The 12 Worst Places on Your Body to Get a Sunburn
Basically, a sunburn anywhere is a terrible place. But these are the areas we tend to overlook—and can lead to extremely painful results.
Whether you have a full head of hair or none at all, it’s very important to shield your scalp from the sun. According to NYC-based dermatologist, Daniel Belkin, MD, many people often forget about this area—especially men who are bald or have thinning hair. “If burned, it can be quite itchy and uncomfortable, but since it’s such a sensitive area it’s harder to effectively treat.” In addition to wearing sunscreen, Dr. Belkin recommends wearing a wide-brimmed hat to ensure it’s not getting any exposure to the sun. It’s also one of the 10 places you’re ignoring when you check for skin cancer.
Tops of the ears
“The skin on the tops of your ears is very delicate making it more susceptible to sunburn,” informs Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. In addition to being a delicate area, the tops of the ears tend to be overlooked when applying sunscreen, he says. Stick to applying a high-level of SPF, and again, wear a wide-brimmed hat to ensure it’s not getting any exposure whatsoever.
You may not realize it, but you can actually get a sunburn on your eyes. According to the American Academy of Opthalmology, this is called photokeratitis: It generally affects the cornea and white area of your eyes. In addition to pain, it can cause redness, blurry vision, sensitivity to light, and an overproduction of tears. If you notice any of these symptoms, experts recommend seeing your eye doctor immediately to get antibiotic eye drops or ointment. To avoid this eye burns, make it a point to wear UV-shielding sunglasses any time you’re out in the sun.
Your lips’ delicate skin coupled with its angle—its facing up at the sky—means it can burn quickly and badly. “Long-term sun exposure can cause a condition called actinic cheilitis [AC], which is an inflammation leading to chronically chapped or peeling lips,” warns Dr. Belkin. If this is left untreated, AC can actually lead to the skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. Dermatologists can treat AC using laser-treatments and topical chemotherapy, but the process can be quite painful, says Dr. Belkin. Keep your lower lip protected—be sure to apply a lip balm with SPF religiously throughout the day. Not sure which one to try? Check out the best lip balms with SPF for summer.
Chest and neck
Since your chest and neck are one of the first places to show signs of aging , it’s imperative to keep the areas protected with sunscreen. Overexposure to harmful UV rays can cause sunspots and wrinkles. These areas develop sunburn because they’re exposed nearly all the time during the summer, says Dr. Zeichner. Be extra zealous about re-applying sunscreen, he advises. Gain extra-protection by wearing a bathing suit or top with a higher neckline. These are the habits that put you at risk for a sunburn.
Backs of hands
Talk about an area that gets constant sun exposure: Your hands are out in the sun and usually unprotected, says Dr. Belkin. A sunburn here is not only painful, it will hinder your everyday activities. Make sure to apply SPF to your entire hand. You may even want to try adding sun-protective gloves in the mix.
Heading for a topless beach? You may want to rethink sunning the delicate flesh of your breasts. According to Dr. Belkin: “Your breasts don’t have a lot of pigment, and since they are normally covered there is a high chance of burn.” He also notes that the area is quite sensitive; a burn there would be particularly painful.
We’re guessing (hoping) that your private parts don’t see the light of day all that often, and that leaves them particularly sun-sensitive. And is it necessary to spell out exactly how painful a burn down there would be? Thought not. If you do get a burn down there, says Dr. Belkin, it’s best to see your dermatologist for relief. In the meantime: “A soothing product like aloe gel may give you some relief,” he says. You should also take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like Motrin or Advil to ease pain and help reduce inflammation. Just make sure you never do these 10 things after getting a sunburn.
The American Academy of Dermatology estimates one in five Americans will get skin cancer in their lifetime—and the most common spots are the face and head. According to Dr. Zeichner, “consumers apply less than 50 percent of the amount of sunscreen that they should be using.” That’s why he suggests using the highest SPF value possible. Check out which one is right for your skin type, and incorporate it into your daily routine.
Your back and shoulders
Everyone has made this mistake at one point or another: You fall asleep on your stomach at the beach or the pool, and the next thing you know your back and shoulders are tomato-red. In addition to being painful, this large area means you’ll suffer nightly when you try to sleep. Avoid trouble by recruiting a friend or spouse to help you smear on the sunscreen—and reapply it at least every two hours. “If you do end up sleeping in the sun, do so under a shaded area to ensure your back doesn’t get burned,” cautions Dr. Belkin. Stop making these 18 sunscreen mistakes.
Soles of your feet
The tops of your feet are a terrible place to burn (thanks to shoes), but so are the soles. Dr. Belkin notes that thanks to being hidden away from the sun (in your shoes or even while wearing flip-flops), the skin is more susceptible to burning. If you do happen to have a severe burn on your feet, try soaking them in cold water and then apply aloe gel.
Backs of your knees
This is an awkward area to burn: Not only is the skin extra sensitive, but you’ll feel the burn with every step. Make sure to apply a high-level of SPF (at least 30 or above) if the area is going to be exposed. If you’re sweating a lot your sunscreen is washing off; reapply your sunscreen regularly to protect the area. Here are more sunscreen dos and don’ts you should know this summer.