The One Place You Need to Apply Sunscreen That You Probably Aren't

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: sunscreen is critical on ALL parts of the body. While most people remember to protect their face and body, the hair and scalp often get the shaft. Dr. Francesca Fusco, M.D, a dermatologist in New York City, shares the importance of protecting your head and easy ways to do it.

sunscreen while swimming

Photos by Getty Images

Photos by Getty Images

It’s easy to forget that the scalp is skin and is just as susceptible to skin cancer as the rest of the body, says Fusco. In a way it’s even more critical to be super aware of changes on your scalp, because with all the hair covering it, you may be less likely to see it right away. Scalps can get any skin cancer—basal cell, squamous cell, or melanoma so early detection is critical.

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Luckily, your hair does help—a little. Fusco revealed an interesting factoid: you actually don't shed as much during summer. However, it doesn't help enough to skip wearing a hat or sunscreen. You should be protecting your hair as well—UV rays can do damage to your hair, like drying it out, oxidizing or changing the color and if you burn your scalp it will flake and appear as though you have dandruff.

An easy way to prevent damage to your hair and scalp: wear a hat. Fusco’s favorite brand is Sun Hats by RoniGirl, which are UPF 50+, and have UVA and UVB protection. Bonus: they are stylish and don’t crease or flatten hair when wearing.

If hats aren’t your thing, start your protection in the shower. Fusco recommends using a shampoo and conditioner with zinc pyrithione before sun exposure and don’t rinse out the conditioner fully for an extra barrier. This ingredient is a multi-tasker and will hydrate and soothe scalp and hair. Try Dove Dermacare Dryness and Itch Relief Anti-Dandruff Shampoo and Conditioner. 

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Slick your hair back when outside—with no part exposed, there is less chance of burning. When applying sunscreen lotion to scalp, use a q-tip or makeup wedge to be more precise and avoid making hair greasy. Or use a spray, like Shiseido Sun Protection Spray Braod Spectrum SPF 50+, and lightly spritz all over hair and scalp. If you do get a burned scalp start using dandruff shampoo before it flakes to avoid excessive peeling or use Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt to help slough off the burn.