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Sun Damage: Mind These SPF Blind Spots

It’s the ‘gaps’ in both our awareness and application that can leave us vulnerable to sun damage

Even the most diligent sunscreen wearers slip up when it comes to the following sun damage hotspots – here are the oft-forgotten areas you need to know about.

We won’t mention a certain celebrity’s shared scant sunscreen routine last year but it’s fair to say that the majority of us know that we need to apply SPF more liberally than we would, say, a highlighter. 

Vastly improved sun safety education means that most of us are clued up on the fundamentals of sun protection, but it’s the ‘gaps’ in both our awareness and our application that can leave us particularly vulnerable to sun damage and premature ageing. 

SPF blind spots to have on your radar

Dermatologist and brand founder Dr. Dennis Gross states that skin specialists are seeing “an epidemic of skin cancers forming around the hairline”, while founder of Ultrasun Abi Cleeve highlights that “the thin skin on our scalp, combined with the fact that few of us consider our scalp and hairline when it comes to sun protection, makes this area especially prone to skin cancer.” There’s a very literal cosmetic fallout too – Abi emphasises that “UV damage is a significant trigger of hair loss”, with thinner hair then exposing more areas of the scalp to the sun rays in a vicious circle scenario. 

Other neglected areas include the hands, which Abi emphasises are also often the first place we see UV-induced pigmentation and sun damage, the tips of your ears (and behind them – top knot fans take note), as well as the back of your knees and the lips. She stresses that if you are lying face down in the sun then the soles of the feet also need a layer of SPF, as do any areas of the body where clothing is likely to rub. Waistlines, bikini tops and sandals are especially common culprits.

The Fix: Founder of 35 Thousand Misty Reich is a big fan of EltaMD’s UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF46 which she says is untinted, non greasy, and light in texture. 

Overexposure in the eye area

Another area where SPF quite literally gets overlooked is around the eyes, with The Skin Cancer Foundation reporting that cancer on the eyelid accounts for up to 10% of all skin cancer cases. 

The Fix: 

35 Thousand’s All-In Day Serum is formulated to protect the skin right up to the delicate eye area. With broad-spectrum SPF 30, it not only protects against harmful sun rays but blue light from screens too. Remember when applying to blend into the hairline. The sheer tint also means that any pigmentation, uneven skin tone or unwanted shadows get a lift too. 

Sun damage prevention with All-In Day Serum
35 Thousand All-In Day Serum

Optical specialist Dr. Andy Hepworth explains that it’s not just the delicate skin around your eyes that needs protecting either:

“Shockingly, research shows that 30% of us are completely unaware of the damage that UV rays can do to our eyes. Overexposure to UV light can lead to premature ageing and serious eye health issues such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Excessive UV exposure has also been linked to corneal sunburn, retinal tissue damage, eye strain and headaches.”

If that’s not reason enough to make you reach for a pair of sunnies, we’re not sure what is, but Dr. Hepworth has a few pointers in the eyewear department:

“For optimum eye health, you should be wearing sunglasses all year round. Only buy glasses with UV protection, which will be indicated on the label or shown on the product description. The minimum should ideally be UV 400 protection, which blocks nearly 100% of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, with both UVA and UVB protection.”

Scratched lenses will compromise your defences according to Dr. Hepworth and it’s worth noting that style is as important as substance:

“Larger frames or those that wrap around the eye will generally provide better protection – even from the sides.”

The fix: 

Make Audrey Hepburn your eye-con in the sunglasses department (a wide-brimmed Breakfast at Tiffany’s hat won’t go amiss either) and opt for a high factor broad-spectrum SPF that fits in with your lifestyle and adapts to those easy-to-miss bits. 

Scars, tattoos and sun damage…

Finally, Abi also advises taking extra care if you have scarring or tattoos, as scars are especially susceptible to sun damage while tattoos absorb more UV radiation than the skin around them – the darker the tattoo, the more UV rays it will absorb. 

Formulated by top skincare scientists, 35 Thousand’s All In Day Serum is much like a superhero for scar areas, as well as tattoo removal sites. The ultimate skincare multitasker, it provides sun protection, deep hydration but the sheer tint (with no white cast), will help even the skin with no tell-tale marks.

35 Thousand All-In Day Serum with SPF 30 has a sheer tint
The unsuspecting sun traps

You got the memo about not baking yourself in baby oil in the midday sun, but the places, spaces and situations where we’re a sitting duck for sun damage aren’t always obvious. 

At home

For starters, research conducted by suncare brand Soltan reveals that 60% of sunburn happens at home rather than abroad or on holiday and, depending on where you live in the world, the height of summer doesn’t always hold the primetime slot for sun damage according to Abi.

For example, she says, “In the UK, the high strong UV light in the Northern Hemisphere in February and March catch many of us unawares and can be very damaging – skin is suddenly quite literally jolted into the light after winter and we often don’t give sun protection a second thought at this time.”

On the move

In addition to taking a ‘four seasons’ approach to SPF, we’d be wise to apply ourselves to all-over sun protection even when we’re not out and about. If you’re regularly at the wheel, bear in mind that The Skin Cancer Foundation found that skin cancers were most likely to occur on the left side of the body in the US, which corresponds to where UV rays hit when you’re in the driving seat (in the UK this would be the right-hand side). 

Indoors

If you’re WFH or lucky enough to have your desk set in a sunny spot in the office, it’s also worth considering that while windows generally block harmful UVB rays, they can ‘leak’ UVA rays according to the American Cancer Society, making you more prone to sun-induced pigmentation, wrinkles and some forms of skin cancer. The older the windows, the more likely that they’ll invite UVA into your indoor space. What’s more, if you regularly bag the window seat on a plane you’ll need to apply sunscreen pre-take-off too as UV radiation increases the closer you are to the ozone layer. The same rules apply if your destination (or hometown) is situated at a high altitude and you’ll also want to double down your efforts if you’re skiing as snow reflects UV radiation. Even if you feel chilly, your risk of sun damage is quite literally sky-high. Unfortunately, you’re not shielded at sea level either, as both water and sand bounce UV rays right back at you.

The fix:

35 Thousand’s All In Day Serum to the rescue once again! This light, easily absorbed tinted serum will protect skin against the sun’s harmful rays but will also cushion skin against the drying effects of the less oxygenated, lower humidity atmosphere. Be extra vigilant when applying it to your ‘window facing’ side, whether you’re driving, working, commuting or jet setting. 

If you enjoyed reading this then you will love our article about facial oils.

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