When it’s summertime, the only things that may be on your mind are sun-kissed skin, relaxing beach time, and outdoor barbeques. Along with said fun, you probably also know the basic protocols for staying safe in the hot summer months: Wear sunscreen that’s SPF 30 or higher and drink enough water.
Even though most people know how to protect themselves from the sun’s harmful rays, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that skin cancer is still the most common form of cancer in the U.S.—and it’s on the rise. Since 1994, the diagnosis and treatment of nonmelanoma skin cancers has increased by a whopping 77 percent, and 90 percent of those diagnoses were associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Much of that may be due to applying sunscreen incorrectly, not putting on any SPF at all, or missing spots that are exposed to the sun. The sun is sneaky, and if you’re not diligent, those rays will get you. (PS: Find out how to apply sunscreen correctly, according to a derm.)
Commonly forgotten spots include the ears, back of the neck, tops of the feet, hands, and the last place you’d probably think of: The scalp.
“If left uncovered, your scalp is at risk for a sunburn, especially if your hair is parted,” says Joel Schlessinger, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and RealSelf contributor. “This area, along with your ears, is highly sensitive to sun exposure and rarely gets the SPF protection it needs.”
Let’s just come out and say it: Sunscreen in the hair is less than ideal. If you don’t like the idea of liquid sunscreen in your hair (and who does?), try a powdered sunscreen with SPF 30, which you can find at a makeup or drugstore, says Dr. Schlessinger.
Then again, you may already have the best solution to scalp sunburn in your closet already. “I love the idea of hair sunscreen, but the best protection possible is still a hat,” says Dr. Schlessinger. “Wearing a hat can protect your scalp, as well as other areas you might have forgotten sunscreen, like the ears, hairline, and the back of the neck.”