5 Big Mistakes You’re Making With Your Sunscreen

Wendy Rodewald
Are you making these sunscreen mistakes?

Photo: Getty Images

Even the most dutiful sunscreen wearers can slip up when it comes to applying SPF (we’re guilty, too!). Did you know these common mistakes can increase your risk of skin cancer and signs of aging, such as dark spots and fine lines?

1. You stash your SPF in your hot car or beach bag.
The interior temperature of a parked car can top 130 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, and that extreme heat can degrade sunscreen’s active ingredients, making it less effective. Keep your SPF in your purse or in a shady spot while at the beach.

2. You skip the area around your eyes.
Not down with crow’s feet and dark circles? Then sun protection is a must, since not all sunglasses shield the entire eye area from rays. Yes, sunscreen is safe to use around the eyes, but be sure to choose a formula that won’t sting. “Use a hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic sun block, like Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 [$9.99, aveeno.com], underneath your eyes consistently and do not rub your eyes,” says Jeanine B. Downie, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in Montclair, N.J. “This alone will decrease dark circles.” Eye creams with SPF are another good option; try DDF Protective Eye Cream With Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 15 ($55, ddfskincare.com).

3. You rely on the SPF in your makeup.
Unless you’re really caking on the coverage, the sunscreen in your makeup isn’t enough to protect your skin from the sun. “It would require seven times the normal amount of foundation to provide enough coverage, so it’s important to wear a separate moisturizer that offers SPF protection,” says Dr. Howard Sobel, dermatologist and DDF Skincare founder. Layer a lightweight liquid sunscreen, such as La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid ($29.99, laroche-posay.us), under your makeup and double up on protection with an SPF foundation or BB cream.

4. You leave your scalp exposed.
Think about it: the part in your hair is the closest part of your body to the sun. “I am seeing more scalp skin cancers, many of which can be avoided,” says Dr. Downie. “Protect your scalp from the sun by applying a spray sunscreen to your hair, on your part.” Try an aerosol spray such as CeraVe Sunscreen Wet Skin Spray SPF 50 ($16.99, cerave.com) Don’t want sunscreen in your hair? Tie on a chic headscarf instead.

5. You tan your hands.
Want to figure out a person’s real age? Check the dark spots on the backs of her hands. While most of us are pretty good about protecting the skin on our faces, hands see just as much sun but are easy to neglect when it comes to sun protection. Choose a hand cream with SPF, such as Garnier Skin Renew Dark Spot Hand Treatment with broad spectrum SPF 30 ($7.99, garnierusa.com), and be sure to reapply after washing your hands.

Read more: 6 Sunscreen Myths, Busted