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Yes, you should wear sunscreen on daytime flights—here’s why


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Photo: Thinkstock/Seb Ra

You slather on sunscreen every morning, when you’re at the beach, and before your morning run, but one place you probably never thought you’d need extra protection? On an airplane, during a flight.

It might not seem like a huge deal—there are only those tiny windows, after all—but dermatologist Doris Day, MD, told Travel + Leisure the sun exposure you get in the air while traveling nearly six miles closer to the sun can cause a lot of damage if you’re not careful: “The fact is, flying at 30,000 feet [for 60 minutes] can be as dangerous as 20 minutes in a tanning bed,” Dr. Day said.

“Flying at 30,000 feet [for 60 minutes] can be as dangerous as 20 minutes in a tanning bed.” —Dr. Doris Day, dermatologist

And even though the plane windows block some harmful UVB rays, UVA rays can still penetrate the surface, which could be super harmful if you’re sitting in a window seat during daylight hours. “Given the elevated level, the UV rays don’t have to travel as far to cause damage and can be much more intense at higher altitudes,” dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD, said to Travel + Leisure. “It is important to protect from UVA rays in addition to UVB, as UVA rays can lead to skin aging as well as skin cancer.”

To prepare yourself for your next flight, just carry a trusty travel-size bottle of SPF with you; Dr. Garshick reccomended one labeled “broad spectrum” to protect against both kinds of UV rays, and at least SPF 30. “The sunscreen should be applied approximately 30 minutes before flight, and you should remember to reapply every two hours, especially if you are traveling on a long flight,” she added.

Your neighbor might not love smelling your sunscreen all the way to your destination (though some actually have great scents), but hey—safety first, right?

Here are 10 things you probably don’t know about sunscreen—but should. Also, this sunscreen will make you finally want to switch to a mineral version.

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