Many people will not apply sunscreen on a cloudy day because they think it’s impossible to get sunburnt. While it’s true that clouds can block a percentage of the sun’s rays, you should not be under the impression that the clouds form some sort of impenetrable shield. In fact, the majority of the sun’s rays are still able to penetrate the clouds.
The most important thing you need to know about the possibility of getting a sunburn on a cloudy day is that up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays can penetrate clouds. These are the rays that wreak the most havoc and cause significant skin damage. You may not feel the heat of the sun and you may not notice the burn manifesting, but trust us, the sun’s harmful rays are getting through.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the sun’s rays can reflect off of many surfaces. White surfaces, water, mountain faces – all of these things can actually amplify the sun’s rays. It is in these instances when you need to pay special attention, regardless of how well hidden the sun is.
In fact, I got one of the worst sunburn’s of my life on a cloudy day. I was in Panama, enjoying the beaches in an area called Bocas del Toro. I have very fair skin, so I generally have a habit of going heavy on the sunscreen. In this case, however, I woke up and noticed the heavy clouds painting the sky. It didn’t look like it was going to clear up anytime soon, so I decided not to put on any sunscreen. This was a huge mistake. While I didn’t notice the burn as it happened, by mid afternoon, I started to feel it all over. Luckily, I will never leave without this full UVA/UVB sunscreen, it is absolutely great for someone active and sporty like me!
In the evening, at the hotel, I noticed that I had turned a shade of lobster-red. What’s more, I had boils on my skin. I had a serious sunburn and it happened on a cloudy day. It took me several days to recover and lots of aloe vera. I will never repeat the same mistake again. While it may have been worse because of the fact that I was swimming at the same time, it’s clear that the burn would have happened whether I was in the water or outside of it.
The moral of the story is simple: always wear sunscreen, regardless of what the weather is doing.