Should you wear sunscreen indoors or are we becoming paranoid?

The answer may surprise you.

woman applying sunscreen lotion to cheek - stock photo
(Image credit: JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images)

Wearing sunscreen indoors probably isn't something you'd ever considered until recently. But with 60% of us now spending more than six hours a day in front of a digital device, some skin experts warn that blue light can cause a cascade of complexion woes.

Right now it's impossible to side step the fact that our skin is bathed for hours at a time in an eerie haze of blue light emitted by our phones, tablets and laptops. Health experts have known about digital eye strain for a while, and the potential for blue light from digital devices to damage eyes. But can screens damage your skin, too? 

Research on how blue light affects your skin is ongoing, but what dermatologists know so far doesn't look good. Experts like Noella Gabriel, co-founder of Elemis, points to evidence that blue light (High Energy Visible Light or HEV) from our devices acts like UVA and UVB rays, penetrating deep into the skin where it degrades collagen, increases hyper pigmentation and generally stresses out skin. 

Gabriel explains: "Blue light even reduces the amount of hydrating hyaluronic acid in your skin by creating free radicals and oxidative stress. So, yes, you should definitely be wearing either sunscreen or a moisturiser containing SPF indoors." 

Others like dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting, however, believe the blue light from the sun is a greater threat to your skin than the blue light emitted from your screens. 

She says: "Visible light rays emitted by screens and phones is a fraction of that emitted by the sun  - in fact, it’s between 100-1000th of the strength. As much as 44% of the sun’s rays are visible light. Skin cells are sensitive to both visible light and UV creating a double whammy assault, especially when it comes to pigmentation."

You might also want to consider that standard glass windows will only block UVB but not UVA or HEV rays, which are the main contributing factor to accelerated ageing in the form of wrinkles and leathery textured skin.

So unless you are working in a windowless room, slathering on SPF every couple of hours remains the general rule of thumb whether you're indoors or outside, and especially if you're sitting by a window or in a room with lots of sunlight.

And in the case of blue light, not just any sunscreen will do; you want one containing iron oxides, as science shows these are the only effective way of blocking HEV rays.

But here is the other thing—that sunscreen you are imagining with its chalky, oily congealing texture —simply doesn't exist any more. Instead the latest formulas mesh seamlessly with your skin and up the ante of your daily routine as well as save your life.

Here are three of the best to layer over your best vitamin C serum...

3 of the best iron oxide sunscreens to wear indoors

Fiona Embleton is a multi-award-winning beauty editor who has tested over 10,000 products in her 10 years +  of writing and shooting beauty stories. For the past four years, she was the Senior Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, having previously worked in the role of Beauty Editor at both Stylist and Cosmopolitan. She has recently gone freelance and alongside My Imperfect Life, she has written for titles including ELLE UK, ELLE Canada, Buro 247, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Vogue Scandinavia, and ES Magazine. Beauty journalism allowed her to marry up her first-class degree in English Literature and Language (she’s a stickler for grammar and a self-confessed ingredients geek) with a passion for make-up and skincare, photography, and catwalk trends. She loves jumping on the latest internet-breaking beauty news, dissecting the best red carpet looks, and having the crème de la crème of dermatologists, make-up artists, and hairstylists on speed dial so she can tap them for the best advice. She’s a discerning beauty shopper and knows it can be confusing trying to navigate what’s hype and what really works. So if she really likes something, you can trust that she has reached that opinion by vetting it against everything else she’s ever tried. Her career highs? Interviewing Cate Blanchett and winning a Jasmine Award for the deeply personal feature Cancer Stole My Mother’s Scent.