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Why you need to wear an SPF even when you’re indoors

April 4th 2020 / Melanie Macleod / 0 comment


Even though you won't burn, those damaging rays can affect you even when you're not leaving the house. Here's how to protect against them and the sunscreens you need

Has anyone else’s skincare regime become seriously pared back since working from home during lockdown? Without makeup and the daily pollution and grime to contend with, I’m only doing a single cleanse each evening and just using a simple moisturiser during the day.

One step we definitely shouldn’t be missing out even though we’re inside most of the time is SPF, as SkinCeuticals’ national head of training and education Linda Blahr points out: “UVA radiation is able to penetrate window glass and most of us prefer sitting close to a window while working remotely.”

"UVA rays are known as the sun’s silent killers because you don’t feel them affecting skin," says Paula's Choice.

Sunlight, as we all know, contains UVA and UVB rays both of which can cause skin damage. An easy way to remember what they do is UV-A is 'Ageing' and UV-B is 'Burning'. While UVB is largely blocked by glass, UVA can get through - so although you won't get sunburn or prickly heat you need to take care.

“If you have your working-from-home set-up near a window, it’s important to continue with your SPF regimen,” says Candice Gardener, education manager for Dermalogica. “The rays that lead to skin and eye damage can still get through even if you don’t get burned.”

How much UVA penetrates glass? It depends on the quality of the glass but generally, about 50 per cent of UVA rays are able to come through your window, according to Rowan Hall-Farris, head international facialist for QMS Medicosmetics. “If you can feel the sun on you, you should be protecting your skin,” she adds.

UVA damage shows itself in premature ageing - we’re talking deep wrinkles, volume loss, dehydration and inflammation and may contribute to the formation of skin cancer, according to the World Health Organisation. UVA also activates the melanin pigments already in your skin, so you may notice indoors that your skin 'tans' (known as 'instant pigment darkening') but this often disappears very quickly.

As well as UVA damage from the sun, we also need to be aware of the blue light from our TV screens, phones and laptops because we’re likely spending more time in front of them than usual.

Like UV, blue light, or high energy visible light (HEV) is one part of the daylight light spectrum, explains Gardener. “The energy is lower than UVA, but too much blue light can contribute to collagen degradation, darken hyperpigmentation (especially in deeper skin tones) and trigger inflammation.

“Research is still emerging so we don’t know the level of exposure to HEV required to cause a specific degree of damage.”

What factor SPF should I wear inside?

“An SPF30 is fine, however, it’s crucial that the suncream has a broad-spectrum filter system providing a proper UVA filter. Not all sunscreens have this,” advises Blahr. “Check on the packaging for UVA printed in a circle.”

You might also see the PA+ (or even PA++++) on the label which is a rating system from Japan indicating how much UVA protection is offered (the more + the better). However, this is not considered as gold standard as 'broad-spectrum SPF', according to Paula's Choice, because it only measures the protection against UVA turning the skin brown (known as PPD, persistent pigment darkening) and not everyone skin reacts the same way.

How often should I apply sun cream indoors?

To get the protection stated on the on the packet you need to reapply every four hours. Remember that sunscreen in foundation and makeup offers some protection, but you are unlikely to slather on the amount needed to get the protection on the pack.

How can I protect my skin from blue light?

Since blue light borders UVA on the light spectrum some sunscreen filters such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can also shield from blue light (for more, read our explainer on the different mineral and chemical filters and sunscreen ingredients).

Here's our edit of the best skincare to protect from both UVA when you're working inside and blue light damage from extended screen time.

QMS Medicosmetics Cellular Sun Shield, £69


This lightweight formula with a mixture of chemical and mineral filters protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays and leaves skin protected, repaired and strengthened.

Buy it now

Dermalogica Invisible Physical Defense SPF 30, £49


Suitable even for sensitive skin, Dermalogica’s latest launch is ultra-sheer and blends into all skin tones thanks to the lack of white chalky residue, making it suitable for darker skins. It fuses zinc oxide to protect skin from UVA/UVB and blue light with a bio-active mushroom complex which soothes skin and reduces UV induced redness and dryness. It's a physical sunscreen(non-nano zinc oxide) that sits on the surface of the skin and bounces rays off, but has the light and blendable texture of a chemical cream.

Buy it now

MORE GLOSS: The best SPF for sensitive skin

Clinique Superdefense SPF 40 Fatigue + 1st Signs of Age Multi-Correcting Gel, £42


This silky gel uses chemical filters guards skin from UV rays, infrared and blue light thanks to antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin E. On top of that, instantly awakens the skin with a refreshing zing.

Buy it now

The Body Shop Skin Defence Multi-Protection Lotion SPF 50+ PA++++, £22


This new and improved version of the Skin Defence is a chemical suncreen inside a moisturiser that protects again UVA and UVB rays as well as pollution, providing indoor and outdoor protection.

Buy it now

Diego Dalla Palma UV Daily Primer SPF 50+, £23.50


This illuminating, multi-action primer evens out the complexion and gives a radiant appearance whilst protecting the skin thanks to the broad spectrum defence against UVA and UVB as well as City Shield, which guards skin against polluting particles. It includes a synergy of both mineral and chemical sunscreens.

Buy it now

Tropic Great Barrier Sun Lotion SPF 15, 30 and 50, £18 for 100ml


Made with reef-safe chemical filters combined with mineral protection from zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. There's also green algae in the ingredients list to protect from environmental stress and offers defence against blue light.

Buy it now

Alteya Organics Age Defense Rose Sunscreen SPF 30, £14.95 for 50ml


This 100 per cent natural and organic sunscreen provides UVA and UBV protection, plus lends the skin a pretty sherry rosy tint. It's a combination of mineral and chemical sunscreen.

Buy it now

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