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Sunscreen at Night: Myth or Must?

Did you know that at night, your skin is much more active than during the day? Its goal during the nighttime is to recover and repair the damaged cells, which actively get replaced by new ones. This is why estheticians and dermatologists like to say that caring for the skin at night is a very good idea.

The benefits of using sunscreen during the daytime are hard to deny. However, the rationale for wearing sunscreen at night is surrounded by myths and is a source of ongoing debate among professionals and regular users. Who is right and who is wrong? Let's find out.

Understanding UV Radiation and the Role of Sunscreens

One widespread myth about UV radiation is that it is nothing to worry about on cloudy days and in the winter months. The logic tells us that clouds act as shields, as we don’t feel the usual warmth from the sun on our skin on cloudy days. However, science tells us quite the opposite – UV radiation penetrates clouds and is potent enough in winter days to cause damage to our skin. How so? A short detour into physics will help to find out.

It turns out that the ultraviolet radiation from the sun is not uniform. It is made of both short and long-length light waves.

UVB Radiation

The short waves are known as UVB waves, and they are exactly the ones responsible for the warm sensations we experience on our skin under the sun’s rays. In the short run, UVB radiation causes sunburns, however, prolonged exposure without proper protection leads to irritation, inflammation, wrinkles, acne, white and dark spots, and all sorts of other health and appearance issues.

Akt Therapy D-Luxe Daily Bronzer with SPF 30

UVA Radiation

The same ultraviolet radiation from the sun also carries longer-length waves or UVA waves. Those are especially cunning – we don’t feel them, but they constantly do their sinister work on our skin, damaging it, leading to premature aging, and even causing cancer! The longer wavelength of these waves also means they have a higher penetrating power. They pierce through glass, thin summer clothes, and even clouds. UVA radiation is also present on winter days.

The omnipresent nature of UVA radiation makes a potential case and an argument in the minds of the proponents of nighttime sunscreen usage.

The Role of Broad-Spectrum Sunscreens

The type of sunscreens that equally well shield our skin from the devastating effects of UVB and UVA radiation is known as broad-spectrum or dual-action sunscreens. Their SPF formula contains active ingredients that act on the surface of the skin as well as inside it to prevent and combat the negative effects of the sun’s aggressive impact.

Contrary to the popular misconception, all people, especially those with white and sensitive skin, should wear dual-action sunscreens on cloudy days and in the winter.

Akt Therapy Super Gloss with SPF 50

So, the right kind of question to ponder is as follows – are there any tangible traces of ultraviolet radiation, or any other harmful forms of light present at night to necessitate the use of sunscreens for protection?

How Dark is The Night?

Most people these days live in cities where they constantly get exposed to various sources of light, including the light from lamps, and electronic gadgets. While there is no evidence of the presence of sun-generated UVA radiation at night, dermatologists and skin care professionals are mostly concerned about the following two forms of artificial light:

  • fluorescent light from lamps;
  • blue light from smartphones, computers, and TV screens.

Let’s review what these are and what effects they have on our health.

Fluorescent Light

Fluorescent light is the form of light emitted by certain lamps. Such lamps are more commonly used in offices and other public places, and more rarely at homes. The danger of fluorescent lights is that along with the visible light, they also carry a small fraction of UV radiation. People with sensitive skin and with known health conditions, such as lupus, melasma, or rosacea, should be particularly cautious of staying under close and prolonged exposure to the sources of fluorescent light.

Blue Light

A far more dangerous form of light that we all regularly contact with is the blue light from electronic screens. At night, some of us spend too many hours with smartphones and laptops, not even realizing the risks to our skin health:

  • oxidative stress and free radical formation;
  • premature aging;
  • hyperpigmentation;
  • inflammation.

Blue light, also known as high-energy visible (HEV) light, is not healthy, indeed. However, its negative effects take much longer to manifest themselves into tangible health issues than those of UVB or UVA radiation directly from the sun.

The Exaggerated Danger

Honestly, do all of us spend all night in front of the screens? Modern people do realize the dangers coming from technology, and that’s why they try to reduce their time with screens. That and the fact that modern screens come with special blue light filters (physical and software tinted) make this form of light exposure too negligible to justify using sunscreens at night.

The same goes for fluorescent light, as its UV load is miserable, and is often measured in tenths and even hundredths of the total UV exposure that our skin gets during daytime light from the sun. Besides, fluorescent lamps are rather energy-hungry, which makes them the vestiges of the past. These days, people increasingly opt for eco-friendly and energy-efficient LED lights instead.

All in all, there is simply not enough evidence to claim that at night we encounter enough UV and HEV radiation to necessitate the use of sunscreens.

What Happens When You Don't Wash Off Sunscreen Before Bed

Sunscreens with good SPF ratings (30, or 50+) tend to have heavier formulations than most other skincare products. When used properly, i.e., updated several times a day, they form layers upon layers of chemicals and minerals so that by the end of the day our skin looks like armor under a magnifying lens. Especially if that’s a sunscreen with a mineral (physical) type of protective action that always sits on top of the skin.

Proponents of nights without sunscreens claim that any excessive layer of cosmetics clogs pores and leads to a whole range of skin problems, including:

  • increased risk of inflammation;
  • acne breakouts;
  • potential for eye irritation (if you accidentally rub your eyes while sleeping);
  • disruption of the skin's natural repair process.

It is the last consequence – the disruption of skin's natural repair processes – that provokes the strongest outrage from skincare enthusiasts. The naysayers of sunscreen nighttime treatment argue that interfering with this natural process is the worst mistake one can make. Instead of helping the skin do its self-maintenance job, people often make things even worse by adding other cosmetics on top.

AKT Therapy