You should always wear a seat belt when behind the wheel. But there’s one more thing you should be doing for your health and safety that you might not have considered before.
There’s sunscreen on its face. “Car windows can be a significant source of sun exposure for many people, especially if you spend a lot of time driving,” says Hyemin Pomerantz, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with Viva Skin Dermatology and Aesthetics in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, this is true of aircraft, buses, and train windows.
Reasons to Protect Your Skin While Driving in the Sun
You won’t get as tan after a lengthy drive as you would from a day at the beach. However, doctors warn that even the UV exposure you receive in the automobile might cause skin damage.
Because the sun releases both long UVA rays, which can cause wrinkles and premature aging, and short UVB rays, which can cause the skin to burn, it’s important to take precautions while spending time outside. If you’re wondering why you don’t get a bright red tan when driving, the glass in your windows and windshield effectively blocks UVB rays. Dr. Pomerantz claims it is less efficient in blocking UVA radiation.
The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, whether UVB or UVA, can cause DNA damage in skin cells, increasing the likelihood of developing cancer.
Particularly for the side windows. Research published in JAMA Ophthalmology in July 2016 indicated that whereas windshields may block up to 96 percent of UVA radiation, side windows only block up to 71 percent.
Therefore, “sun damage can predominantly affect the left side of the face and the left arm,” as Dr. Pomerantz puts it.
According to research published in JAMA, higher incidences of left-sided skin malignancies and eye cataracts are partially explained by drivers’ greater exposure to UV rays.
Applying Sunscreen Before Driving: When and How to Do It
What is the simplest way to block the sun’s rays through your car’s glass? As you would have predicted, sunscreen should be applied before entering a moving vehicle. Unlike your window glass, a broad-spectrum sunscreen will protect you from UVA and UVB radiation. (Give one of these recommendations from a dermatologist a shot.)
Your left side may be more in danger than the rest of your body, but it still wouldn’t hurt to protect your skin with a thick layer of sunscreen. Dr. Pomerantz suggests using it everywhere skin shows, including your face, neck, chest, shoulders, and arms. Apply sunscreen to the backs of your hands and think about using lip balm with a sun protection factor.
If you’re using a chemical sunscreen, let it take ten to twenty minutes to sink in before getting in the car. Mineral sunscreens, on the other hand, provide a physical barrier that blocks UV radiation nearly immediately after application. (If you’re unsure, do what it says to do on the bottle.)
Sunscreen should not be stored in a vehicle. However, “the hot temperatures can compromise the sunscreen’s protective properties,” Dr. Pomerantz cautions against keeping the bottle or tube in the car’s glove compartment.
There Are Other Methods to Decrease Your Time Spent in the Car Sun
Protecting your skin from the sun as you drive is possible in more ways than one. Dr. Pomerantz adds that “wearing protective clothing would also be helpful.” The skin on your arms can be shielded by wearing a long-sleeved shirt (or a sun-protective shirt), while your face can be protected by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking eyewear.
Wearing UPF-protective gloves, like Coolibar’s ($34) Gannett UV Gloves UPF 50+, is another option.
The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests taking extra precautions by putting clear UV-blocking window film. In some cases, they are quite efficient: An previous research published in the Journal of Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants in February 2004 indicated that UV coatings might filter up to 87% of UV radiation.
Any drawbacks? In most cases, expert assistance is required to apply the coatings. Moreover, “states have different rules for who can get their windows tinted and how dark the tint can be,” as Dr. Pomerantz puts it. This means they are only sometimes a good fit for some scenarios.
Other window sun coverings are available, such as the $15.49 Munchkin Brica Sun Safety Car Window Roller Shade on Amazon. However, since they are not see-through, they are more suitable for the car’s passenger side than the driver’s.
While driving, most of us are exposed to the sun for longer than we realize. However, the same precautions (sunscreen and clothing) you take while going outside may also be taken when driving.