By Patricia Hollenback, R.N., BSN, OCN
You bought proper sunscreen and have lathered it on before heading outside to prevent sunburns and skin cancer, but are you really protected from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays?
The fact is when you apply sunscreen you have a lot of area to cover. It can be easy to underestimate just how much sunscreen you need to cover your whole body – not to mention that there are some spots you may simply miss.
In fact, there are some spots we’re all typically forgetting to apply sunscreen to.
Toes and feet
Maybe you can’t reach them or maybe you have sandals or shoes on when you’re applying, but we tend to neglect our toes and feet with sunscreen.
This becomes problematic if you kick off your shoes when you get outside – the tops of your feet directly face the sun when you’re barefoot or wearing skin-exposing sandals.
Ironically, the hands you use to apply sunscreen are also typically missed with SPF. You may not think to also rub the backs of your hands when applying. Or maybe you wash your hands after applying sunscreen and leave them exposed to UV rays. The bottom line is the skin on your hands can be damaged by the sun, leading to premature aging, sunburn and skin cancer.
The Skin Cancer Foundation reports ears as the third most frequent location for skin cancers. Any part of your ears can get burnt and damaged by the sun, including the back, rim, front and even inside of your ear.
Out of fear of getting it in your eyes, you may apply sunscreen all over your face but neglect your eyelids. However, this delicate skin can get burned and develop skin cancer – up to 10 percent of skin cancers occur on eyelids. Protect them by wearing sunglasses or using a sunscreen stick that won’t run.
Whether you forget to apply sunscreen to your lips or you are eating and drinking without reapplying, lips are often left unprotected from the sun. Your lips are susceptible to developing skin cancer, with your lower lip actually being 12 times more likely to be affecting by skin cancer. As with your eyelids, consider using a waxy sunscreen stick or lip balm with SPF. And don’t forget to reapply after eating and drinking.
While your hair does provide some sun protection for your scalp, it doesn’t completely protect it. If you have fine or very light-colored hair, are bald or have a part in your hair, your scalp isn’t fully protected.
If you have a part in your hair or your hair is thin be sure to apply sunscreen to it. Use of a spray type screen product might be less messy and provides better coverage of the area. If you’re bald, make sure you cover your entire head with sunscreen – it directly faces the sun and is susceptible to sunburns and skin cancer.
Like sunglasses for your eyes, you can don a hat to protect your scalp from the sun too. Choosing and wearing a hat with a wide brim will provide added protection to your face eyes and ears.
About the Author
Patricia Hollenback, R.N., BSN, OCN
Patti is a champion for cancer prevention and early detection. As a nurse navigator, her primary goal is to create an open and trusting relationship with her patients in order to guide them through the medical maze of testing, treatment and recovery.