6 Spots You’re Probably Missing
When You Apply Sunscreen
Read this before you slather on the SPF
You know exactly how to pick a good sunscreen, are diligent about wearing it daily, and even reapply regularly. And that’s a good thing—UV light can damage your skin’s barrier and we know that a compromised skin barrier can exacerbate many skin conditioners, including acne. But despite your best intentions, there may be a few common areas on the face and body that even the most seasoned sun protection veterans tend to miss when applying sunscreen. Ahead, James Del Rosso D.O., adjunct clinical professor of dermatology at Touro University Nevada in Henderson, NV and an Acne Store advisory board member, shares six of these most-often missed spots to apply sunscreen, plus helpful ways to make sure you’re covered in SPF from head-to-toe.
1. You need to put sunscreen on your ears
Even if you’re meticulous about evenly coating your face, it’s likely that your ears are an afterthought. Perhaps you simply rub whatever sunscreen is left on your fingers quickly over them, or maybe you skip them altogether, relying on a hat to shield them from the sun. According to Del Rosso, it’s important to apply sunscreen to your ears. “Skin cancers are very common around the ear, both along the margin and rim, as well as immediately behind them,” he says. Point being, it’s well-worth taking those few extra seconds to apply sunscreen to your ears in a targeted and deliberate way. And that means covering not only the tops and behind, but also going into the bowl of the ear and all of the inner crevices.
2. Apply sunscreen to the lips
Yes, your pout needs SPF, too. As anyone who’s ever experienced sunburned lips will tell you, it’s not pleasant. Not to mention that precancerous growths and skin cancers themselves are fairly common along the edge of the lips, around the vermillion border where the mucous membrane meets the skin, says Del Rosso. The lips are a common area for aggressive, squamous cell skin cancers to occur and Del Rosso underscores the importance of protecting more than just the lips themselves. “You also need to consider the skin adjacent to the lips, the nasolabial folds, around the mouth, and below the lower lip,” he says. Make sure to hit these spots with your facial sunscreen; for the lips themselves, reach for a sunscreen lip balm with built-in SPF.
Another common misstep people make with scalp protection from the sun is relying on a hat.
3. Don’t forget to put sunscreen on your scalp
When wondering where to apply your sunscreen, your scalp is probably not your first thought. Applying sunscreen on top of your head may not feel particularly natural, but it’s very important, particularly for balding men or women who have thinning hair, says Del Rosso. After all, scalp skin is just as susceptible to burning and sun damage as skin anywhere else, and hair only offers so much protection—especially when there’s not as much of it.
The other common misstep people make with scalp protection from the sun is relying on a hat. We know what you’re thinking—aren’t hats a good method of sun protection? Yes, although oftentimes they’re too loosely woven and the sun can still get through, Del Rosso points out. The right hat may be a very good line of defense on the spots it covers, but it’s not very helpful for facial protection, especially if it does not have a wide brim. Bottom line: A hat is not a sunscreen substitute.
For men who are fully bald, applying sunscreen on the scalp the same way you would on the face or body is best. For men and women who have some hair, or even women who simply want to shield the visible skin at their part, powder sunscreen formulas may offer an easy way to get the sun protection you need, without leaving behind any unwanted greasy residue.
4. The back of the neck needs sunscreen too
“Women with longer hair who wear it down have some natural coverage, but for those with shorter hair or who wear it up often, the back of the neck is an area where you may be getting more sun exposure than you’re aware of,” says Del Rosso. As is the case with the scalp, hats can only do so much; baseball caps still leave the area exposed, and even if you’re wearing a broad-brimmed hat, there’s still sunlight being reflected off the ground and onto your face and neck, he warns. Spray formulas may be a good choice for the back of the neck, making it much easier to evenly cover the hard-to-reach spot.
5. Yes, you need to apply sunscreen to the eyelids
Researchers have found that the skin around the eyelids is one of the most often-missed spots when it comes to sunscreen application.  Del Rosso agrees, adding that skin cancers occurring near the eyes are also common. It’s important to make sure you don’t get sunscreen directly into the eyes to avoid irritation. Apply your facial sunscreen carefully to the skin around eyelids in a thin layer, being careful not to get too close to the eyelids, especially with excess sunscreen application. Choosing a water-resistant formulas will help mitigate the likelihood that the formula will end up running and getting into your eyes. Importantly, a good pair of sunglasses with UV-protective lenses provides additional protection including to eyelid skin, says Del Rosso, who notes that wearing sunglasses can also lower the likelihood of developing cataracts.
6. You should be putting sunscreen on your lower legs
“Both women and men tend to have a tremendous amount of sun damage on their legs,” says Del Rosso, who attributes this to a lack of sunscreen and photoprotective clothing. Adding insult to injury, skin cancers on the legs, especially the lower legs, are notoriously difficult to manage, he adds. “The circulation and skin laxity aren’t as good, making it very hard to treat skin cancers in this area,” Del Rosso explains. So, if your legs are exposed, make sure that all of the skin is well-coated with SPF, from hip to ankle. But don’t stop there—Del Rosso points out that the tops of the feet are another oft-neglected spot.
James Del Rosso D.O.
Dr. Jim Del Rosso is an internationally renowned dermatologist who has been practicing dermatology since 1986 and a member of the Acne Store Board of Dermatologists. He is Clinical Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, has published multiple peer-reviewed articles and textbook chapters, and was President of the American Acne & Rosacea Society, American Society of Mohs Surgery, and the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. He is Adjunct Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the Touro University Nevada in Henderson, Nevada. Currently, Dr. Del Rosso is Research Director of JDR Dermatology Research and practices at Thomas Dermatology in Las Vegas, Nevada and also serves as Senior Vice President of Clinical Research and Strategic Development at Advanced Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in Maitland, Florida. He served as Head of the Section of Dermatology at the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine after receiving his D.O. degree from the same medical school in Athens, Ohio, interning at Doctors Hospital in Columbus, completing a dermatology residency at Atlantic Skin Disease and Skin Surgery in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and completing a fellowship in Mohs micrographic surgery and cutaneous oncology at OSU.
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