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Sunscreen season is here again and good chances are a bottle (or two) is tucked in your bag as you head to the beach, park, or baseball game. But what about walking to and from the office this summer? Will that brief exposure to the sun increase your chances of skin cancer and premature winkles?
Absolutely, says New York-based dermatologist Vicki Levine, MD, who adds that wearing sunblock with an SPF of 30 should become a morning ritual even if you’re stuck in the office for nine hours a day. That’s because even a short lunchtime break or five-minute walk around a city block can pose serious health risks. And workers who sit near a window have an even greater chance of absorbing harmful UVA and UVB rays. Though UVA rays may be less intense than UVB rays (the ones that cause those painful summer sunburns), they are constant throughout the year and can penetrate glass. A 2010 scientific study on office sun exposure found that the participants (eight women and two men who lived in France) developed more wrinkles, discoloration, and skin roughness on the side of their face that was overexposed to the sun longterm.
"Applying sunscreen will not become a habit unless you do it every day," Levine explains, adding that there’s no need to go above SPF 30.
Doctors recommend that individuals apply sunscreen every 60 to 85 minutes if they’re outside for an extended period of time. A healthy dose of sunscreen would fill a shot glass, though very few people actually use that much. As a result, people receive less sun protection than what they think they’re getting based on what’s printed on the bottle.
And for those who are lucky enough to score a window seat, there are other ways to shield the skin from burns and premature wrinkles: Wear fabrics that contain an SPF (look for labels that list the Ultraviolet Protection Factor) and purchase a UV window film that blocks 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation and serves as a barrier between the sun and the inside of the office.