How to Treat Those Uncomfortable Areas That Get Sunburned

BY Lindsay Tigar · July 20, 2018

model applying sunscreen spray I Dermstore Blog

After a day spent collecting good vibes and vitamin D, you return home to rinse off for the evening’s festivities, only to realize that maybe you missed a few spots when slathering on sunscreen. Though the easy-to-see parts of our body—like our arms, torso, legs and backs—get plenty of UV protection, those that are out of reach tend to be out of mind.

From our scalp and the back of our knees to our ears and the bottom of our feet, these areas can suffer from sun damage too. As board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Papri Sarkar says, our skin is the largest organ on our body and any place where it is exposed to the sun can get sunburned. “Other often missed areas are the ears, hands and the area under clothing that gets exposed when you move. Every year I see a patient in the summer who wore jeans with holes in them with sunburns where there was no material or wore shorts and the burn is right around the hemline,” she explains.

If you happen to have an awkward sunburn, here’s how to protect those hard-to-reach areas this summer.

Your Scalp

Dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian says that the scalp is notoriously one of the most difficult areas to protect with sunscreen. Even though our hair offers a tad of protection, our head still receives the most directed amount of exposure to ultraviolet radiation, since it is the closest point of our body to the sun. Dr. Nazarian recommends using sunscreen powder to protect your noggin. Much like dry shampoo, it can be applied to the hair and scalp to protect this delicate area. If your scalp is currently sunburned, be extra careful when washing your hair by using a gentle shampoo and apply a bit of non-fragrant, natural moisturizer at night post-shower.

Try:  SOS Serum with Peony – Sensitive Scalpa lightweight serum that calms irritated scalps without weighing down your locks.

Your Lips

Before you head out the door in the winter, you grab your gloves, a scarf, your coffee—and what else? Lip balm, of course! Because lips are more likely to get chapped in chilly temperatures, applying a lather of soothing formula is a no-brainer. But Dr. Nazarian says the same is true to protect your puckers during the summer—especially when you can use one that’s packed with SPF. “A lip balm with sunscreen is vital for this area of the body. Not only does it need to be cosmetically elegant and not leave a white unattractive film, it also needs to be safe,” she explains. “Lips should be protected with a specialty sunscreen that is safe to apply to mucous membranes and is non-toxic.” If you’re already sunburned on your lips? Balm works to help heal, as well.

Try: Avene Cold Cream Lip Balm, a rich, nourishing formula that supplies comfort and hydration to chapped, cracked and rough lips. 

Tops of Toes and Bottoms of Feet

As you’re browsing about the boardwalk, taking a break from the beach, you probably don’t give a second thought to what you’re standing on. But as soon as you hit up that lounge chair and slip off your shoes, your feet—specifically the sole and tops of your toes—are vulnerable to UV rays, explains Dr. Nazarian. She suggests a high SPF to protect this sensitive area that also receives plenty of radiation exposure during flip-flop and sandal season. To recover from a burn, opt for cooling aloe vera and put on some closed-toe shoes to give your toes a break.

Try: Gehwol Foot Care Blue Intensive Moisturizing Cream, which features a blend of botanicals, including aloe vera, that nourishes, protects and softens your feet for a smooth and supple texture.

Back of Knees

Fun fact: just because you can’t see behind your kneecaps, doesn’t mean the sun can’t reach ’em. But actually applying sunscreen in this area is tricky, since you tend to sweat more as the temperature rises. That’s why Dr. Nazarian says it’s essential to use a lightweight product that’s sport-friendly and won’t block your sweat glands. If you’re already suffering from redness here, apply some cooling ice packs, followed by aloe vera to relieve discomfort.

Try: Sun Bum Cool Down Continuous Spray Aloe Verawhich features aloe vera and cucumber extract to calm, hydrate and restore the skin after sun exposure.

Your Ears

You’re aware they’re there every single day, but too often you forget to protect them from the sun. Dr. Nazarian finds a large number of skin cancers on the tops of her patient’s ears, due to years of sun exposure. “Because it can be uncomfortable to apply a liquid or cream to this area, I recommend using an easy-apply stick sunscreen. It’s also smart to wear a broad-brim hat to give yourself an additional layer of protection if you’re outdoors for long periods of time,” she shares.

Try: Herbivore Botanicals After Sun Skin Soothing Aloe Mist, a gentle face mist that cools on contact to immediately alleviate the discomfort of sun-exposed skin.

Your Hands

It sounds implausible, but a rare form of melanoma—acral melanoma—could indeed develop on palms and nail beds, particularly if you have highly pigmented skin (Asians, Hispanics and African-Americans are more at risk). While a new study shows that acral melanoma is not linked to sun exposure, there’s no harm in providing UV protection for your hands and nails, especially since both are still susceptible to sunburn. To prevent sunburn, reach for a hand lotion with SPF, like Supergoop! Forever Young Hand Cream With Sea Buckthorn SPF 40, after you wash your hands. To soothe sunburned skin, slather on an after-sun lotion, which restores vital moisture as it helps repair damaged skin.

Try: Bioderma Photoderm After-Sun, a soothing after-sun lotion infused with shea butter and gingko biloba to activate your skin’s natural defenses while keeping it cool and calm.

Lindsay Tigar

Lindsay Tigar is a travel and lifestyle journalist who contributes to a myriad of publications—from Travel + Leisure and Vogue to Glamour and countless others. She's a digital nomad who works from every corner of the globe, scoping ou... Read More >