If You Don’t Wear Sunscreen While Flying, This Might Convince You to Start

Updated: Apr. 24, 2023

Apply that SPF every day—even when you get on an airplane!

Now that the sun is fully out, proper skin care is more important than ever. You may be used to wearing UV-blocking hats and sunscreen at the beach or while running errands, but there’s one occasion for sun protection you may not have considered: while traveling on airplanes.

This week, one TikTok video from board-certified dermatologist and medical influencer Dr. Joyce (@teawithmd) has garnered millions of views for shedding light on this important subject. Here’s everything you need to know about sun protection on airplanes.

How does flying on airplanes increase UVA exposure?

In the video below, Dr. Joyce points out that sitting next to plane windows while flying exposes passengers to the high absorption of harmful UVA rays. In the text overlaid over the video footage of her on an airplane, she explains that “[w]indows block UVB not UVA” light. For context, there are three different types of harmful UV light: UVA, UVB and UVC.

She also references a 2015 research study from JAMA Dermatology that measured the amount of UVA radiation airplane personnel experience while flying. According to the study, pilots have “approximately twice the incidence of melanoma compared with the general population,” and “flying in the cockpit for 56 minutes at 30 [thousand feet] received the same amount of UVA radiation as that from a 20-minute tanning ses[sion].” Dr. Joyce lastly adds that “even more UVA is reflected when flying over thick clouds and snow.”

@teawithmd Let’s talk about airplane ✈️ skin care! Today I am just covering INCREASED exposure to UV radiation in the plane. A research study in JAMA DERM from 2015 measured amount of UV radiation in airplane cockpits during flight and compared them to UVA carcinogenic affective doses in tanning beds. Turns out you get a heck of a lot of UV exposure as a pilot. When we’re sitting in the back, make sure to wear sunscreen or keep your window shut to reduce exposure to UVA during your flight. After all, you don’t want 1/2 of your face getting more sun ☀️ damage than the other! The more you know! Sources in comments #dermatologylesson #dermbypark #airplaneskincare #sunscreen #melanoma #inflightskincare ♬ original sound – random.shii089

How can I protect myself from UVA exposure while flying?

Sunscreen On Orange Background with Plastic Bottle Of Sun Protection And White Sun Shaped CreamADragan/Getty Images

So what can you do to lessen your light exposure? Dr. Joyce claims that “you should ABSOLUTELY wear sunscreen on airplanes or keep the windows shut.” And before you apply that sunscreen, make sure you’re using the right SPF for your skin. Beyond that, you can also wear sun-protective clothing and sunglasses. Finally, be sure to apply your sunscreen evenly and regularly, and don’t skip these four unexpected body parts that dermatologists swear need care, too.

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