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Sure, you slather on the sunscreen while you’re at the beach. But at work? Unless you work in the great outdoors, you probably barely think of it.
But unfortunately, going unprotected during your everyday routine is what actually creates the fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots of sun-damaged skin. And yes, that includes the days you spend entirely at your desk: Just because you’re indoors doesn’t mean you (or your skin) are safe.
“You’d be amazed how much UV damage you get through your windows,” says San Francisco dermatologist Kathy Fields. “Just look at the left side of your body compared to your right—it has more sun damage just from time you’ve spent driving without wearing sunscreen.”
The good news is that it’s not actually that hard to take care of your skin. Here’s your guide to getting the protection you need, from 9 to 5 and beyond (plus how to hide the signs of a weekend burn by Monday morning’s meeting).
SPF in the Office
The exposure you get while sitting in your cubicle and commuting in your car can damage your skin on a daily basis. Most of us won’t reapply regular sunscreen throughout the day at work (think of the mess it would make of your makeup)—but if you’ll be mostly indoors, you can get away with layering SPF-infused moisturizer, foundation, and powder for a decent amount of coverage.
Try Olay Complete Defense Daily UV Moisturizer ($14.25, soap.com), Almay Smart Shade Makeup SPF 15 ($13.49; drugstore.com), and BareMinerals SPF 30 Natural Sunscreen ($28; bareescentuals.com) with your morning routine. Throughout the day, swirl on the SPF mineral powder to boost your sun protection every two hours.
Screen Your Skincare
If part of your beauty routine includes products that deeply exfoliate the skin—like retinoids or salicylic acid—your skin is going to be more sensitive to the sun and more prone to burning and skin cancer. So, take a look at your face wash and cream labels, and if that’s you, you’ll need to do a little extra on the protection front. Be diligent by applying SPF 30 several times a day, even when you’ll be indoors all day.
When Makeup Is Not Enough
If you plan on even just 30 minutes outside for lunch—or you’re in the category of people who are using sun-sensitizing skin care products—you’ll need a real sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection.
Most foundations and powders don’t have enough sunscreen to really keep your skin safe from a high level of exposure, and you never know just how much you need to pile on to get the promised level of protection. With many products, while you think you’re getting SPF 15, you’re lucky to be getting SPF 6.
“I have a machine in my office that lights up the areas on a patient’s face that have sunscreen,” says New York dermatologist Francesca Fusco. “Those who only use SPF that’s in their makeup always have areas that are completely missing or rubbed off from regular perspiration or touching the face.”
To get the protection you need outdoors, spritz on a dry touch formula like Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen, SPF 30 ($8.99; drugstore.com). Spray it onto your fingertips and gently press onto your skin to keep makeup intact.
Don’t Count on Clouds
Up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can pass through the clouds, according to the American Academy of Dermatology—so don’t be fooled just because the sun’s not shining. If you’re at the beach on a less-than-perfect day or walking to work under and overcast sky, you’re still getting exposed—plus, in the case of being at the beach, the sand will reflect up to 25% of the sun’s rays right back up at you.
If, despite your best efforts, you still get a nasty sunburn, there are steps you can take to take care of it: Make it look and feel better instantly by giving yourself a whole-milk mustache. “Milk has natural lactic acids, and when cooled in the refrigerator, it has a gentle exfoliating effect. The fat doubles as a calming, nourishing moisturizer,” says New York dermatologist Erin Gilbert.
Soak a few small, soft washcloths in milk, squeeze out the extra, and store the folded compresses in the fridge so they’re ready to go as soon as you need them. Let sit on your sunburn for 15 to 20 minutes. Not only will they instantly take the sting out of a burn, but they’ll also create a protective protein buffer on scorched skin.
To cover up the redness, use a powder foundation in a warmer shade to neutralize and town down the redness. Since your skin is already irritated, just gently skim the surface with a soft fluffy brush, and choose a mineral-based formula without harsh chemicals or ingredients.
With a few simple tweaks to your normal routine, you can feel confident that you’re protecting your skin from the risks associated with sun damage.
Tell us: How do you protect your skin from the sun as you go about your day? Have you tried any of these products? What are your tips for treating a sunburn?