I'm asked this question all the time by patients. If you are in the shade, can you skip the sunscreen? The answer is NO and the reason is that UV rays bounce off surfaces and sneak through fabric. UV rays will bounce off sand, water, cement, the sides of buildings, windows, etc. When you are in the shade, harmful rays can hit your skin from the side and can bounce up from below. Yes, shade protects you from some of the direct rays from the sun but that's all. In addition, not all shade structures are impervious to UV rays from above. Remember, UV rays are small and can squeeze between some fabric fibers. Don't get me wrong, shade is helpful, but it's not enough all by itself. You can see that in this great photo - of course the rays are reflecting off the beach sand and the water. I'd want to be under the umbrella, but I'd wear sunscreen and a shirt too. My advice is to use multiple sun-protection strategies to protect your skin from the UV rays while you enjoy the outdoors. The more rays you prevent from entering your skin the better. It's my "primary, secondary, and tertiary" back-up system for sun protection! (Yes, Star Trek Geek Alert!) Dr. Bailey's Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary (aka comprehensive) Sun Protection Strategy
Primary Sun ProtectionWear broad spectrum mineral zinc oxide sunscreen on your exposed skin. Only use products that include a minimum of 5% zinc oxide. Know how much to apply and reapply sunscreen every two hours of sun exposure and after your product is removed by water exposure or rubbing your skin. Always apply sunscreen to exposed skin before you step outside for the day and remember UV-A1 (which is harmful and aging to your skin) can come through window glass. See my Quick Sunscreen Product Pick guide below.
Secondary Sun ProtectionIf you are outside, aim for the shade or create it. This will at least fend off the UV rays coming down from the heavens. Great shade seeking ideas include:
- using a beach umbrella like in the picture above, aim for the shade of trees or buildings.
- be the smart person who insists on a shaded table at an outdoor cafe. (Who are those people sitting in the direct sun and aren't they hot?)
- wear a full-brim proper sun hat when you are outdoors.
- consider using a sun umbrella. My favorite is Coolibar's.