Sorry to Nag, But You NEED to Check Your Skin—Scalp Included—Every Month

Skin cancer can happen anywhere on the body—even places where the sun don't shine.
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Publish date:
May 4, 2015
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scalp, sunscreen, La Roche-Posay, dermatologists, skin cancer

I recently went to a presentation about skin cancer statistics, and the facts speak for themselves: people are dying from melanoma, and it is very often treatable in its early stages. Only 38% of Americans check their skin monthly, and though this is more than other parts of the world, it still doesn’t lower this scary statistic: one in five Americans will get skin cancer. Frankly, that's horrifying, but it's good to know that skin cancer is often far easier to treat in it’s early stages.

I spoke with Dr. Mona Gohara, a Yale dermatologist who does a lot to spread awareness about self-checking, and she had some great notes and tips for all of us.

Oftentimes, marks indicating possible skin cancer occur in places that are hard to see, especially the scalp, ears, genitals and feet, so they can often go undetected until it’s too late. Just because the sun doesn’t shine directly on these areas does not mean they are not at risk. It is SO important to enlist the help of others, especially medical and even beauty professionals, to help all of us live longer, healthy lives free of skin cancer.

Fifty percent of surveyed hairstylists have referred a client with an abnormal skin mark to a doctor. The American Academy of Dermatology is beginning to encourage hairstylists to check the scalp at every appointment. Knowing what to look for can be easily learned and would be extremely beneficial to everyone that gets their hair done professionally. There is no reason why stylists shouldn’t check marks, and you should encourage your stylist to do so (and if not, a friend).

Know that if you have darker hair or darker skin, you are at a lower risk than those with lighter skin, but you can still get skin cancer. Melanin protects the skin from UV rays, but it is not foolproof. UV protection in the form of clothing and sunscreen is the only way to keep the risks way down. For example, evolutionary research has suggested that human hair was naturally coarse and dark in regions around the equator to block excess UV exposure, while fair and straighter hair evolved in higher and lower latitudes as we migrated to actually allow more sunlight (and subsequently vitamin D) in. All pretty interesting stuff, but it definitely illustrates a place where we are not usually adding sun protection, our scalps.

If you wear any style with scalp showing, even just the part, it may be time to consider using sun protection on the scalp in addition to monthly checks. Dr. Gohara recommends reapplying an SPF of at least 30 to the scalp every two hours, and this summer I think I will be listening to that advice.

I tried the latest Anthelios products from La Roche-Posay—who is currently leading a worldwide effort to raise awareness about monthly skin checks (watch their super-cute Dalmatian video!)—and I have to say, this is some quality sun protection! One common complaint about sunscreen, especially among men, was the product’s feel. Anthelios Cooling Water Lotion Sunscreen is about to change all of that. Instead of that sticky, murky, greasy feeling, it basically feels like a moisturizing lotion.

If you want to use something more treatment-oriented, the Anthelios AOX serum is meant for face, but I have proved before that using facial products on or in your hair can definitely be a success. This serum is killer because it knocks out the treatment and SPF portion of your routine in one fell swoop. Antioxidants from skullcap and vitamins C and E help get rid of free radicals and it absorbs quickly, an ideal daytime texture.

Please consider checking spots monthly! Dr. Gohara said either using an app like the one from Mollie’s Fund or just simply taking pictures of moles once a month is a great strategy for prevention.

  • Do you check your skin monthly? Scalp and all?!
  • Are you wearing sun protection on your head and feet?

Photos: Darnell Scott