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4 Surprising Areas You Should Be Slathering in Sunscreen, Says Research

Are you protecting all of the high-risk areas for skin cancer? (Are you sure?) Derms weigh in on their favorite products to prevent sun damage on the most neglected parts of our skin.

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Summer sun protection has never been more important. Skin cancer rates have been rising rapidly over the past few decades, per the The American Academy of Dermatology Association—and a 2022 study published in JAMA Dermatology suggests new cases could increase by a remarkable 50 percent before 2040.

Yet even if you’re vigilant with sunscreen, one 2019 European study showed that the average person applies less than half of the recommended amount of sunscreen—and forgets to reapply as needed. Plus, there are spots we often miss entirely. For example, researchers at the University of Liverpool found that the eyelids, inner corner of the eyes, and the bridge of the nose are the most commonly neglected body parts when it comes to sun care. “But they’re one of the most delicate areas prone to sun damage,” says Melanie Palm, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Art of Skin MD.

Dr. Christina Lee Chung, board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in Philadelphia, explains why your hands, lips, and scalp are also considered high-risk areas for skin cancer development. “[It’s] not necessarily because there is an increased risk of skin cancer, but rather, skin cancers that do form in these areas have higher rates of bad outcomes,” she explains. (Read The Scalp Skin Cancer and Brain Connection, Plus 6 Quality Scalp Sunscreen Products)

To help you stay protected even in those unsuspecting spots, dermatologists shared with The Healthy @Reader’s Digest their favorite products to keep these sensitive, frequently overlooked areas shielded from sun damage all year long.

Also read The 5 Best Hormone-Safe Sunscreens, Recommended by Doctors

Sun protection for your eyes

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Shiseido’s Clear Sunscreen Stick, SPF 50+

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This product’s stick applicator is small enough to get into hard-to-cover areas like your eyelids, Dr. Palm says. “The formula is also easy to apply over or under makeup, making reapplication pretty simple and mess-free throughout the day.” It’s also non-greasy and absorbs quickly into your skin, so you won’t have to deal with the sting of sunscreen “bleeding” into your eyes.

Still, she points out that eyeballs—not just eyelids—are also susceptible to UV damage. “So if you plan to be outdoors, protect your eyes with sunglasses that block UVA and UVB radiation.”

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According to Jonathan Bielfield, DO, FAOCD, board-certified dermatologist in Austin, TX, a powder makeup brush is an easy way to top-up SPF protection around your eyes—and the rest of your face–throughout the day.

Colorescience’s antioxidant-rich mineral powder is lightweight and leaves a soft, sheer look, whether you’re using it on bare skin or over makeup.

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Sun protection for your lips

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Sun Bum Mineral Sunscreen Lip Balm, SPF 30

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Lindsey Zubritsky, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist more popularly known as the DermGuru, says lips are at an increased risk of developing skin cancers, including scaly, discolored, pre-cancerous spots called actinic cheilitis. “I like Sun Bum’s Mineral SPF 30 Sunscreen Lip Balm because it’s fragrance-free, won’t irritate the lips, and uses zinc oxide to protect against UV rays,” she says.

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Dr. Biefield says this soothing lip balm is made with transparent zinc oxide for mineral sun protection that won’t leave a white cast once applied. It’s also seriously moisturizing and “has additional antioxidants—such as quercetin, vitamin C, and vitamin E—which are great for anti-aging.”

How Often Do You Need to Reapply Sunscreen?

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MDSolarSciences Hydrating Sheer Tinted Lip Balm, SPF 30

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Cybele Fishman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology PC in the New York-New Jersey region, suggests if you want a bit of lip color with your SPF, this hydrating, avocado oil-based lip balm ticks the boxes.

One heads-up? It’s not water-resistant. If you’re going to be in the water or sweating, she recommends opting for an activity-friendly lip protector like Supergoop! PLAY Lip Shield, SPF 30.

Sun protection for your scalp

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Supergoop! Part Poof, SPF 35

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“Your scalp has seen a significant amount of sun by the time you realize you need to protect it,” says Dr. Chung, especially if you’ve maintained the same hair part for many years or have a cropped hairstyle. And it’s one of the worst, most uncomfortable places you can get a sunburn.

She points to Supergoop! Part Poof because it’s both sun-protective and works as a dry shampoo. “Perfect for busy working moms who need a quick and easy regimen to look fabulous and stay sun-safe!”

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Shiseido Ultimate Protection Spray Sunscreen, SPF 50+

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This spray sunscreen is another multi-purpose product, as it’s suitable for your face, body, and scalp. “This is my go-to when I need a scalp screen that has a little more staying power than a powder-based formula,” Dr. Chung says. “[It’s] a lightweight spray that’s easy to rub in—just a few squirts directly onto the scalp, and I rub it in everywhere with my fingertips.”

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Coola’s Scalp & Hair Mist Organic Sunscreen, SPF 30

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Non-oily and lightweight, Coola’s sunscreen mist offers broad-spectrum protection for your scalp and contains ingredients that help protect your hair against UV damage like dryness and color fading. Dr. Palm also gives it bonus points because of its antioxidants and hydrating ingredients that give your hair an extra moisture boost.

That said, all of the experts advise that you wear a hat for scalp protection, too—and here are 10 dermatologist favorites.

Sun protection for your hands

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Supergoop! PLAY Mineral Sunscreen Stick, SPF50

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“Hopefully, we’re all washing our hands more frequently throughout the pandemic,” Dr. Palm says—but this means that the tops of our hands will require more frequent sunscreen application than other parts of our body. “I’m a fan of sunscreen sticks for easy and mess-free application on the go,” she says. “I recommend keeping a sunscreen stick in your purse and one in your car, so you always have it handy for consistent reapplication.”

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Sources

SOURCES:

People:

Dr. Christina Lee Chung, board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in Philadelphia

Melanie Palm, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Art of Skin MD

Shawnda Dorantes, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, owner, and founder of Beauty Lounge Medical SpaJonathan Bielfield, DO, FAOCD, board-certified dermatologist, Westlake Dermatology in Austin

Lindsey Zubritsky, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist more popularly known as the DermGuru

Cybele Fishman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology PC

Websites:

The American Academy of Dermatology Association: "Skin Cancer."

University of Liverpool: "Misapplication of sunscreen leaves people vulnerable to skin cancer."

Journals:

JAMA Dermatology: "Global Burden of Cutaneous Melanoma in 2020 and Projections to 2040."

Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology: "Does sunscreen use comply with official recommendations? Results of a nationwide survey in Germany."

Leslie Finlay
In addition to The Healthy, Leslie has written for outlets such as WebMd.com, Fodors.com, LiveFit.com, and more, specializing in content related to healthcare, nutrition, mental health and wellness, and environmental conservation and sustainability. She holds a master's degree in Public Policy focused on the intersection between public health and environmental conservation, and an undergraduate degree in journalism. Leslie is based in Thailand, where she is a marine conservation and scuba diving instructor. In her spare time you'll find her up in the air on the flying trapeze or underwater, diving coral reefs.