How to apply sunscreen: essential skincare tips

Check out the 5 key areas of the body we regularly leave unprotected from the sun's harmful rays.

How to apply sunscreen
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Do you always miss a bit of sunscreen when the sun comes out and end up with a red patch of skin? Sunburn can be painful, uncomfortable and it poses a serious risk to your health. Statistics from Cancer Research UK show that around 15,000 new cases of malignant melanoma (the most serious kind of skin cancer) are diagnosed in the UK every year, but a whopping 86 per cent of cases are preventable by taking precautions in the sun.

While most people wouldn't hit the beach without sunscreen and a hat, it's everyday activities such as walking to the shops or jogging that can catch you out, so it pays to take care of your skin.

So which bits of your bod do you regularly neglect? Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation shares the five key areas you should be protecting this summer:

The skin around the eyes and eyelids

Surprisingly, eyelid cancers account for between 5-10 per cent of all skin cancers and yet many of people forget to protect their face.

'Sunscreen teamed with sunglasses is the best defence,' says Dr Mahto. 'Choose quality glasses that protect against both UVA and UVB rays and cover as much as the eye area as possible. We see a lot of basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas (non-malignant skin cancers) here and surgery to remove them can be disfiguring.'



Top of head/hair parting

Skin cancer can develop on the scalp but can go undetected because it's a tricky spot to monitor. 'Men (or women) with thinning hair should wear a hat, and make sure sunscreen is applied right to the hairline,' says Dr Mahto. Take care too, if your hair is braided – your scalp will be vulnerable where your hair is sectioned off.

Tips of ears and behind the ears

Don't forget to slather sunscreen on your ears. 'These are high-risk areas, and I often see the freckling in unprotected skin that gives it away,' says Dr Mahto. 'It's more common in men than in women but everyone should be vigilant. The ears are the third most common place on the body to develop basal cell carcinomas.'



Backs of hands and tops of feet

Your hands will give away how much time you've spent in the sun before any other part of the body, so don't stop at your watch strap when applying sun cream. Apart from dehydrated, wrinkled skin, you're at increased risk of age spots if you don't protect them. Similarly, remember to protect the tops of your feet and toes if you're wearing sandles. Unlike hands, feet aren't exposed all year round, so they're more prone to burning badly.

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Don't forget the 'V' or decolletage

While your shoulders and back are usually the first area you think of, the neckline is often overlooked and this is actually one of the most sensitive areas to sun damage.

'The easiest way to ensure this area is properly protected is to apply your sun cream before you get dressed,' advises Dr Mahto. 'That way you don't have to work around bra or bikini straps. This is a part of the body gets full exposure all summer so use a high SPF regularly.'



How to stay sun safe

Follow our expert tips to stay safe in the sun all year round:

✔️ It takes chemical sunscreens at least 30 minutes to start working, so timing is everything. If you're in a rush, choose a mineral option.

✔️ It only takes one incidence of sunburn that blisters before the age of 20 to double your lifetime chance of melanoma.

✔️ Although your make-up may contain an SPF, many don't offer UVA protection – that is, protection from the rays that cause premature ageing. Check the packaging.

✔️ Babies less than six months old must be kept in the shade at all times, as they don't yet make melanin.

✔️ No sunscreen offers 100 per cent protection against sun burn. Opt for a broad spectrum formulation that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, with an SPF30.

✔️ Reapply often and make sure you use at least two tablespoons every time.

💡If you spend time outdoors exercising, don't forget to apply sunscreen. Legs are the most common site for melanoma in women, so apply SPF before you go for your run.

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