HOUSTON — You might always wear sunscreen while spending time in the sun, but when it comes to protecting every part of your skin there are certain places that people commonly forget about.
Baylor College of Medicine’s Dr. Carina Wasko, associate professor of dermatology, shares the top places people miss when putting on sunscreen and ways to prevent skin cancer and aging.
Tops of ears
When applying sunscreen to the face, people often overlook adding it to their ears as well. This is a common area on which to find precancerous abrasions as well as skin cancers during routine skin cancer screenings, Wasko said.
“As far as places where people miss their sunscreen on a daily basis, the tops of the ears really come to mind,” Wasko said. “Women who have longer hair and cover them are a little less worrisome, but it is more worrisome for individuals with shorter hair who often forget the tops of their ears.”
The scalp is another one of the most frequently missed places to apply sunscreen. While putting sunscreen on your scalp might not always be an option, Wasko recommends wearing a wide brimmed hat whenever you plan on being outside for an extended period of time or keeping your scalp away from direct sunlight.
“Maybe people will wear sunscreen when going out for a run, but on a daily basis it’s hard because people aren’t going to be spraying sunscreen in their hair and also don’t want to necessarily wear a hat,” she said. “You can get a lot of sun damage on the top of your head so that can be a little tricky.”
It is important to remember your hands when applying sunscreen to your arms or face. Wasko says that you should not only apply it while outside, but also when driving because the car windows do not fully block out the sun’s ultraviolet rays. She adds that this is one of the first places people begin to notice signs of aging.
“It’s important to apply it for skin cancer risks but also for photo aging and photo damage,” Wasko said. “A lot of people later on look at their hands and are very disappointed about how much freckling and wrinkling they have — much of that has to do with time spent driving in your car. The top of your hands are getting of sun exposure even if you’re not spending a lot of time outside.”
It might be common knowledge to wear sunscreen on your forearms while at the pool or beach, but Wasko explains that this is an area where skin cancers often are found. Like the top of the hands, your forearms also are exposed to the sun while driving or during day-to-day activities. She recommends wearing sunscreen on your hands and forearms whenever you spend anytime outside or even simply driving to work.
“People think, ‘I’m at work and just in my office all day,’ but when you drive a lot of sun comes through the windows,” Wasko said. “Windows do not filter out all UV light, so we get a lot of sun damage, especially on the left side of the body where we drive”
Although it is relatively common to apply sunscreen to the upper chest, Wasko explains how people tend to forget it on a daily basis. She said it is a frequent area where dermatologists find all types of skin cancers, including melanomas.
Wasko addresses that even when you are not spending time in the sun, it is important to apply sunscreen on those common places that could be exposed during the day, such as the chest, arms and legs.
“We try to really emphasize the importance of wearing sunscreen every day for exposed areas even if you’re just going to work, but if you’re going to be out it’s a different story — you must reapply,” Wasko said.
Since dermatologists check the entire body from head to toe during skin cancer screenings, Wasko stresses the importance of remembering to wear sunscreen every day and thinking about the areas that could be missed. She adds that it also is possible for melanomas and skin cancers to grow on areas of the skin that are not as exposed to the sun.
“Generally, skin cancer screening is from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet,” Wasko said. “People will often think if they don’t get sun exposure they can’t get skin cancer in that area, such as a part of their leg that’s usually covered up or the bottom of their feet, but skin cancers can occur anywhere, even in the areas that don’t get sun.”
Wasko recommends wearing a SPF 30 or stronger sunscreen even during cloudy or rainy days to prevent skin cancer and aging. If you are outside on a sunny day, it is essential to reapply about every two hours or when you towel off after swimming. For skin cancer screenings, she recommends the average adult visit their dermatologist at least once per year for a routine check.