Even if you don’t plan on spending your next vacation on the beach, sunscreen is an essential item to pack in your luggage. But don’t ignore it until you reach your destination: You should apply sunscreen before and during flights to protect yourself from harmful ultraviolet rays.
The closer you get to the sun, the more vulnerable your skin becomes to dangerous radiation. As dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick explained to Travel + Leisure, the windows on an airplane aren’t enough to provide sufficient protection.
“Although plane windows can block UVB rays, UVA rays can still pass through.” While UVA rays carry slightly less energy than UVB, they can still damage and prematurely age skin cells, sometimes increasing skin cancer risk.
With less distance to cover, the sun’s rays are harsher on your skin at higher altitudes than they are at ground level. According to one study published in 2015, 56 minutes of UV exposure in a plane’s cockpit at 30,000 feet subjected pilots to the same amount of cancer-causing radiation as lounging in a tanning bed for 20 minutes.
So if you’re preparing for a flight, especially one where you’ll be sitting in a window seat, don’t forget to slather sunscreen over any skin that’s exposed. For longer trips you’ll need to reapply every two hours, so find a bottle that meets the 3.4-ounce limit for liquids and pack it into your carry-on.
Whether you’re on a plane, vacationing on a tropical island, or staying at home, wearing the right type of sunscreen on a regular basis is a habit you won’t regret adopting.