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Sharp Health News

Don't skip your scalp when applying sunscreen

Sept. 7, 2015

Don't forget your scalp when using sunscreen

San Diego averages more than 260 sunny days per year, making skin and scalp safety a vital part of our daily routines.

The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that more than 90 percent of malignant skin cancer is due to excessive exposure to the sun with little, if any, sunscreen protection. When applying sunscreen before you leave the house, don't forget your scalp.

"Men who are bald or have bald spots — as well as those with thinning hair or even a receding hairline — have to be especially careful in the summer months to ensure that their scalp is adequately protected," says Dr. Elan Newman, a dermatologist affiliated with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group.

The scalp is frequently overlooked and is particularly vulnerable to both the UVA and UVB sunrays. The good news is that you can greatly reduce your risk of cancer simply by wearing sunscreen.

It's especially important for men to make sunscreen part of their daily routine. Here are some sunscreen tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep sunscreen near your toothbrush or razor so you'll remember to use it each morning
  • Apply sunscreen as an aftershave to tackle two tasks in one
  • Use sunscreen with an SPF of 50 or higher
  • Apply sunscreen to the face, scalp, ears and all other exposed areas of skin
  • Use enough sunscreen to get the level of protection stated on the bottle
  • Set an alarm on your watch or smartphone to remind you to reapply sunscreen throughout the day

Current sun safety recommendations call for applying one full teaspoon of sunscreen to each part of your body, and to reapply every few hours or after going into the water or excessive sweating.

Research shows that an SPF 30 sunscreen works for about 40 minutes under simulated sunlight, whereas an SPF 60 product usually lasts about two hours.

Finally, it is important to remember that sunscreens are just a "screen" and not a "shield." They don't fully block the UV light from reaching the skin; they simply lower the amount of damaging light that penetrates the sunscreen.

So, in addition to applying a sunscreen, it is key to also wear protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat, and minimize outdoor activities between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm, when the sun is the strongest.

"Men should ask their doctor to check for skin cancer every year," says Dr. Newman. "Your physician should do a thorough review of your skin and identify suspicious spots. Preventive self-care is also essential. Do frequent checks of exposed areas of the body and share any changes to your skin — including moles with changing color, shape or irregular borders — with your doctor."

Learn more about the signs and symptoms of melanoma.

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