June 11, 2008 -- Summertime's increased sunlight helps spotlight the more than 1 million skin cancer cases diagnosed annually. Many people find themselves combating harmful UV rays to protect their skin. And while most people think to slather sunscreen on their arms, legs and face, there are other places they forget.
Dermatologist and Skin Cancer Foundation spokeswoman Dr. Doris Day breaks down the five areas where people raise their exposure risk by failing to put on sunscreen. Check them out below and learn more about how to choose the proper sunscreen.
For more information on skin cancer, check out www.skincancer.org.
The Forgotten Five
No matter how diligent you are about putting on sunscreen, you should be sure not to miss certain spots. People commonly forget to protect their hair, the tops of their feet, the sides of their faces, the back of their necks and their cheek and neck area.
Bald men know to wear a hat or put on sunscreen, but people with thicker hair don't realize they're at risk, too. So, to get that part in your hair, use spray-on sunscreen. Also, if you color your hair, this will help you keep your color.
Second, get the sides of your face. The temples and in front of the ears are where Day says she sees a lot of sun damage in patients. That's because people tend to put sunscreen on in the center and smear outwards, so they run out by the time they get to the edge. Instead, dab it all over and then blend. This way, you're getting as much on the outside of your face as you do in the center.
Third, the back of the neck is a must. That's important for men who usually have short haircuts that don't cover that area.
Fourth, you need to protect the neck and chest area. The skin there scars more easily and ages more poorly than it does on the face.
And finally, it's flip-flop and sandal season, and people always forget the tops of their feet. The same warnings apply about skin damage, but as everyone it's ever happened to knows, it really hurts.
How to Choose Sunscreen
Mexoryl was the ingredient everyone was talking about last summer because it gave you protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Since then, pretty much every other brand has come out with photostabilized protection, meaning it protects your skin from burning and the rays that lead to wrinkles and melanoma.
If you're in the drugstore shopping, you want to look for an SPF of 30 or more, and you want it to say UVA and UVB, broad spectrum, or the word photostabilized.
The Difference in SPFs
An SPF number refers to the UVB burning protection a product offers (one with an SPF of 15, used correctly, allows the user to stay in the sun 15 times longer without burning). UVA rays -- while not contributing to sunburns -- damage deeper layers of the skin, and probably play an important role in wrinkling, spotting, lost elasticity and melanoma.
It's important to note that the products are lab tested, where the testers put on more sunscreen than the average person will. So, if you're wearing 30, you're more likely getting an SPF of about 15, which is why it's that much more important to reapply.
Every two hours, whether you're sunbathing or just walking around, you should reapply sunscreen. You'll need a tablespoonful for your face and a shot glass for the rest of your body.
Also, people need to pay special attention to their lips. You need a lip balm or lip gloss with SPF. Clear-colored lip gloss contains mineral oil, which intensifies the effects of the sun. So, if you're going to wear it, at least put some SPF underneath.
The reason lips are a problem is that non-melanoma skin cancers that develop on the lower lip can be more serious than when they occur on other parts of the face or body. They also have a higher rate of spreading.
Sun Protection Gadgets
At least 70 percent of your exposure is unintentional and is just what you get while running errands or doing chores. So, try UV shields for your car and home windows.
Also, try a melanoma bracelet. It costs about $5, and it changes color in the sun. It's like a little string around your finger -- on a sunny day, you feel hot, so you remember to reapply. But on a cloudy day, you're getting 80 percent of the sun's efficiency. A melanoma bracelet can remind you that you need to reapply every two hours.
Finally, there are some great clothes that protect you from the sun.
Three brands: Coolibar, Columbia, and Sun Busters have special weaves, and are treated with UV-absorbing chemicals, such as titanium dioxide. To be considered sun-protective, such clothing must have an ultraviolet protection of more than 30 and retain its sun-protective qualities after numerous washings and exposure to sunlight.