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6 Spots That Are the Most Vulnerable for Long-Term Sun Damage

Rachel Lapidos

Rachel LapidosJune 23, 2020

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Photo: Getty Images/Johner Images

Trying to stay fully protected from sun damage is a tough job that requires serious diligence. Even if you use your favorite sunscreen throughout the day, it’s hard to make sure that every little nook and cranny of your body is fully covered, so we the sunscreen loyal (with a little help from a dermatologist or two), are here to remind you of the often forgotten places to reapply. Since summer is here in full force, they’ve shared the places on your body that are most vulnerable to the sun’s harsh rays, so that you can keep them extra protected when you’re out and about.

It should come as no surprise that practically every square centimeter of your skin needs proper sun protection. But, according to Elyse Love, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, your face, chest, back, shoulders, and the backs of your hands are the most prone to long-term sun damage. “This is because these are the areas of the body that are exposed to the sun almost year-round,” she says. Stacy Chimento, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with Riverchase Dermatology, adds that your scalp falls into this category too. “The skin on the scalp and your hands tend to be thinner and not as resilient,” she says. “Also, our clothing doesn’t shield us from the sun hitting us [on these spots.]”

While staying out of the sun is the most effective preventative measure, it’s obviously not always feasible. According to Dr. Love, you should be applying sunscreen to all sun-exposed areas of the body year-round as well as reapplying during periods you’re outside for an extended period of time. “Reapplication is important for prolonged sun exposure over two hours,” she says, adding that you should also try and minimize sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is strongest. And if you’re sweating or swimming, reapply even more frequently.

Dermatologists recommend sticking with sunscreen that offers SPF 30 or higher and that has broad-spectrum coverage. Dr. Love is a fan of the Supergoop! Play Everyday Lotion SPF 50 ($22), and Dr. Chimento suggests the Avène Mineral Sunscreen Fluid SPF 50+ ($28). On your scalp, look or a specially concocted formula such as Coola Scalp and Hair Mist Sunscreen SPF 30 ($26). Just remember to apply all over, especially those areas that are particularly susceptible to sun damage.

Besides SPF, Dr. Chimento says that incorporating certain accessories can give you an added layer of protection. “Adding accessories like a wide-brimmed hat to your wardrobe can help protect your face, ears, and neck from the sun,” she says. You can also turn to UPF-protective clothing and even gloves (like the Coolibar UPF 50 Sun Gloves, $29, which can help protect your hands while driving).

Above all else, be sure to check in with your dermatologist, who will be able to give you a more individualized look at your skin. “Your dermatologist will be able to look at your medical history and medicine plan to see if any medication you are taking has the secondary effect of making your skin more photosensitive,” says Dr. Chimento. When it comes to sun damage, it’s more important than ever to be safe, not sorry.

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