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The Road Trip Health and Beauty Tip You Need to Know

While we all know that sun damage can lead to skin cancer and is one of the leading causes of ageing what many don’t realise is that sun damage can happen when you’re in a car. And I don’t just mean when the top is down.

I remember seeing a documentary years ago that looked at truck drivers and showed how one half of their face was around 20 years ‘older’ than the other half, because that was the side that faced the window where the sun came through.

As someone who always been diligent about wearing sunscreen when she’s out and about but had never thought to put it on when she was in the car this was eye widening stuff.

Apart from everyday driving around, I’m one of those people who loves a good road trip, and all of a sudden I found myself thinking about how often I’d been driving around blissfully unaware of what I was doing to my skin.

Road trip in a Renault Koleos on a hot sunny day

Of course it’s hard to know your skin is being damaged when there’s no sign of it at the time. And that’s why it’s important to understand just what’s behind this road trip health tip.

Why Sun Damage on a Road Trip is So Sneaky

It’s easy to tell you’ve had too much sun if you start to burn. But here’s the thing about a lot of glass – it blocks most of the UVB rays, which are the ones that give you sunburn, but lets in the UVA rays, which penetrate your skin and cause damage.

So even though you can’t see it on the surface, the deeper layers of your skin are being affected.

Read: Road Trip Hacks – 14 tips you need to know

As I know a lot of people have an ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude to cancer, I’ll firstly point out that you could save your life if you take better care of your skin, before moving onto something that almost everyone knows will happen to them at some stage: wrinkles.

Yes sun damage leads to wrinkles, age spots, sagging and other things most of us would like to avoid for as long as possible.

Sunscreen is an important road trip health tip whether you have the windows open or not

In 2012 the New England Journal of Medicine released a photo of a man that looked like it had been digitally altered to show aging, but in fact was what happened when he drove around in the sun.

As I haven’t been able to reach the man in question to ask permission to share his photo I will instead share this NEJM link to the image of lorry driver William McElligott  who was 66 years old when the photo was taken. Pop over to that page for a quick look and then come back as we have lots more to talk about, but when you see William you’ll see the left hand side of his face shows what 28 years of sun exposure through the side window of a lorry can do, while the right side of his face which was mostly in the shade as he drove around looks like the face of a younger man.

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Studies have shown that the exposed side of a driver’s skin receives up to six times the amount of UV radiation as the shaded side, and the damage that appears depends on which side of the road people drive on.

So for example in America skin is more damaged on the left hand side, whereas in Australia and the UK the damage is more prevalent on the right hand side.

Road Trip Health Care for your Skin

I recently had the chance to borrow a car that I loved driving so much that I was actually quite happy the day my flight was cancelled from one country airport and I had to drive another two hours to fly out of the next one.

The Renault Koleos is a stylish SUV with heated and cooled leather seats, an easy to use 8.7 inch touch screen, Bose speakers and a panoramic sunroof that lets you take in the view above and beyond when you’re sitting in the back.

Road tripping in the Renault Koleos at Tamworth's Golden Guitar

We hit the road for a few long road trips, including adventures through Tamworth and up though the Northern Tablelands where we took in the changing colours in the trees.  And wherever we went, I always had a tube of sunscreen in the door’s side pocket to reapply as I went.

I checked in with the folks at Renault to ask about the sun issue and they told me that there is UV treatment on most of the glass used in Renault vehicles, including on the Koleos I had, but they also said that they still recommend people wear sunscreen in cars.

As they explained, exactly how much UVR is blocked depends on a number of factors including the location of the sun in the sky and the angle of the sun through the glass. Of course if your window is open or closed is another contributing factor.

Talking about cars in general, Cancer Council Australia says laminated windscreens, which have a tough plastic layer in between two planes of glass, have UPF ratings of 50+ but plain window glass used in side windows is usually only about UPF 12.

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Cancer Council Australia points out that a person sitting in a car can still receive significant exposure to UV rays and so it’s best to wear sunscreen when UV levels are 3 or above so you’re protected both in the car and when you get out.

Don’t Forget Your Hands on a Road Trip

Ever since finding out about the whole damaging rays getting through glass thing whenever I’ve seen my hands on the steering wheel in sunshine on a long drive I’ve thought it might be time to bring back driving gloves.

So far the driving gloves idea has remained a thought, but the cars I drive have had one thing in common – they all have an SPF handcream as well as a sunscreen in a console so I can reapply as I go.

Even though I now understand the windscreen has the best protection as far as glass goes for our skin, I will continue to be pop that SPF on my hands as I go.

I only wish I’d thought of that one years ago and had been vigilant about it from the start of my driving days.

But we live and we learn and we share travel tips as we go, and today this is mine to you: when you head off on your next road trip don’t save the sunscreen for the beach. Take care of your skin as you go and it will take care of you.

Amanda Woods would like to thank Renault Australia for letting her borrow a Renault Koleos for some fun road trips. As usual all thoughts and opinions remain her own.

Love a good road trip? Here are seven great Australian road trips to check out, as well as a fun music themed one through America’s deep south. 

Following the autumn colours in the Renault Koleos on a road trip

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