Should I Wear Sunscreen While Driving?

by Gio
need to wear sunscreen when driving

Do you wear sunscreen while driving?

In case you’re thinking:

“Come on, Gio, I don’t need sunscreen while driving. The windshields are enough to protect me” or

“But I’m only driving a short distance – like, 10 minutes tops. Why would I put on sunscreen for that?”

Think again.

Driving without sunscreen – for 10 minutes or one hour – can make one side of the face age faster than the other. Here’s what I mean:

Your Left side of the face is more prone to skin cancer

Did you know your left side of the face is more prone to skin cancer?

It’s true. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology has confirmed “an increase in photodamage and precancers on the left side of the face“.

The results are clear: in the US, 52.6% of skin cancers occurred on the left side, while 47.4% on the right side. When I mean skin cancer, I mean ALL types of skin cancer.

If we narrow it down to malignant melanoma (the WORST possible type of skin cancer), the figures go up. A staggering 74% of them occurred on the left side, while “only” 26% on the right one.

Shop My Fave Sunscreens

Driving may be to blame for increased skin cancer on the left side

Why does skin cancer prefer the left side?

Susan T. Butler, MD, coauthor of the study, suggests that “the increase in left-sided skin cancers may be from the UV exposure we get when driving a car“.

Think about it. The left side of your face is closer to the window and so most exposed to UV rays when driving.

(FYI, if you live in the UK and drive on the right side of the road, the opposite is true for you).

You see, UV rays are present from the moment the sun comes up to the moment it comes down – even when the sun is hidden behind clouds.

Fun fact: UV rays can get through clouds and glass. That includes windshields, too.

It’s true that most winshields today protect against sunburn-causing UVB rays, they UVA still get through them. Plus, all the other windows in your car provide no sun protection at all – unless you have them tinted with strong UV filters.

You know what it means? Drive 5 minutes today without sunscreen, 5 minutes tomorrow and by the end of the year, your left side will be more sun damaged than your right one.

The Bottom Line

It doesn’t matter if you’re driving for 5 minutes or for 1 hour, always put on sunscreen before getting into the car – even ifs you’re a passenger.



Nonie December 17, 2013 - 6:05 pm

I believe sunscreen should be worn at all times, not just when driving. The sun isn’t kinder to you because you are taking the bus, train or walking.

Also I find the study odd in its conclusion of what side of the face is exposed to the sun based on whether one is in the US or the UK When I drive to work in the US, the sun is usually to my right with a shadow on my left. The opposite is true when I drive back home. So I think what side of your face is in danger depends more on which side the sun is on while you drive and not what part of the world you are in

The proof of how aging the sun can be was shown a while ago when a truck driver whose face was always exposed to the sun when he drove in the same direction had different degrees on aging on either side of his face. Article:

beautifulwithbrains December 18, 2013 - 10:59 pm

Nonie, I couldn’t agree more. Sunscreen should be worn at all times, except at night of course. However, most people don’t realise that you need to wear it while driving, thinking the glass is enough to block out UV rays. I thought this study may give them something to think about. And thank you for posting a link to that photo. It’s true, the sun damages all sides of the face in different degrees and you want to make sure you’re well-protected everywhere.

BebeTaian December 18, 2013 - 7:43 am

It’s true. Another reason it’s important to remember to wear sunscreen!

Apply it 30mins before you leave home. Apply it again a few minutes before you leave home. If you can safely do this, apply some again after about 30mins of driving on your left arm or any skin exposed on the left at a long red light, parked in a parking lot, wherever (NOT while driving!). One of my arms was seriously more tan than the other because of UV damage while driving. I’d have kept sunscreen in the car more often, but the heat in Florida can cause cars to get up to 200F inside, even if it’s only 85F outside. Ruins the sunscreen. Sometimes it gets so hot I can actually feel the oils on my skin cooking. x.x It’s not fun. So don’t forget!

Gio December 20, 2013 - 3:08 pm

BebeTaian, that’s some wonderful advice, thank you! We should apply sunscreen on any area exposed to the sun, not just the face, and do so often. Thanks for the remainder.

And it definitely wouldn’t be good to leave your sunscreen in a car when it’s that hot! I think it’s a good habit to keep a bottle in the car, but only if you can do so safely.

Edward Bryan February 21, 2014 - 11:23 pm

Everyone that is worried about the sun’s damage to their skin should look at our new product we call suncloths. Suncoths block UVA and UVB rays at over 90% and have a 50+ UPF rating. They are light weight and can be left attached to your seatbelt after you have left your car.

Gio February 22, 2014 - 9:42 pm

Edward, what a great idea! Thanks for sharing.


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