Before LifeJacket, I used to fly a fair amount, visiting different teams, factories, partners or customers abroad. I’m not sure if that kind of travel has returned post COVID but back then, it was pretty typical of corporate life and you’d see hundreds of other commuters doing the same.
At the time, I had a modest fear of flying so I always tried to sit by the window. For some reason, seeing what was going on offered moderate relief. Not sure how that logic stacks up if the plane suddenly started plummeting but for some reason, it helped.
Fast forward to today and I often think back to those days. For better and for worse. But mainly, because one of the most surprising things we’ve learnt on the LifeJacket journey is the fact that skin damage occurs even when there’s a sheet of glass between you and the sun.
In fact – and loosely connected to my flying story – a study from the University of California in 2014 found that cabin crew and airline pilots had double the incidence of skin cancer compared to the general population. One hour behind the cockpit at 30,000 feet is the equivalent to 20-minutes on a sun bed.
Lesson of the day? If you’re a pilot, air steward or frequent-flier, wear sunscreen?
Yes. Sort of. But it’s worth understanding why.
Glass half empty
The ultraviolet rays from the sun that reach the earth come in two forms: UVA and UVB.
UVA represents 95% of the UV that reaches us on earth and its potency is pretty even throughout the year. UVB is much less prevalent and the wavelength that peaks in summer months, causing sunburn.
Back to UVA….
UVA penetrates deep into the skin’s dermis, damaging the proteins that give skin its tension, elasticity and structure. This is ultimately what skin ageing and wrinkles are: a weaker or ‘flimsier’ sub-structure.
In extremis, these UVA rays can also cause DNA damage to skin cells, giving rise to skin cancer.
The surprising bit is that UVA passes through glass, causing damage to the skin even if you aren’t outside.
That’s why pilots and cabin crew are at greater risk than the general population…
…and me on all my flights.
…and anybody who sits by a window, beside a windscreen or behind glass as part of their occupation.
Glass half full
So, if your occupation or regular daily activities see you in any of these situations, bear this in mind.
As any regular reader of this blog will have read, UVA is present every day, even in winter. Light touches your skin all year round. We need to get over the cultural misconception that skin damage can only happen abroad on a beach. It’s a year round thing, inside and out.
Even though you might be indoors, we strongly recommend wearing skin protection in the form of an SPF moisturiser or sunscreen. It’s so easy to use an SPF moisturiser at the start of your day. Put it on after you shower and you’re done. What a great habit to start doing now.
And if you do happen to be a pilot reading this, you might want to consider something more drastic: like a snapback, sunglasses and a tube of LifeJacket SPF 50+ Sun Gel by the throttle.
Thanks for reading. Until next week, over and out.