Do I Need to Wear Sunscreen When It’s Cloudy?
It’s the age-old question: Do I need to wear sunscreen when it’s cloudy? Like many people, you might avoid using sunscreen when it’s cloudy outside. Many people assume that you can predict the UV levels outside simply by looking outside to see how sunny it is, or by checking the temperature. Unfortunately, UV levels can’t be seen or felt, and the temperature or cloud-cover can have little to do with how high the ultraviolet radiation is during the day.
What are UV rays?
UV or ‘ultraviolet’ rays are the harmful rays that come from the sun. These come in three forms: UVA, UVB and UVC rays. UVB rays are the ones which can cause sunburn when you’ve spent too long in the sun. UVA rays, on the other hand, can cause wrinkles, premature ageing and skin damage.
The SPF (or ‘sun protection factor’) of your sunscreen will determine your level of protection against UVB rays, whilst a broad-spectrum sunscreen will help to protect you from harmful UVA rays.
UVC rays have more energy than both UVA and UVB rays but aren’t able to penetrate our atmosphere. These types of rays aren’t what causes sun damage – which is why we don’t hear much about them.
What happens when it’s cloudy?
If sun damage happens because of the rays from the sun, then it’s only logical to assume that you aren’t at risk on a cloudy day, right? Wrong!
Unfortunately, harmful UV rays are the cause of sunburn and skin damage, not sunlight itself. When it’s cloudy or even rainy outside, you’re still exposed to the harmful effects of both UVA and UVB rays. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, cloud cover only filters out around 20% of UV rays, meaning that even in bad weather, you’re still exposed to 80% of the sun’s harmful rays and are still susceptible to sunburn, skin damage, and even skin cancer.
Anyone who’s ever been skiing or snowboarding, and experienced sunburn can attest to that! In fact, when you’re out in the snow, your risk for sunburn can be even greater than usual. This is because ice and snow can have a reflective effect on UV rays, and can intensify them. If you’re enjoying winter sports, it’s even more essential to ensure you’re protected from the sun with a good sunscreen, of at least SPF 30.
The sun’s rays are magnified by clouds: Myth or fact?
You might have heard the ‘myth’ getting around that the sun’s rays can actually be magnified by the clouds. This sounds counterintuitive and most people dismiss it as a silly myth with little basis in fact. However, it seems that this might actually be true. Scientists aren’t 100% sure why this happens, but indeed, cloud cover can intensify the effects of the sun, just as ice and snow do.
“Under partly cloudy conditions a phenomenon sometimes called the “broken-cloud effect” can come into play, resulting in higher UV levels than a clear sky would produce, and so a greater risk of sunburn – or worse. A survey conducted at six U.S. sites in 1994 found that cumulus clouds could raise surface UV-B measurements by 25 percent, and in 2004 Australian researchers reported that the specific UV-B frequencies associated with DNA damage were up to 40 percent stronger under somewhat cloudy skies.” – Cecil Adams. Read more here.
Whilst research is ongoing into the reasons for the possible increased risk of sun damage under cloud cover, what’s certain is that protecting yourself against UV rays is important in all weather conditions.
Choosing the best sunscreen for the conditions
What’s the best sunscreen for use in cloudy weather? That depends on what activities you're planning. First things first: Choose a sunscreen which has an SPF level of at least 30, if not more. If you’re heading out into the snow or ice for some winter sports, you might even consider an SPF 50 sunscreen, like our high-performance, SPF 50 Fragrance-Free Sunscreen.
All of our spray sunscreens at KINeSYS are non-comedogenic, which means they’re great for sensitive skin and won’t cause irritation. Furthermore, we have a great range of alcohol-free and oil-free sunscreens.
If you’re heading to the water this summer for some diving, surfing or swimming, you might like to consider using our all-natural, reef-safe SPF 30 Clear Zinc. We’ve spent years developing this great new product, which is 100% natural, and safe for use in our waterways and reefs. This oxybenzone-free product helps to protect our reefs and marine life, while being kind to skin and providing great protection from the sun. It’s also water and sweat resistant for up to 80 minutes.
No matter how you perform, KINeSYS has a sunscreen for you. Check out our full range here.
KINeSYS Sunscreen for all skin types