Wear sunscreen even when you go shopping

Although I know that fluorescent lights emit UV radiations, I didn’t think they are significant enough for me to be too concerned. I remember reading that regular fluorescent light bulbs used at home and office do not produce a hazardous amount of UV light. Most light sources, including fluorescent bulbs, emit a small amount of UV, but the UV produced by fluorescent light bulbs is far less than the amount produced by natural daylight.

False sense of security
In fact, according to GE Lighting, a paper by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) explores this subject in more detail and determined that UV exposure from sitting indoors under fluorescent lights at typical office light levels for an eight hour workday is equivalent to just over a minute of exposure to the sun in Washington, D.C. on a clear day in July. That is why while I always wear sunscreen even at home, but I’ve always had that false sense of security that I won’t need much that much protection when I’m indoor. So I tend to cut the amount of sun protection by not taking my Heliocare sun protection pills if I’m not heading to anywhere hot – like shopping! However, I got a shock after reading an article in the latest copy of BeautyMap that states that a two hour shopping spree in a brightly lit mall is equivalent to spending about an hour in the sun!

Range of UVA & UVB found in fluorescent lighting
I scoured the Net and realized that the information had come from the online Support Group for Sun Sensitive People:

A two hour shopping spree in Walmart is equivalent to a full hour in the sun. You don’t get sunburned but you do get the full hour of UV rays. Hospitals and clinics also use very bright fluorescent lighting. Other sources of UV radiation is from copiers, computer screens, welding, and various kinds of lighting.

The UV radiation found in fluorescent lighting is present in two forms: UVA (320 to 400 nm), and UVB (280-320 nm). Fluorescent lighting gives off up to 380 nm of UVB rays and up to 400nm of UVA rays unless the fixture is fitted with a special lens. Some sources indicate that fluorescent lights emit more UVB than the sun and in the 1992 edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology, it was found that fluorescent lights emit “10-30 times” more UVB radiation than the sun does.

UV protective panel
According to the Support Group for Sun Sensitive People, most fluorescent lighting can be covered with a protective Plexiglas panel that allows light through but not the radiation that triggers the pain. There is a UV protective panel available for fluorescent lighting fixtures but because of cost, it is usually not installed in offices and stores. I am guessing that this is why some articles suggest that the UV produced by fluorescent light bulbs is insignificant. However, I have no idea how we can verify if the lights are installed with such panels. Are they obvious to identify?

Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF15
Assuming not, then the amount of UV from all the fluorescent lights in a shopping mall put together must be quite substantial! No wonder I sometimes feel tired and sick after just a few hours of shopping! So it’s really wiser to use a sunscreen with at least SPF15 when you’re out on a shopping spree or at least a moisturizer with broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB. I for one, am going to remember to take my Heliocare too. It maybe raining cats and dogs outside but you’re still going to get UV exposure in the malls!


  1. Mandy says:

    hey honestly i really do question the credibility of the claim that “a two hour shopping spree in a brightly lit mall is equivalent to spending about an hour in the sun”, because i have been out under the sun for an hour before and shopping for many hours in a mall didnt even do a fraction of damage on my skin in comparison! i mean ok, maybe there are UV rays from fluorescent lighting but surely not That serious?

    Haha or maybe i’m just in denial cos I hate the thought of having to wear sunscreen at home.

  2. Hanns says:

    indoors or outdoors, we need sunscreen!

  3. florence says:

    sunscreen!!!! I never live without it and is my daily routine after washing my face & after moisturizer ?

  4. Rinka says:

    i think the best thing for all of us is to wear sunscreen rain or shine, indoors outdoors… basically every minute of every waking moment haha

    i have heard the one about computer screens emitting uv rays, which worries me because i spend a fair time behind the computer… but for some reason i cant bring myself to wear sunscreen at night, just for my computer hehe

  5. Vonvon says:

    Ever since I noticed some spots emerging on my face, though just very tiny ones, I have been applying sunscreen religiously every morning after my skincare routine, regardless of whether I will be indoor that whole day, or I’ll be heading out. And if I would be heading out, I would re-apply.

    And I am using a minimum of SPF50. SPF31 from RMK if I am sure I won’t be going out that particular day.

  6. Rennie says:

    Hahaha sunscreen. My cousin swears by it and even wear it when it’s raining or snowing. I wish I could wear sunscreen all the time but for me, I still has not yet find a good sunscreen suitable for my oily skin.

  7. Kira says:

    More than the skin, I wonder how indoor lights affect our eyes since we have to protect them too! Any news on this? ?

  8. jolie says:

    this is bad.. i’ve given up on sunscreen altogether as i can’t stand the thick sticky feeling on my skin when im out and ive not found a good protection sunscreen which doesn’t clog my pores yet. sigh.

  9. Kate says:

    This “paper/information” sounds very fishy since it comes from General Electrics, a company and it seems more like a marketing or sales tactic. I would not trust most information that comes from a profit-focused group, even if they tack on “scientific” or “science” unless they fully disclose how they obtained their research and what citations they used. They also need to declare which other “companies” or “groups” are involved and whether they received any money for publishing this research.

  10. stella says:

    i think this depends on how much more you’re protecting your skin everyday through skincare or antioxidants etc. cuz i NEVER wear sunscreen indoors and if i’m out at night even under any lights (unless after a laser procedure due to skin sensitivity). however i do wear sunscreen everyday when i need to go outdoors, rain or shine. my skin has no sun damage. of coz i do take care to not sit too close to a bright window indoors if i’m not wearing a sunscreen. i am also fastidious about daily skincare and load up on vitamin C, fish oil everyday

  11. stella says:

    good question, i wonder too even though i wear multicoated, UV protective glasses at work. one of my friends got lasiked but started wearing special glasses for computer usage recently, apparently for protective purposes; talk about irony

  12. sesame says:

    Antioxidants definitely will help…plus some of the ingredients do have a low amount of protection against UV. But one thing I’ll like to add is, some of these damages don’t show up till years later…

  13. sesame says:

    You’re right about GE…it’s likely bias but the entry isn’t about their paper only. People are likely going to believe the 2nd source since it’s a support group for sun sensitive pple. On the whole, it’s good to know what some of these papers are saying and then make a decision based on your own take.

  14. sesame says:

    Not all of them are sticky but most of them do require you to apply some powder over to make your face look matt.

  15. sesame says:

    No…need to find out on that. The basic thing I know is…it’s definitely not good to look into the lights.

  16. sesame says:

    I see…hope you’ll find something that works for your skin soon.

  17. sesame says:

    That’s definitely good. I’ve been concerned about re-applying but it’s just impossible. So Heliocare for me sorts of loads my protection internally and I feel a lot more secure using it.

  18. sesame says:

    If you use LCD screens, you don’t have to worry too much. I wrote about it here:


  19. sesame says:

    Same for me too!

  20. sesame says:


  21. sesame says:

    It’s unbelievable…even to me. But I would rather be careful for the sake of my skin. Mine is extremely prone to pigmentation. I have lots of spots on my body, even parts which are not exposed to the sun.

  22. stella says:

    fair enough but i really think indoor lighting has negligible impact. let me take my grandma and mom as case studies, assuming that UV rays have been worsening over the years due to global warming. both of them do not wear sunscreen indoors at all times.

    my grandma, who is 90, has no sun damage at all, as she doesn’t step out of the house very much, but she certainly was and is under artificial lights indoors pretty much. (she was brought up in a wealthy chinese family, daughters did not go out into the streets then and she kept this habit for life)

    my mom on the other hand, did not wear sunscreen till she was in her late 30s or 40s as sun care info was poor when she was younger. unlike my grandma, she’s was a modern gal who was always outdoors so my mom developed sun damage and pigmentation. however, eversince she started using sunscreen and whitening products, her pigmentation has improved tremendously over the years, almost gone now. she still does not use sunscreen indoors.

  23. T says:

    how many times do you reapply your sunscreen a day? ?

  24. fwy says:

    I know spotlights does emit some UV rays. Anyway, I do not use sunscreen but instead a makeup base with SPF protection whenever I go out but not when I’m at home. I think it is a bit too paranoid to have to wear sunscreen even at home.

  25. sesame says:

    Staying indoors definitely helps. I agree that lights at home in terms of UV emission are negligible (otherwise have to wear sunscreen at night too!) but I would say it’s a different story if we’re talking about commercial buildings. Notice how bright some of shopping malls are? Even the display shelves are all brightly lighted up.

    But I’ll add on to say, wearing sunscreen indoors is a personal choice. If you’re fine not using it, by all means.

  26. sesame says:

    None. I only apply once in the morning. I don’t reapply my makeup either.

  27. sesame says:

    You think so? I thought so too in the past but my perspective has changed these two years somewhat.

    If we’re looking at the traditional sunblock that is all white, yes, it’s kind of silly to apply those at home. But with today’s formulation, a lot of them doubles up as moisturizer, or as a skincare product with antioxidant benefits. So no, I don’t think it’s paranoid anymore.

  28. Minerva Graham says:

    hello,Well the article is great but it is also important to get a new sunscreen after every 2-3 months. This will be more beneficial to the skin.

  29. sesame says:

    I think 2 – 3 months is too excessive. 6 months for a natural one is probably right and maybe a year for the chemical ones considering they’re all stored properly.

  30. fwy says:

    Looks like I may need to change my perspective too. Anyway, Aqualabel by Shiseido is launching at Tampines Mall this week. I know they have a few sunscreen in 1 or 2 of their range of products. I may just drop by to make a purchase.

  31. sesame says:

    Oh they have sunscreen? I will look it up too.

  32. Goydi says:

    This is so intriguing and makes me a bit worried. I was trying to find answers if I should apply sunblock even if I wont go out. This article enlightens me, but I still wonder and want more explanation.

    1) Will I still apply sunblock even if Im inside my room? My room has one small fluorescent light, a TV, and 6 big windows. The windows are so widely open that I can feel the heat of the sun going in. Plus, during day, my room’s temperature increases. Thus, I can really feel the hotness and heat outside from the inside. In short, even if not under the sun, will I still apply sunblock?

    2) My work requires a PC (LCD screen), and most of the time, I am inside a very lighted room (fluorescent)with so many computers/workstations. I know this has been answered already but I still want to clarify: Should I still apply sunblock? Would it do no harm to me?

    3) In tropical places like mine, Im using a sunblock with SPF 30. Is that enough?


    I’m using a SPF 30 now as recommended

  33. sesame says:

    SPF30 is sufficient if you apply enough – 1/4 teaspoon. For indoors, if you can feel the heat from the windows, there’s probably UV rays so good to apply some. And no need to apply with your LCD screen. I don’t apply in the night when I use the PC if that’ll assure you. ?

  34. poohz says:

    Hi sesame, may I know what sunscreen you use on the body on a regular workday or a weekend shopping trip? I used Quintessential Natural Sunscreen (non nano zinc oxide, from NZ) as a body SS. It’s a good-on-paper pdt but is a pain to apply and remove and is sticky. I intend to switch to a SPF15 zinc oxide one for a regular day. Any recommendation? Thanks in advance.

  35. Zoe says:

    In reply to poohz, Quintessentials Natural Sunscreen has an improved formulation now with a lovely very mild vanilla/rose/ylangylang fragrance and a much lighter texture. Improvements are always being made and we rely on feedback like yours to make them. Have a good 2010-11 summer and do give the sunscreen another go! (From the manufacturer)

  36. Suzy says:

    Will they come up with a way for us to verify the effectiveness of a sunscreen at home? How can we take the word of manufacturers?

  37. sesame says:

    FDA is paving the way to make the manufacturers put star ratings on their bottles. I don’t know if we can take the rating literally. The only thing I rely on is reading the percentage of the active ingredients.

  38. Demi Hira says:

    I where sunscreen EVERYDAY…most of my friends think I’m crazy, they thought we only need sunscreen when we swim/exercise etc…but thats not the case for me haha

  39. Demi Hira says:


  40. sesame says:

    Your friends can think you’re crazy but you’re definitely ahead of your friends in terms of skin care. ?

  41. butterfly says:

    Doesn’t anyone realize that sunscreen is a chemical that causes skin cancer. You need the be exposed to the sun to make Vitamin D3 in your body which is very important for our health. Why do most people believe in all the marketing schemes that make money for themselves at the cost of our health. Farmers are out in the sun all day long and are the least likely to get skin cancer. So as a word of caution google to see studies that say sunscreen has been linked to causing cancer. So enjoy the sun. ?

  42. Sesame says:

    It’s a personal choice really.

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