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
I don't know about you but with hybrid working - part office, part home- there are days when I barely leave the house. I need to remind myself that I still need to wear an everyday sun protection , even on cloudy days and regardless of whether I'm at my desk or taking a walk .
I work near a window and as Linda Blahr, who worked as SkinCeuticals’ education and science manager, before moving over to Nuxe, 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 frying your skin, as UVB rays do (the ones that cause sunburn).
Quick recap on rays: sunlight has UVA and UVB light, both of which can cause skin and eye 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. Although you won't get sunburn or prickly heat from UVA, you may well experience pigmentation and premature skin ageing.
“If you have your working-from-home set-up near a window, it’s important to continue with your SPF regimen,” confirms Candice Gardner, education manager at Dermalogica .
How much UVA penetrates glass? It depends on the quality of the glass but generally, about 50 per cent, 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 'persistent pigment darkening' or PPD) but this often disappears very quickly.
As well as UVA damage from the sun, we also need to be aware of blue light which is naturally resent in sunlight, but which we get an extra dose of from our TV screens, overhead lights, phones and laptops.
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 the website Paula's Choice, because it only measures the protection against UVA turning the skin brown (PPD) and not everyone skin reacts the same way.
How often should I apply sun cream indoors?
To get the protection stated 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 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.
The Caroline Hirons favourite: Ultra Violette Queen Screen Luminising Sun Serum SPF 50+, £36
As nourishing as a serum, this has plenty of hard-working ingredients and is a great hydrator too. Kakadu plum is very high in vitamin C for protection, repair and glow while an ingredient called 'dragosine plus' lends blue light protection. What's more, it smells of roses. "The lightweight formula of Queen Screen sinks into the skin. It’s a dream for normal to dry skin. With no pilling and no white cast it’s a great choice for any skin tone or type," says Caroline.
The lightweight one: Dr Dennis Gross Skincare All Physical Lightweight Wrinkle Defense SPF30, £46
This is reef safe, blue-light protecting, mineral, lightweight and so easy to apply daily – and it also has the much-coveted Hirons seal of approval. "It offers invisible, lightweight protection. It is a physical sunscreen that suits the most sensitive of skins," she says.
The glowy one: Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40, £30
This is a lightweight, pearlescent formula that creates a pretty, glowy finish, all the while protecting from broad-spectrum UV rays and blue light. It’s a chemical sunscreen and also includes hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 for moisture. It absorbs quickly and makeup applies perfectly on top with no slipping and sliding. It has the same coverage as a tinted moisturiser and gives such a healthy glow that there's no need to follow with foundation. It's one universal shade, which is more suited to lighter skin tones. Skincare expert Hyram loves it too because it blends in and gives minimal white cast.
Best for blue light protection: Medik8 Advanced Day Ultimate Protect SPF50+ 50ml, £59
Launched in July 2021 this SPF comes out of the tube fairly thick, with a slightly yellow tint but quickly melts into the skin and is undetectable, leaving a dewy finish in its wake. There's no surprise it's a little heavier than other SPFs; it offers UVA, UVB and advanced blue light protection too, as well as a pollution shield and infrared light protection too.
The serum SPF: Hello Sunday The One That's A Serum - Face Drops SPF45, £20
Hello Sunday landed in 2021, changing the SPF game with a variety of formulas, from stick to serum. This serum texture was our top choice from the brand. It feels very lightweight and non-oily – it is a little greasy when you first apply it, but that disappears in a few minutes. It gives blue light protection on top of shielding the skin from UVA, UVB, infrared and pollution. The brand does note though, that mixing this with other skincare will dilute the SPF, so that's something to keep in mind.
The one for sensitive skin: Dermalogica Invisible Physical Defense SPF 30, £49
Suitable even for sensitive skin, this 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.