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7 Critical Spots You Need to Remember to Apply Sunscreen

You always get your arms and legs, but what about these other body parts?

Don’t forget these key body parts

Of course you know it’s critical to slather on sunscreen. And you cover your arms and legs and probably your face. But there are plenty of spots you might miss when you are working to protect your body from the sun. Pay close attention to these easily missed spots the next time you apply sunscreen.

part in someone's scalpdonikz/Shutterstock

Scalp

Weirdly, even though the head is a major focal point for the sun, we rarely think to protect our scalps—which is why after a day at the beach your scalp is likely to feel a little itchy or look a little red. Especially as we age, our hair gets thinner and more scalp is exposed, says the Skin Cancer Foundation. That’s why there are more skin cancers of the scalp as people get older. Prevent sunburn on your scalp by applying a spray sunscreen every two or so hours. If you don’t want sunscreen in your hair, cover up in the sun with a wide-brimmed hat. These are the places you’re ignoring when you check yourself for skin cancer.

closeup of woman's earsMarben/Shutterstock

Ears

About 7 percent of head and neck melanomas are found on the ears, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. “I tell my patients that if I could only ask them to cover two areas of their skin with sunscreen, I would ask them to make sure to cover their ears and lips,” says Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, MD, director of cosmetic dermatology at South Shore Medical Center in Norwell, Massachusetts. “That’s because these are actually two very high-risk areas to have skin cancer.” Slather on the lotion, but use hats to your advantage, too. “Baseball caps are not enough to protect your ears,” she says. “I recommend that patients use wide-brimmed hats.” 

woman applying lip balmAfrica-Studio/Shutterstock

Lips

You might know how to manage dry, chapped lips, but are you always careful to protect them from the sun? Your lips are second on Dr. Ip’s most crucial sunscreen spot for because they’re catching the sun’s full rays, 24/7, 365 days a year. “I recommend that patients use lip balms with SPF 30 or above on the lips and that sunscreen be reapplied every two hours during consistent sun exposure,” she says.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer on the lip is most likely to be found in fair-skinned men over age 50. Most lip skin cancers are found on the bottom lip, which has more sun exposure than the top lip. Make sure you know these skin cancer symptoms you should check for right now.

woman with face to the sun, in the poolwavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

Eyelids

Sure, you know how to apply lotion to your face—the nose, the cheeks, and the forehead. When was the last time you covered your eyelids with sunscreen? About 5 to 10 percent of all skin cancers are found on the eyelid or even the eye itself, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. A 2019 study published in PLOS One found that the eyelids are the most commonly missed area during sunscreen application. About three in four people also miss the area between the corner of the eye and the bridge of the nose.

Even if you’re planning on wearing sunglasses all day, the skin on the eyes is some of the thinnest and most delicate on the entire body, offering the sun’s rays an easy way in. Thus, it’s crucial to apply sunscreen here just as you would on the rest of the face.

woman in sun hat, laughing at beachwavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

Neck

Not only do people overlook their neck when doing their anti-aging routine, they forget to cover it with sunscreen, too. “For adequate coverage, you should use one ounce of sunscreen to cover your entire body,” Dr. Ip notes, comparing this amount to that of a shot glass. When you’re wondering what to do with the last bit, go for your neck. It’s an often-overlooked spot for sunscreen, but your neck is always exposed to the sun if you have short hair or tend to put your hair up. “Apply 15 minutes before exposure and reapply every two hours (more frequently if swimming or sweating),” says Dr. Ip. “Always wait 15 minutes before re-entering water after reapplying.” When you’re out in the sun, use these easy tricks to prevent sun-damaged hair.

feet in the sandAtiti-Chantanang/Shutterstock

Feet

Think your feet and toes are safe from the sun because they’re in the water or buried beneath the sand? Hardly. They’re just as prone to burns as the rest of the body—and those flip-flops aren’t offering much protection.

Acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM) is a dangerous form of melanoma that is usually found on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands. Researchers aren’t sure why, but ALM is usually more common in people with darker skin tones, says the Skin Cancer Foundation.

To protect yourself, apply a hefty dose of sunscreen to the tops of feet, and even in between the toes. These are the facts about skin cancer you need to know.

hand holding shellsveophoto/Shutterstock

Hands

They say the skin on your hands is one of the most revealing signs of aging, so give them a little extra TLC when it comes to sun care. Considering they’re always on display, it’s worth spending extra to protect them. “What I like about HydroPeptide’s Solar Defense Non-Tinted and Solar Defense Body is that they contain antioxidants such as green tea and resveratrol, which are potent antioxidants that help prevent skin aging and protect against skin cancer,” Dr. Ip says. “Furthermore, these antioxidants also help fight the effects of pollution and are heavy hitters at addressing multiple anti-aging and cancer concerns.”

Make sure you know these sunscreen do’s and don’ts before you head out into the sun.

Sources
  • Skin Cancer Foundation: “You Missed a Spot! Lower Your Skin Cancer Risk by Protecting These Often-Missed Areas”
  • Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, MD, director of cosmetic dermatology at South Shore Medical Center in Norwell, Massachusetts
  • PLOS One: “Application of SPF moisturisers is inferior to sunscreens in coverage of facial and eyelid regions”
Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, MD, on August 24, 2020

Nichole Fratangelo
Nichole Fratangelo is a freelance writer with a knack for food, fitness and health. When not hitting the gym, you can find her scouring the city for the best taco spots or catching up on the latest pop culture news. Find more of her work in Latina Magazine or at Latina.com and TheLatinKitchen.com.