If you are working from home during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, your self-care and grooming routines have probably changed.
But one thing that shouldn’t change: Protecting your skin against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.
And that applies even if you are spending most of your time indoors to practice social distancing.
We talked to Saira George, M.D., a dermatologist at MD Anderson, to find out more about how to practice skin protection. Here’s what she had to say.
What are UV rays, and can they reach us indoors?
UV rays are a part of the energy the sun radiates. The two types of UV rays that make it to the earth’s surface, UVA and UVB, can both damage the skin.
UVB rays, the big player in skin cancer development, are filtered out by the glass in windows but UVA rays, which cause skin damage and aging, can pass through glass.
So, if your schedule has you spending long hours working by a sunny window or in your car, you may be racking up more UVA exposure and skin damage than you realize.
What about the light that comes from my computer screen, phones and indoor lighting?
We don't have much evidence to suggest that other wavelengths of light, like the blue light from computer screens, LEDs, or fluorescent lights are as harmful to the skin as UVA and UVB.
There is some evidence that blue light can cause some unwanted changes in the skin though, like abnormal pigmentation in people with dark skin.
If you are concerned about the long-term effects of artificial light sources, it’s just one more reason to practice skin safety, even when you are inside.
What should I do to protect my skin while I’m indoors?
Make it a habit to apply a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every morning, even on days when you plan on being indoors. Applying a light, comfortable sunscreen or a moisturizer or makeup foundation with SPF is a simple, practical way to get a layer of protection from UV rays.
If you rely on makeup with SPF for sun protection, keep in mind the level of protection you get depends on how much you apply and where, just as with sunscreen. You may need to do more if you apply your makeup lightly and to protect places like your ears or hands where you don’t apply any.
When you are headed outdoors, ramp up your protection. Use a sunscreen with an SPF 30 on all exposed skin, including ears, neck and hands. And don’t forget to wear a broad-brimmed hat, sunglasses with broad-spectrum protection, and dark clothing that covers exposed skin.
Don’t take a break from skin safety
Staying indoors cuts down on UV exposure significantly. But it doesn’t eliminate exposure completely. So, as you establish new routines for exercise, healthy eating and self-care indoors, don’t forget to include skin safety.
And, as social distancing rules ease, remember to follow the basic rules for reducing your skin cancer risk.