Can You Skip SPF On Overcast Days? A Doctor Lays The Myth To Rest Once And For All

Although it's no secret that wearing sunscreen every day is recommended, the perfect application routine requires some level of dedication. First, there's the matter of finding the right sunscreen for your skin type, a task that can prove difficult when a sea of protective products are at your disposal. Some prefer a more emollient formula to soothe their dry skin, while others live for lightweight, cosmetically elegant products to absorb oil. And once you've found your holy grail, it must be reapplied every two hours for maximum efficiency, per The Skin Cancer Foundation. For that reason, many skincare enthusiasts have wondered one thing: Is it really all that bad to skip SPF on overcast days?

It's a question that weighs heavily on the minds of sunscreen wearers. After all, even the most diligent skincare devotees have been known to occasionally slack on their SPF application. That's not to downplay the importance of regular sunscreen usage, however. Wearing sun protection religiously can protect against numerous ailments, from major concerns like skin cancer to cosmetic issues such as dark spots and sun mustache. So, when is it okay to skip wearing sun protection? To get to the bottom of whether SPF is necessary on overcast days, Glam spoke exclusively to Dr. Sergio Alvarez, M.D., the CEO and medical director of Mia Aesthetics.

Clouds offer less sun protection than you might think

Most of us have heard the standard advice on optimal sun protection, from wearing darker-colored clothing to avoiding the strongest rays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. But not much is said about the risk of sun exposure on cloudy days. According to Dr. Sergio Alvarez, your eyes may deceive you when it comes to assessing the risk of sun exposure. "It's important to remember that just because you can't see the sun doesn't mean it can't see you. The sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays can easily penetrate clouds and find their way to the Earth, even if you can't see the sun or directly feel its heat," he exclusively tells Glam.

Although you might feel odd slathering on SPF on a cloudy day, it's necessary to protect your skin from damaging UV rays. At best, very dense clouds can only reduce UV exposure by about 50%, based on research published in the medical journal Archives of Dermatology. Without proper sun protection, this can quickly spell trouble for your complexion. Therefore, it's essential to apply sunscreen as liberally on overcast days as you would in sunny weather. 

What about rainy days?

But do you have to wear sunscreen on rainy days? If you guessed yes, you'd be correct. "Clouds filter less than 25% of the sun's UV rays, so you should always wear sunscreen — even when it's raining," Dr. Sergio Alvarez exclusively tells Glam. In fact, you should be more careful with sunscreen application in humid or rainy weather, as water exposure can break down your sunscreen and render it less efficient. 

To choose the best sunscreen for your skin in rainy conditions, look for products marked as very water resistant, which can provide added protection against wet weather. In terms of SPF, 30 is generally considered adequate, although many facial sunscreens available today carry a higher SPF rating for optimal shielding. Furthermore, if your sunscreen has a PA, or Protective Grade of UVA rating, you'll want to select one labeled PA++++, which translates to the highest UV protection available. 

Wearing sun protection with greater coverage doesn't necessarily mean a heavier texture, explains Dr. Alvarez. "Fortunately, many of today's sunscreens are quite light and don't leave behind a greasy or oily feel. To get in the sunscreen habit, grab a bottle of sunscreen and keep it with your keys so you remember to apply it before going out," he adds. With Dr. Alvarez's advice in mind, your sun protection strategy going forward will be more on point than ever, no matter the weather.