You might feel a bit sheepish as you slide on your driving gloves for the first time and apply sunscreen while still parked in the garage. But your future self will thank you for preventing age spots on your face, neck, arms and hands.
With the harmful effects of sun exposure well understood, Texans should be aware of the dangers of spending unprotected time in the sun – including time spent behind the wheel of a car. The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that, “For years, dermatologists have observed that patients in the US often have more sun damage on the left side of their faces than on the right.” Dr. Kellie Reed, a dermatologist with Sanova Dermatology in Austin, confirms this. “I’ve seen it in my patients, but research has also revealed that skin damage occurs while driving. The sun’s rays penetrate driver’s side windows,” notes Dr. Reed.
People often assume that glass blocks harmful rays, but this is not the case. Untreated glass—at the office, at home, or in the car—offers protection from the sun’s UVB rays, but not UVA rays. While most windshields are treated to block those UVA rays, side and rear windows allow them to pass.
Here are three easy ways to protect yourself while traveling from place to place under the powerful Texas sun.
1. Consider having your car dealership apply UV protective window film to your car’s side windows. The Skin Cancer Foundation created this list of best products. Window films screen out 93-99% of UVA rays without reducing visibility. Sun shields are a second layer that parents can add to their back seat windows.
2. Wear sunscreen every day. Dr. Reed recommends sunscreens such as EltaMD’s tinted sunscreen for the face, LaRoche Posay’s mineral sunscreen for the face and neck or EltaMD lotion for the arms and hands each morning. Even if you spend most of your time inside, small doses of radiation have a cumulative and damaging effect on your skin. Make sunscreen application a part of your morning routine. Then reapply sunscreen to your face, neck, arms and hands while driving around town throughout the day. Dr. Reed also loves Sunforgettable® Total Protection™ Brush-On Shield SPF 50 for your purse or Neutrogena’s CoolDry Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ Sport Sunscreen Stick to keep in the car.
Remember: Replace sunscreen every summer as time and heat break down the protective formulas.
3. Protection gear provides an excellent safeguard from the sun’s harmful rays. Long sleeve shirts, pants, wide brim hats, sunglasses, scarves, and even driving gloves, offer physical barriers that protect the skin from direct sun exposure.
Remember: Exposure to radiation is frequent and often subtle.
Establishing a daily sun protection regimen, including attention to time spent in a car, is vital to skin safety. Dr. Reed and her colleagues at Sanova Dermatology have assembled a list of time-tested products that can help minimize the harmful effects of car-related sun exposure and keep you “sun safe” while on the road.
Sanova Dermatology is a full-service medical, cosmetic, and surgical practice with six locations in Austin. Also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Follow Dr. Reed @skin_dr_reed. Cover photo: Dr. Reed carrying out a skin check. Courtesy photo