The SPF mistake dermatologists want you to stop making

Getting in the habit of putting on sunscreen every day is one of the easiest and most effective things you can do for your skin. But even if you've already made sunscreen a part of your daily routine, you might be limiting your results with a simple and all-too-common mistake in the application.

Sun exposure can also cause some signs of aging, like discoloration and wrinkles, the American Academy of Dermatology explains. So, not only is sunscreen an important way to help prevent skin cancer, but it’s also a powerful tool in your antiaging arsenal.

But not everyone knows to regularly put sunscreen on all parts of your body that get frequent sun exposure — not just your face.

That explains why some people might develop a clear difference in the quality of the skin on their face compared to the skin on other parts of their body, like the chest or neck, Dr. Shasa Hu, board-certified dermatologist and associate professor in the department of dermatology and cutaneous surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, tells

"We see it every day,” Hu says.

Areas like these also get frequent sun exposure, but we tend not to think of putting sunscreen on them as frequently. That’s why Hu often reminds her patients to wear sunscreen on, essentially, any body part that’s getting sun exposure.

"I tell them to put sunscreen on your face, on your ears, on your neck (especially the back of the neck) and — if you drive — on the back of your hands, the forearms and the chest for sure," she explains.

Dr. Evan Rieder agrees: "The neck, the ears and the hands often get neglected," he says, but they need to be protected year-round.

"Do not neglect the sun-exposed areas of your body — and it's not just the face," Rieder, a board-certified dermatologist and psychologist in New York City, tells

Whether you're doing it for your health or "for pure vanity reasons," wearing sunscreen on all areas of skin that get exposed to UV rays is "super important," Rieder says.

While that’s an important message for everyone, it’s vital for those who have specific risk factors that make it more likely they’ll develop skin cancer, Rieder explains. That includes people with a history of skin cancer, tanning bed use or excessive sun exposure as well as those who burn easily and people who naturally have blonde or red hair, the AAD says.

When choosing an SPF product...

Everyone — regardless of skin tone — can benefit from regularly using sunscreen. Here's what to look for when choosing a daily sunscreen for your face, according to the AAD:

  • Look for something with at least 30 SPF, which can include a daily facial moisturizer.

  • Use a broad-spectrum product that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

  • Consider using a water- or sweat-resistant SPF product.

  • Above all, pick something you'll enjoy wearing every single day.

Of course, you'll only get the most out of whatever sunscreen you choose if you use it correctly. That means using the correct amount and using it in the right places.

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