Don’t Forget to Block Sun from Eyes, Ears and Lips

April 30, 2019

A recent study in the journal PLOS One showed that there is a sharp increase in skin cancer of the eyelids, ears and lips in this country.

“In our clinic in North Carolina we are seeing an increase in the number of non-melanoma skins cancers in these often overlooked areas,” said Rita Pichardo, M.D., professor of dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Health. “The lips, eyelids and ears are very susceptible to skin cancer because people simply forget to apply sunscreen to these areas when they enjoy outdoor activities.”

But the skin on eyelids, lips and ears is very thin and fragile, so what products can you use to protect your skin?

Pichardo recommends:

  • Sunscreens in creams or gels can irritate eyelids and eyes when people sweat, especially if they have chemical components. The ideal sunscreen for this area is one with physical blockers such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
  • Select the correct sunscreen for these special areas: Zinc-oxide or titanium dioxide containing sunscreen is ideal to be used on the eyelids, ears and lips.Pichardo recommends avoiding products containing chemicals such as oxybenzone, avovenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate, which may produce irritation or contact dermatitis.
  • Around the eyes, use physical blockers with 30 SPF or above and sunglasses with UV protection.
  • For lips, use a sunscreen specifically for that area and reapply every two hours. Some good brands are Avene, Eos and Aquaphor. Pichardo also adds that women should use lipstick with SPF especially if they spend much time outdoors.
  • Also protect your head with a hat made with a fabric with SPF protection, such as those sold by Tilley, Coolibar or Columbia. Men who are bald and anyone with sparse hair on their head should use a spray sunscreen on the scalp, which is not as sticky as a cream or lotion and is easier to apply.

Media Contact

Marguerite Beck, marbeck@wakehealth.edu336-716-2415

Pichardo has no financial ties to or relationships with any of the companies mentioned.