4. Your makeup that boasts SPF 30.
The SPF sprinkled into foundations and BB creams can offer bonus protection. But unless you apply makeup with a trowel, then re-apply it every two hours, it won’t be enough to guard against sun damage effectively.
The amount of protection we get from a product varies widely based on the SPF number, texture, thickness, and how much we wear. This rule applies to sunscreen, too: If you apply a thin layer of sunblock, you may not be getting the full SPF level listed on the bottle. Most adults only apply one quarter to one half of the recommended amount of sunscreen when they put it on, according to the AAD. For that same reason, you shouldn’t rely on the SPF you’re getting when you put on your foundation.
A better idea: Rub on a broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen (or a daily moisturizer spiked with broad-spectrum SPF 30+) every morning, followed by makeup or whatever else you like to wear on top. And if you’re going to be in the sun for a prolonged time, like at a rooftop happy hour, you’ll need to reapply at regular intervals.
I realize some people may be worried about messing with their makeup by putting more sunscreen on top, so using an SPF powder (like ColoreScience Unforgettable can be a convenient, makeup-friendly alternative to a liquid sunblock. Or, bring a wide-brim sun hat to throw on or find a spot in the shade after a couple of hours in the sun.
5. Your hair.
There’s no doubt that a thick headful can protect the scalp from the sun. But even for those with hair like Sia, the part and the ears are sun-kissed sites that are often left exposed. Dermatologists regularly see precancers and skin cancers, including melanoma, in these zones. In fact, in my practice, I diagnose the very common basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinomas on and around the ears of patients basically every day.
A better idea: Tightly-woven, broad-brimmed hats offer ideal protection, but a spritz of SPF spray or a dusting of SPF powder massaged into the part or over thin areas can help, too.
6. Your car window.
UVA light can sail right through the windows, and some researchers believe that’s why North Americans can have increased sun damage, sun spots, wrinkles, and skin cancers on the left side of the face and body compared to the right.
One 2010 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology suggested that skin cancers in men in the U.S. are predominantly left-sided, which the researchers attributed at least in part to ultraviolet exposure to the left side of the body while driving. This photo of a truck driver, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, also helps to demonstrate the effects of drive time-related UV exposure and photo-aging on the left side of the face.
We can’t assume that just because we’re in the car all day we’re fine to skip sun protection.
A better idea: Consider a quick layer of sunscreen in the car as the skincare equivalent of buckling up.
7. Sheer cover ups.
White t-shirts, gauzy fabrics, and flowy caftans feel breezy, but can’t be trusted to offer much sun protection. A thin white t-shirt offers an SPF of just five—and if it becomes wet, that number can drop to three, which is not sufficient to guard against ultraviolet damage.
A better idea: Clothes labelled UPF 50 (like the cute kinds by Mott 50, Athleta, or Coolibar are far safer, since they’ve been tested to show they offer excellent UV protection. As an alternative, Rit Sun Guard detergent can be tossed in with the laundry to temporarily ramp up the protection-level of your clothes. A 2004 study out of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, showed that the detergent dramatically increased the ultraviolet protective factor on both cotton jersey and cotton-polyester blend fabrics after one wash, and the protection is expected to last through about 20 washes.
These approaches are a little simpler than applying sunscreen all over your body before you putting on your clothes.