While most people don’t apply sunscreen before getting in a car, if you do a lot of driving, skin experts say maybe you should.
“For men who are primarily the driver, it’s the left side of the face that we’re finding more precancerous lesions, sun spots, or even skin cancers. But for women who are typically the passenger in the car, we see it on the right side of their face,” says Physician Assistant at Forefront Dermatology, Sara Wilchowski.
She’s not the only one witnessing this link.
A study published in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology found more than half of skin cancers nationwide occur on the left, drivers side of the body.
Wilchowski says often times patients will ask why.
“I’ll explain to them how many years have you spent being a passenger in a car and it’s because we don’t have that protection on the sides of the windows,” says Wilchowski.
Most windshields, she says, will block both UVA and UVB rays, however rear and side windows only block UVB meaning you won’t get burnt but there’s still a risk for skin damage.
“UVB is the sun burn ray, whereas UVA we consider the aging ray, or a little bit more damaging, because the UVA light can penetrate deeper in the skin and can cause more damage,” says Wilchowski.
She says that damage can show up 20 to 30 years after being exposed.
“This is accumulative, so every day wearing sun protection can really help prevent this type of damage,” says Wilchowski.
Along with sunscreen, she says look for sunscreen in face moisturizers and makeup.
There are also gloves available to protect hands and UVA blocking filters you can add to car windows.
Wilchowski says if you feel a sandpaper like texture, rough or gritty area on your skin or if you find your makeup is concentrated in one area this could warrant a skin check with a dermatologist.
You can also go online to skincancerfoundation.org for signs and symptoms.