Many of us grew up hearing about the dangers of UVA and UVB rays and, thanks to the abundance of information out there, we’ve been fortunate to know that protecting our skin from an early age from the harmful effects of sun exposure is essential. If you diligently apply sunscreen to your face every morning, even on cloudy days,pat yourself on the back for the steps you’re taking to reduce your risk of contracting skin cancer and ward off wrinkles.
Sadly, that’s still not enough. According to many dermatologists and skin experts, most of us are forgetting to apply SPF to parts of our bodies that are just as susceptible to sun damage as our cheeks and noses. “When it comes to applying sunscreen, just about everyone misses a spot or two,” said beauty expert Jacquie Carter of Discover Good Beauty. The result? “Short term it can be an uncomfortable sunburn. Long term it can be sunspots, fine lines and wrinkles, or even skin cancer. If you are outdoors and you have a body part that isn’t fully covered, then chances are it is susceptible to damage,” Carter explains.
Not to fear, however. We consulted some of the top skin experts to help identify the 8 places on your body that are begging for sunscreen.
1. Feet. We tend to ignore the thin skin on our feet because we don’t like the way sunscreen feels on them–slippery, slimy, and sticky, Carter says. But that’s no excuse! “With today’s sunscreen technologies and lightweight formulas this shouldn’t be a problem,” Carter says. “What is a problem is burned feet and that dreadful flip-flop tan. Even when you are just standing in the water at the beach or your pool the sun’s rays can reach and damage your feet. They aren’t protected just because they are under water.”
2. Back of the hands. We apply sunscreen using the palms of our hands, but we often forget to rub some on the backs of our hands, as well. “This is the one area of the body that can expose our ‘true’ age if we aren’t careful because they can really show the signs of sun damage and premature aging,” Carter says. “The hands are the most exposed to the sun on a daily basis. Hands on the steering wheel of the car, riding a bike, working in the garden, pushing a baby stroller, playing golf. Just short-term exposure to the sun on a regular basis can be extremely damaging over time.” Your best bet: carry around a travel-size sunscreen like SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF Travel Samples and reapply a few times a day.
3. Ears. I never apply sunscreen to my ears because a) I don’t want lotion in my hair and b) I figure I can hide my ears with my long hair. Lesson learned. “It’s important to note that every bit of your ear is subject to burning and to skin cancer,” Carter says. “If you are just putting a dab of sunscreen on your ear lobes you aren’t doing enough. The entire ear, the back, the lobe and even the nooks and crannies need to have sunscreen on them. And it really doesn’t matter if your hair is short or long–you need to protect yourself.”
4. Lips. Our lips lack the protective outer layer of skin we have on our bodies called the stratum corneum, Carter explains, making them especially susceptible to sun damage. A lip balm that contains at least SPF 30–Supergoop! Fusion Lip Balm with SPF 30+ is my favorite–should be applied and reapplied throughout the day.
5. Scalp. We put enough pressure on our hair to look gorgeous at all times–we shouldn’t expect it to do the job of an SPF, as well. “Yes, hair does protect the scalp but women with less of it, or hair that is parted, leave their scalp skin vulnerable,” says Dr. Fayne L. Frey, a dermatologist and founder of Fry Face. “Sunscreen applied to bald spots and part lines is recommended. And of course, wearing a hat is also advised.”
6. Back of knees. But they’re so hard to reach! Again, not a good excuse. Find a buddy or put your yoga poses to good use. “Folks often apply sunscreen on the thighs and backs of the legs and then apply it on the shins and calves,” Frey says. “But all too often, the back of the knees, in the crease, is overlooked. Sunburns in this sensitive area is painful.” Don’t forget to apply sunscreen in the creases behind the knees!
7. Under straps. How many of us think to lift our bathing suit or tank top and apply SPF beneath the straps? Now, how many of us are lucky enough to have bathing suits and bar straps that never slip? See where I’m going with this? “It is common to apply sunscreen around the straps of a shirt or bathing suit,” Frey says. “But all too often those straps move and the underlying skin is vulnerable. Apply sunscreen underneath those shirt and bathing suit straps.”
8. Around the eyes. A lot of women shy away from applying sunscreen around their eyes because they don’t want to get it into their eyes and cause irritation, says Dr. Jill Waibel, a dermatologist at Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute. But, if one of our goals is to combat the signs of aging, we are doing ourselves a huge disservice ignoring this delicate part of our bodies. “Around the eyes is actually one of the places that ages the fastest, and also shows signs of aging the most,” Waibel says. “I recommend using Avene Tinted Compact as it is a foundation that doubles as a sunscreen with SPF 50.”
For more beauty tips, check out 4 Ways every woman should switch up her skincare routine for summer and The 8 best makeup brands for women with sensitive skin.