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The verdict is in: We asked dermatologists whether or not you really need sunscreen, even if you aren’t going anywhere.

By Hana Hong
Updated April 07, 2020
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At this point, the importance of applying (and reapplying) sunscreen whenever you’re outside has been drilled into your head. But now that everyone is staying inside for most—if not all—of the day, another question arises: do we really still need sunscreen?

According to the experts, yes. It's equally—if not more—paramount to apply SPF even when you're inside.

Here’s why: Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) radiation. There are two main types of UV rays on the spectrum, UVA and UVB. UVB rays have a shorter wavelength and are responsible for producing sunburn. UVA (aging) rays, however, are much stronger, and are responsible for issues like discoloration, fine lines, and all those other little things we don’t like about our skin. Too much exposure can also lead to more severe skin conditions, including the big C word.

This means that if you're spending time in a room with a significant amount of access to sunlight—even through glass windows—it will have quite a similar effect as if you were outdoors. “While glass blocks UVB rays, UVA rays can still penetrate," says Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist in Westport, Conn. "UVA rays are primarily known for their role in accelerating the signs of aging by breaking down elastin and collagen, but they also damage DNA in skin cells, producing mutations that can lead to skin cancer.”

To further add to the importance of wearing sunscreen indoors, there’s another type of light on the spectrum that affects your skin—and this one doesn’t come from the sun. "As we continue to spend more and more time indoors, it's important for people to remember that most devices with screens actually emit HEV light, otherwise known as blue light," says Sameer Bashey, MD, board-certified dermatologic surgeon in New York and Beverly Hills, Calif. "Examples of these include your cell phone, computers, and televisions.” This high-energy visible light has been shown to penetrate deep into skin and result in damage like hyperpigmentation and melasma.

Now that we all know you should be wearing sunscreen, how much sunscreen should you wear? “With sunscreen, it’s best to get into a habit that doesn’t change even when sheltering in place," says Craig Kraffert, MD, board-certified dermatologist in Redding, Calif. "People are creatures of habit, so the best idea is to not change one's daily sunscreen habits, despite the current situation.”

That being said, wearing a broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher is recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology and is the minimal dosage for protecting against those harmful rays. Make sure to cover your entire face, as well as your neck and hands, on a daily basis as these are the areas most prone to aging.

We asked the experts for their top sunscreen choices for protecting against UV rays, even if you are staying indoors. Here are the derm-recommended picks.

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Credit: Courtesy of brand

1
Amarte Ultra Veil

An ultra-light sunscreen fluid with antioxidants and botanical extracts is ideal for incorporating into a morning skincare routine. Dr. Kraffert recommends Amarte’s Ultra Veil—it has the highest SPF performance rating acknowledged by the FDA, yet feels light as air when applied to your face.

To buy: $39, dermstore.com.

sonrei-gel-sunscreen
Credit: Courtesy of brand

2
Sonrei Sea Clearly Gel Sunscreen

According to Tejash Patel, co-founder of Sonrei, “UVA rays can penetrate through glass even within several feet, exposing your skin to sun damage in as little as 15 minutes.” This gel sunscreen is fortified with a combination of vitamin C, E, and ferulic acid to instantly lock in moisture and provide defensive anti-aging benefits.

To buy: $25, sonreiskin.com.

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Credit: Courtesy of brand

3
ZO Skin Health Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 50

Whether you're working near a window or exposing yourself to different screens, it's best to ensure you're wearing sunscreen that can protect you from UVA, UVB, and HEV lights. Dr. Bashey recommends ZO Skin Health Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 50, which contains a cocktail of powerful antioxidants to help fight against them all.

To buy: $47, zoskinhealth.com.

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Credit: Courtesy of brand

4
PURE BioDerm Antioxidant Super Serum

According to Dr. Robinson, research shows when Vitamin C is combined with a broad spectrum sunscreen, there is greater protection from sun damage. BioDerm’s super serum is deserving of its name; it defends against oxidative damage encountered throughout the day, while buffing your skin with hydrating ingredients to improve complexion.

To buy: $65, moderndermct.com.

alastin-sunscreen
Credit: Courtesy of brand

5
Alastin HydraTint Pro Mineral Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 36

If you’re looking for proper sun protection and coverage, look no further: Dr. Robinson recommends the powerful antioxidants in Alastin’s tinted sunscreen (the tint is universal to fit most skin colors) if you want a flawless complexion.

To buy: $55, alastin.com.