If you're a habitual sunscreen user, you probably apply your favorite broad-spectrum formula to your face every morning, safe in the knowledge that you're protecting your complexion from sun exposure, accelerated aging, and skin cancer.

Yet, you may not think twice about those tricky areas that are always exposed to the sun, like your scalp, neck, chest, and hands. With so much exposure, these areas have a high risk for premature signs of aging and, unfortunately, skin cancer. Here's how to protect those areas and prevent further sun damage.

Sun Damage on the Skin

There's no better feeling than the warmth of the sun on your skin, but unprotected sun exposure poses so many risks to your overall health. The sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays alter your skin's DNA at a cellular level, accelerating signs of aging in the long term and leading to sunburn and other skin concerns, like increased sensitivity and blotchiness, in the short term.

Your scalp, ears, neck, chest, and hands are often forgotten, and they're pretty much always exposed to the sun, so they're common areas for skin cancer. A tell-tell sign that you're not properly protecting those often-overlooked areas from UV rays? Your face may be bright, smooth, and hydrated, but you find dark spots on your hands, fine lines on your neck, and even chest wrinkles.

Protecting Oft-Overlooked Areas

According to the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, UV rays can cause skin damage in just 5-10 minutes. Therefore, it's important to use sunscreen every morning and cover up even when outside for a short amount of time. Start from the top down so that you don't miss a spot. Here's how to ensure those problem spots are covered and ready for the sunshine.

1. Scalp

Even if you have a full head of hair, the sun can still scorch your scalp. The best way to protect your scalp is by parting your hair and applying an oil-free, water-resistant sunscreen so that it holds up against sweat and water for up to 80 minutes. And if you can't reapply, cover up with a hat or scarf.

2. Lips

The skin on your lips is delicate, so it burns and dries out really easily. A product made for your lips, like the EltaMD UV Lip Balm Broad-Spectrum SPF 36 protects your skin, while also keeping them hydrated with glycerin and 5% Hydromanil.

3. Neck, Chest, and Hands

When you're applying your lightweight sunscreen to your face in the morning, use a little extra and extend down to your neck, chest, tips of your ears, and rub the excess lotion onto your hands. A smooth, tinted sunscreen is excellent to even out your skin tone and texture. And keep the handy EltaMD UV Stick with you wherever you go so that you can easily reapply throughout the day, especially after sweating or washing your hands.

How to Repair Sun-Damaged Skin

Cumulative unprotected sun exposure can weaken your skin barrier, make you more susceptible to skin cancer, and cause photoaging. But, if you already have extensive damage, not all hope is lost. You need to jump into action to repair your damaged skin and prevent further harm. The first step is to reduce your exposure to the sun and seek shade during peak sunny times.

The next step is to be gentle on your skin and commit to a skin care routine that focuses on protecting and repairing your skin. For best results, use EltaMD's UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 and the Skin Recovery System in conjunction to protect against sun damage and return your skin to its natural, healthy, state. These products are shown to reverse UV-induced damage like dark spots while protecting the skin from further harm. As UV rays are present throughout the year—yes, even when it's grey and cloudy—sunscreen should be a part of your daily ritual.

Creating Sun-Safe Habits

If you've been a little lackadaisical with sun care, now is the time to get in the groove with a regular routine, starting from your head and working your way down. Chat with the EltaMD Elyse to be matched with a sunscreen product you'll be excited to wear every day. If you're prone to forgetting, stick a note on your bathroom mirror to remind yourself to make time for your skin—because, after all, you're in it for life.

Author

  • Catherine Hufton is a UK-based freelance journalist and writer who has worked for some of fashion's most iconic companies and written for the world's best known magazines and newspapers. Beginning her career at Net-a-Porter and Matches Fashion over 12 years ago, she has created content for L'Oréal, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, The Telegraph and more.