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  • Writer's pictureBruce Salinger

Do You Need Sunscreen When Going Outside for Less Than an Hour?

Scientists rarely agree on health advice, so it’s pretty striking to see one area where virtually all health professionals have the same opinion: sunscreen. Prominent organizations, including the American Academy of Dermatology, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Skin Cancer Foundation, all recommend using sunscreen when you go outside.

How Long Can You Stay in the Sun?

Skin damage comes from ultraviolet radiation. The tricky thing with UV rays is that they’re invisible. You can’t rely on red skin to tell you when you’ve had enough. By the time you get a sunburn, you’ve already absorbed tons of UVA and UVB.

So, how much is too much? For some people, even 10 minutes is too much exposure for bare skin. It depends on the time of day and your skin type. People with lighter skin need sun protection even more.

When Do You Need To Wear Sunscreen?

The best choice is to wear sunscreen any time you leave the house. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that 30–45 minutes outside is no big deal.

1. Running Errands

Whether you’re going to pick up groceries or heading to the bank, your skin needs sunscreen. UV rays can hit you while you’re loading up purchases, putting your shopping cart back and waiting at stoplights or drive-throughs.

2. Gardening

A gorgeous garden is heaven for stress relief. But, you still need to make sure you’re adequately protected against sunlight. Wearing wide-brimmed hats and (breathable) long-sleeved shirts can help, too.

3. Relaxing Outdoors

If you like to kick up your feet and sip pina coladas by your pool, don’t forget to lather some sunscreen on first. There’s nothing wrong with reading, relaxing, watching hummingbirds or taking a nap, but try to do it in the shade.

4. Commuting

If you go to work early in the morning, sun exposure isn’t a huge problem. That said, the longer you spend on the highway or waiting in traffic, the more UV rays hit you.

5. Working From Home

Did you know UV rays can travel through windows (unless they have a UV-reflective coating)? If you’re planning on opening the curtains in your home office to let the light in, slap on some SPF first.

6. Grabbing Lunch

Walking to a nearby restaurant at noon without any kind of skin protection is a big mistake. A midday jaunt exposes you to peak hours of sunlight (between 10:00 and 4:00). To be clear, going for a walk over your lunch break is healthy; just keep a bottle of sunscreen at your desk.

How Much SPF Do You Need?

Choose a sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 30. If you’re spending over an hour outdoors, such as when you watch your kids’ soccer games or go to the park with friends, go with SPF 45–50. Whatever you choose, remember to reapply every two hours outside.

How Can You Stay Safe and Have Fun?

Spending time outdoors is good for your emotional, mental and physical health. At the same time, your skin is desperate for protection from UV rays.

Instead of spending money on wrinkle treatments and sun spots, prevent skin damage in the first place. Considering how cheap, simple and portable sunscreen is, it’s a great addition to your daily routine.


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