Type to search

Health: The truth about clouds and sunburn

At some point in their lives, redheads (and other beings) will likely experience one of the most frustrating, painful and worrying things: sunburn.

But not just any sunburn. Sunburn through the clouds. When you least expect it, it can sneak up on you. It would be soul-destroying if only gingers had souls.

Yep, if it hasn’t happened to you yet, then count yourself lucky, grab yourself a UV awareness bracelet, and use the following information as a fair warning.

When it happens, you feel like a complete idiot and can’t believe how you could let such a thing happen. But cloud sunburn is definitely a thing.


Cloud cover in the sky is extremely deceiving and is no substitute for sunscreen. Nowhere near.

It’s true that on dark, rainy, overcast days, UV exposure is significantly reduced, only allowing up to 30% UVB rays through, but this can fluctuate depending on the types of clouds in the sky and the kinds of coverage that go with them.

Because, according  to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a whopping up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays can pass through clouds, and to our horror, cloud coverage can sometimes actually increase the amount of UV exposure in the atmosphere in comparison to a clear, blue-skies day. It’s all to do with the type of clouds.

Patchy coverage of broken clouds in the sky can act as giant mirrors for the sun’s rays to be reflected. Scientists aren’t certain why, but it’s thought that the UV rays bounce off the sides of dense clouds like cumulus formations, as well as rays becoming redirected as they pass through thinner clouds.

So potentially, that’s a cloudy sky jam-packed with a hefty amount of UV, resulting in a greater risk of sunburn.

And because we see a few scattered clouds in the sky, we automatically think that we’re safer than on a clearer day, and may choose to spend longer outside, and might even pass up on applying sunscreen or covering up.

Hazy days can result in increased UV, too. While pollution or natural smog can help to block UV light from hitting the earth’s surface by at least 50%, it actually scatters the radiation all over the air, meaning that not even shady spots are safe from UV exposure. So, smoggy city-goers, stay safe!


It’s not just skin cancer that we should all be aware of, redhead or no redhead. The sun is responsible for 80% of premature aging of skin, including wrinkles, age spots, spider veins, red bumps and raised dark spots.

In fact, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, in 1997 they reported that mere minutes of full sun exposure without wearing sunscreen can accumulate and lead to premature skin aging over the years.

So when your friends think you’re crazy for wearing sunscreen on a cloudy day, you can feel smug about knowing the truth.


By Emma


Enhance and care for red hair using Gingerful

Created for redheads, by redheads.


Emma Kelly is the Editor & Founder of Ginger Parrot. She dresses herself in mismatched multi-seasonal clothing and has a talent for sniffing out the next opportunity for coffee. She believes that any new band with a female musician is the next big thing and that whoever is currently dating Ryan Gosling is the luckiest lady on earth. Her biggest obsession is shopping online for castles, (probably) fueled by childish fantasies of finding her prince and settling down for a life of luxury, bathing in a pool of gin and bitter lemon. Other than that, though, she’ll be incessantly researching the latest gingerful news to deliver to Gingerkind.