You may have seen the “epic sunscreen fails” on social media. Those are those pictures of the suntans that start below the shorts, the weird patterns across the back, the white marks left from the brim of a hat on an otherwise red face. Why is it that we’re so bad at applying sun screen? Is it some ancient art that humans are not capable of mastering? Bad sunscreen application can be amusing, but it can also be dangerous. After all, we are using it to protect ourselves. If you find yourself among the sunscreen application impaired, here are a few areas you want to keep in mind the next time you find yourself charged with slathering on the SPF.
Skin Around Eyes and Eyelids
The skin around the eyes in the thinnest and most delicate on the body and eyelid cancer accounts for 5-10% of all skin cancer. According to Dr. Anjali Mahto, spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation, “Sunglasses are your best defense. Choose quality glasses that protect against both UVA and UVB rays and cover as much of the eye area as possible.” She adds that no malignant skin cancers are quite common, and surgery for their removal can be disfiguring. If the thought of sunscreen getting into your eyes is unattractive, you must sport your sunnies.
The scalp is another target for skin cancer, and cancer can often go undetected there because it’s a spot that is so hard to monitor. Dr. Mahto says,” Men with thinning hair should wear a hat and make sure sunscreen is applied to the hairline.” Pigtail and braid wearers should also be wary. If you have a severe part in your hair, your scalp will be vulnerable.
Tips and Behind Ears
Dr. Mahto calls these high-risk areas and reports them as a common site for freckling. Says she, “(Freckling) is more common in men than in women, but everyone should be vigilant. The ears are the third most common place on the body to develop basal cell carcinomas.”
Tops of Hands and Backs of Feet
Many of us already have a horror of aging hands, and the sun will not be much help in this department. With hands, you’re not only at risk for wrinkles and dehydration but an increased risk for age spots. Be kind to your feet, as well. Remember that they haven’t seen the sun all year and are likely to be more prone to a bad burn when exposed.
Another area of aging concern, the décolletage is often a target for overexposure (to the sun, that is). Dr. Mahto gives specific directions for this part of the body. “The easiest way to ensure this area is properly protected is to apply your sun cream before you get dressed,” she says. “That way you don’t have to work around bra or bikini straps. This is a part of the body that gets full exposure all summer, so use a high SPF regularly.”
Word to the wise….
If exercise or a hobby means that you are spending a lot of time outdoors, Dr. Mahto advises, “The legs are the most common site for melanoma in women, so don’t forget your SPF before you go for your run.” If sweating under your sunscreen is an issue, choose a lightweight formula that doesn’t block pores.
Are you among the sunscreen application challenged? If so, let us know the spots we’re likely to miss!