Let’s be real: Working from home for what feels like 93,458 days now has turned basically all our routines upside-down. Some of us are trying to retain a sense of normalcy by putting on makeup every day and finally mastering an acne routine, while others are completely rejecting things like, um, pants (who is really sliding on jeans rn?). But where does that leave products usually reserved for the outdoors, like sunscreen?
As a dedicated sunscreen wearer, I’ve been questioning if my daily layer of SPF is even worth it, considering how little I’ve been leaving my apartment these last few months. I mean, sunscreen is mainly supposed to protect you from the sun, right? Wrong. Kinda. Because as I quickly found out after chatting with the experts, sunscreen does way more than just protect your skin when you’re outside—it’s also majorly beneficial at preventing skin damage, wrinkles, and dark spots that can creep up when you’re sitting on your couch, scrolling through Instagram.
Why is sunscreen so important?
The gist: The sun gives off two different kinds of rays, UVA rays (the damage- and cancer-causing kind) and UVB rays (the sunburn-causing kind). Both rays can cause both short-term and long-term skin damage, like burns, dark spots, fine lines, melasma, premature aging, and even skin cancer. Sunscreen (of at least SPF 30) can help prevent all that, so long as you slather it on every single day—even if you’re inside all day.
Do you need to wear sunscreen indoors?
According to dermatologists, YUP! Especially if you’re near windows/sunlight at all. “Windows block most of the UVB rays that can cause burns, redness, and potentially cancer, but they don’t do as good of a job with blocking UVA rays,” says dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali, MD, founder of Hudson Dermatology and Laser in New York City. And, reminder, UVA rays are the extra-dangerous kind, penetrating deeper into your skin than UVB rays to cause a breakdown in collagen (which makes your skin less bouncy and resilient) and a genetic damaging of your cells (which can ultimately lead to cancer).
So unless you live in an underground bunker with zero natural light (in which case, wow, what great Wi-Fi), you need to be slathering on the sunscreen daily. Just make sure the formula you’re using has two key things: SPF of at least 30, and the words “broad-spectrum,” which “blocks both UVA and UVB rays coming in from your window,” says Dana Stern, MD, a dermatologist at Laser & Skin Surgery Center in New York. You’d think a broad-spectrum formula would be a given in 2020, but, surprisingly, a ton of sunscreens only offer protection against UVB rays, so really pay attention to the label.
FYI: Your computer can also damage your skin
It’s not just the light from your windows or your daily walk that can lead to skin damage. Blue light—i.e., the glowing light from your smartphone and computer screen known as high-energy visible light, or HEV—can screw with your face, too, leading to dryness, irritation, and early signs of aging.
“The inflammatory response that blue light incites can exacerbate redness and set off enzymes in the skin that break down collagen and elastin proteins,” Loretta Ciraldo, MD, a dermatologist in Aventura, Florida, has told Cosmo. Translation: All that screen time can subtly, yet potently, irritate your face over time.
But don’t freak out—there’s only so much you can do, right? Just make sure that the SPF you’re slathering on each morning is a mineral-based sunscreen (rather than a chemical sunscreen), which tends to protect you better against all kinds of light, since it acts as a physical barrier against pollutants, rays, etc.
So which sunscreens are best?
Believe it or not, there are comfortable-AF SPFs that you’ll actually want to wear at home. Think: Formulas that aren’t greasy, sticky, or chalky and won’t make you feel like you’re wearing a mask