Beautiful woman trying to shield her face from the sun

No matter which area of skin UV rays come into contact with, they will end up causing damage.

However, there are some parts of your skin that are more vulnerable and susceptible to sun damage than others.

Wondering which these are?

Here are the five skin zones that you need to be more vigilant about when it comes to sun protection:

The Face

Out of all of the areas on your body, your face is the most susceptible to sun damage, with the majority of skin cancer cases occurring here.

Why is the face so vulnerable?

Well, to begin with, the skin on your face is thinner than the skin on the rest of your body, which is why the sun’s UV rays are able to penetrate into the skin here so easily.

Your face is also usually the part of your body that is most frequently exposed to the sun. Even though you may be diligent about sun protection, chances are that you are in and out of the sun with unprotected facial skin more than you realize. These short bursts may not seem like much at the time, but don’t forget that sun damage accumulates.

If that wasn’t enough to worry about…

Certain parts of your face are more vulnerable than others when it comes to UV damage.

The skin around your eyes is the perfect example of this. The skin here can be up to ten times thinner than the skin on the rest of your face, making it extremely susceptible to the sun’s UV rays.

Another area that people tend to neglect on their face is their lips.

Just like the skin around the eyes, the skin on the lips is extremely thin and delicate, but many people forget that the skin here needs protection too. Since standard sunscreens cannot be applied onto the lips, it is all-too-easy to skip out on this area when applying sun protection.

Fortunately, there is an easy way around this…

There are plenty of lip balms out there that contain added SPF, and these are perfect for providing your lips with the protection needed.

What about the rest of your face?

Other parts of the face that tend to be more vulnerable include:

  • The cheeks
  • The nose
  • The hairline

These are the parts of the face that the sun most commonly comes into contact with, so minimizing the damage experienced here is vital.

The Neck

Other than the skin on your eyelids, the skin on your neck is the thinnest area of skin on your body.

This is something that many do not realize, but is the reason why the skin on the neck often appears crepey, wrinkled and loose far faster than the skin in other areas.

Just like with your face, the skin on your neck is frequently exposed to the sun, and is often neglected when it comes to sun protection.

The Chest

While your chest may tend to be more covered up than your neck and your face, the skin here is still thinner than the majority of the skin on your body, meaning that even a small amount of sun exposure can have an impact.

This is a part of your skin that contains fewer oil glands, making it much more prone to aging.

Why?

Because your oil glands produce sebum, and this helps to keep your skin moisturized, as well as protected from the environment.

Without these glands, your skin will end up much drier, which only ends up exacerbating sun damage.

The Hands

Even if you diligently apply sunscreen to your face everyday, how often do you extend this treatment down to your hands?

It is the skin on the back of your hands that needs this extra care, as the skin here is quite thin. If you can see veins and tendons showing through the skin here, then that means that you are genetically predisposed to thinner skin in this area, making you even more vulnerable to sun damage.

The Shoulders

When spending time in the sun, many people find that their shoulders tend to tan or burn much faster than the rest of their body.

Have you ever wondered why this is?

Unlike the other skin zones mentioned above, this has nothing to do with thinner skin…

Instead, it is simply due to the fact that the location of your shoulders means that the sun’s rays hit them directly, and since they are harder to reach when applying sunscreen, most people fail to apply the correct amount of sunscreen to this area.

Fair Skin versus Dark Skin

Your skin color is determined by the amount of melanin your skin produces. This is the pigment that gives your skin its color.

This is also the pigment that your skin produces to protect itself from the sun, which is why your skin turns darker after sun exposure.

Illustration of skin color index

People with darker colored skin naturally have more melanin within their skin, whereas those with lighter skin have less. This means that those with lighter colored skin are generally more susceptible to sun damage.

Think this means that you’re safe, since you have dark skin?

Definitely not. While you may have a fraction more natural protection than those with lighter skin, you are still extremely vulnerable to sun damage.

Factors That Increase Sun Sensitivity

In addition to certain skin zones being more susceptible to sun damage, there are other factors out there that can increase your overall sun sensitivity, making you generally more vulnerable than usual.

These factors include:

  • Certain medications – such as those taken for acne, antibiotics, and period medications. Some of these meds can stay in your system for up to a month, leaving you vulnerable to sun damage long after you have stopped taking that medication
  • Certain fragrances – especially those containing bergamot, lavender and sandalwood
  • Citrus fruits – contain compounds that make your skin more sensitive to the sun, while also increasing your risk of developing malignant melanoma
  • Exfoliation – although essential for a healthy complexion, exfoliation removes the top, protective layer of your skin, leaving the fresh skin underneath vulnerable to UV damage
  • Laser hair removal treatments – these can severely increase your risk of burning, complete with blisters

Why Does All of This Matter?

After reading through all of this, you might be thinking…

Why does it matter which skin zones are more susceptible to sun damage?

Because this knowledge will help you to figure out the best ways of keeping these areas protected.

Why is sun protection so important?

For a number of reasons, with the most important one being to prevent skin cancer.

Statistics show that sun exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in many countries.

Repeated exposure, even in small amounts, accumulates, putting you at great risk.

If that wasn’t enough to convince you…

Did you know that the sun is responsible for up to 80% of facial aging? In fact, some experts would say that this figure is actually closer to 90%.

The signs of aging that the sun causes include:

  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Hyperpigmentation and age spots
  • Thinning and leathery skin
  • Loose and sagging skin

By making sure that you are properly protecting your skin from the sun, you will be able to avoid so much of the above.

How to Protect Your Skin from the Sun

Hopefully, you are now convinced as to how important sun protection is.

But what exactly are the best ways to protect your skin from the sun?

Infographic on how to protect your skin from the sun

The most effective method is by making sure that you are always wearing sunscreen.

Yes, this means in the winter months too, and even on cloudy days. The sun’s UV rays are always around, and can not only penetrate through thick cloud, but also glass.

Don’t like wearing sunscreen?

This only means that you haven’t yet found the right formula for your skin!

There are so many different sunscreens out there, so don’t be put off if you haven’t yet found a suitable one.

When it comes to choosing a sunscreen…

There are two main types:

  • Physical sunscreens – these make use of minerals, such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide. When the sun’s rays hit your skin, these minerals deflect them and scatter them away from your skin
  • Chemical sunscreens – these make use of certain ingredients that trigger a chemical reaction when they come into contact with UV rays. They absorb the harmful rays and turn them into heat, before emitting them from the body

Both sunscreen types have their pros and cons, and the one you choose should depend on your skin type, as well as your lifestyle.

What does this mean?

Well, for example, the heat that chemical sunscreens create mean that they can often exacerbate inflammatory skin conditions, such as rosacea. However, chemical sunscreens are usually absorbed by the skin much more easily than physical sunscreens, and do not leave behind a white tint on the skin.

On the other hand, physical sunscreens do often leave a white cast behind, but they also come into effect immediately, meaning that you don’t need to wait for 20 minutes after applying your sunscreen before stepping out into the sun.

Of course, both sunscreen types need to be reapplied regularly.

Whichever one you decide to choose…

Make sure that it is a broad spectrum sunscreen, as this will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays. A waterproof version can often be beneficial too, especially if you sweat quite a bit.

Got your sunscreen sorted?

Good, now let’s move on to the other ways in which you can protect your skin from the sun…

Sun-protecting accessories are a must.

These include:

  • A pair of UV-blocking sunglasses. Wraparound styles will give your face some added protection
  • A wide-brimmed hat
  • Loose and breathable clothing

Don’t forget…

There are certain times during the day when the sun is at its hottest. This is usually between 11am and 3pm, although it does vary depending on where you live.

Why does this matter?

Because this is when the sun’s UV rays are at their most harmful, meaning that these are the hours where you should try to stay indoors, or at least keep yourself in the shade.

Another less common way to protect your skin from the sun is…

By eating sun-protecting foods.

Woman holding up a bunch of tomatoes in her hand

Didn’t know these existed?

It may sound too good to be true, but there are actually several foods out there that contain certain components that increase your skin’s natural sun protection.

Of course, these should never be used in replacement of a sunscreen, but they are still a great way to boost the way in which your sunscreen works.

Wondering which foods these are?

They include:

  • Tomatoes – contain lycopene, an antioxidant and carotenoid that has been proven to reduce skin reddening when exposed to UV rays
  • Carrots – a great source of beta-carotene, which protects the skin from the free radicals that sun exposure produces
  • Green tea – contains tannic acid and antioxidants that are able to prevent genetic damage in skin cells after exposure to UV light
  • Pomegranates – rich in antioxidants and ellagic acid, both of which can protect the skin from UV-induced damage, while also increasing the power of your sunscreen
  • Almondshigh in vitamin E, almonds can protect against UV damage, as well as the accelerated aging that this causes, while preventing sunburns

When it comes to sun damage, there is so much to understand, from the skin zones that are more susceptible to the ways in which you can protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays. Even if you think that you are diligent about sun protection, it always helps to up your game a little, especially when it comes to the more vulnerable skin zones.