We all know the dangers of unprotected sun exposure, and I probably don’t have to remind you about the importance of sunscreen when getting direct sun. But I do find that many of my patients don’t realize the effects that intermittent and indirect sun exposure can have on the health and appearance of their skin. These short periods of time add up without even realizing it, which is why it’s imperative to use an antioxidant along with sunscreen each and every morning, regardless of your plans for the day.
In addition to damage caused by direct and indirect sun, UV reflectance poses yet another serious threat to our skin—and most people are unaware of it. UV exposure is increased when rays are reflected off water, sand and even concrete (runners, take note). Any shiny surface can reflect UV rays, and this study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology identifies yet another source of UV reflectance: Your cell phone.
Imagine that you were holding a mirror instead of your phone — it would be very easy to see if sunlight was bouncing off and being redirected at your face. Your phone’s screen does the same thing as a mirror—and increases your sun exposure, similar to those reflectors many women and men used to use while sunbathing many years ago.
To prove this, researchers set up a variety of devices on a music stand in the mid-day sun, and affixed a UV sensor to a mannequin head in front of it. The data collected showed that phone, iPad and laptop screens all increase levels of UV exposure.
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The study reinforces how important it is to use antioxidants and a physical sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to protect your skin from the sun. Between direct, indirect and reflected UV rays, the potential for sun damage (and resulting skin cancer and premature aging) is literally around every corner!
Dr. Leslie Baumann is a board-certified dermatologist, New York Times best-selling author and CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami.