It’s May, which means the start of more time outdoors—and that means more reasons to coat on the sunscreen. But as you’re slathering on the SPF, make note to pay careful attention to these seven spots that are typically forgotten about during the application process.
We spoke with two members of the American Academy of Dermatology—Dr. David Kriegel, director and founder of the Manhattan Center for Dermatology, and Dr. Heather Rogers, Seattle board-certified dermatologist at the Madison Skin & Laser Center®—who shared their insight on the spots most of us miss:
“We tell patients in our office at the Manhattan Center for Dermatology that the top places that people forget to use sunscreen are known as the ‘forgettable four,’” Dr. Kriegel tells us. Ears and lips comprise the first two slots, and he explains why.
“It is especially important to remember to apply sunscreen to the ears and lips, as skin cancers that occur in these areas are much more dangerous and have higher risk for spreading,” Dr. Kriegel says. “Lip balms with SPFs of 30 and above should be adequate for the lips but reapplying every few hours is critical.”
When covering the ears with sunscreen, make sure to not only apply to the most prominent parts of the ear, but to any part of the ear that gets sun exposure, he continues. (Believe us, you might not remember to smear on lotion here, but you’ll certainly remember the oversight once they’re red!)
What comprises the rest of the “forgettable four” list?
The scalp—including the part line and balding area for men—a spot that’s often overlooked…
“People think that their scalps are protected by their hair. Even people with thick hair should protect the exposed parts of their scalps. Using a sunscreen spray will make this process a bit easier,” Dr. Kriegel says.
…and the tops of the feet, which easily burn.
Dr. Rogers agrees with this last one as well. “The feet are perpendicular to the sun, so even if you don’t put sunscreen on your legs, they don’t burn nearly as much has your feet.” (The same goes for your nose, she says—your nose sticks out, so it gets burned before your cheeks do!)
So now we have the “forgettable four,” but what are additional missed spots? The backs of hands, for one.
Skipping sunscreen here can lead to age spots, so be sure to apply…and reapply, particularly if you’ve washed your hands, Rogers says. And while we’re at it, don’t forget in between your fingers and toes!
Around the bathing suit, for another.
“Both men and women do a bad job of putting sunscreen right near their bathing suit because they don’t want to get cream on their swimsuit and stain,” Rogers says. Women will get burned by their bikini strap, while with men, it’s where their swim trunks hit their legs and along the top edge of the suit. “I always tell patients to put on sunscreen before they put on their bathing suit so they get better coverage,” she adds.
As well, most people tend to cover their faces thoroughly—it’s a given to slather on SPF to your nose, forehead, and cheeks—but right around the hairline is also key. Pay close attention to this area before you head outdoors!
And while you’re remembering all of the above, also burn this thought into your brain: “Sunscreen is just one of multiple steps of sun-protective behavior,” Rogers says. “Sunscreen’s great, but won’t do it alone. Don’t lie in the sun during the hottest hours of the day. Wear sun-protective clothing. Wear sunglasses. Wear a hat. If you follow those steps—even if you don’t do the perfect job applying sunscreen—you have other things to protect you.”
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