses and covering up with long-sleeved clothing are all great ways to safeguard yourself from the sun’s harmful rays, especially if your exposure is incidental such as popping out at lunch to grab something to eat. Scope out the shady side of the street when walking, and consider tinted windows in your car and home if you are overexposed to UV.
- When you Need to Wear Sunscreen, Wear Sunscreen: Ensure that you’re using a product appropriate for your skin, and ensure that you’re using enough of it. You’ll also need to reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
- Remove Your Sunscreen. Properly: It’s crucial to remove your sunscreen to avoid clogging the pores. Just like with makeup, use an appropriate cleanser such as micellar water or an oil cleanser to remove all traces of product.
Sunscreen is an essential tool in protecting your skin against the harmful effects of UV radiation when there’s cause to. When you need to use it is largely dependent on your surroundings and individual factors. Taking the time to understand these factors can help you make informed decisions about when, where, and why you need to wear sunscreen. By doing so, you are more likely to be compliant with sun protection, and you can also save money and reduce the environmental impact of product waste. Remember, always protect your skin - but do it thoughtfully!