A woman's scalp is highlighted next to a mirror and bottle of sunscreen.

Checking and Protecting Your Scalp

Recently, I found a product with UV protection quite by accident, and it reminded me of my own neglectfulness. While shopping for hairspray, I discovered a brand that offered UV protection. Always interested in new products that prevent UV damage, I grabbed it up. After a little research, I realized that most hairsprays offering this type of protection are designed to protect your hair from the sun’s rays - not your scalp. My purchase and research reminded me of the importance of regularly checking my scalp for changes in spots and moles - something I don’t do often enough.

Checking the unusual spots for skin cancer

Skin cancer doesn’t just occur in places regularly exposed to the sun, and underneath your hair is one place many of us, including me, often forget. It is entirely possible to develop skin cancer below the beltline or on the soles of your feet. Examining between the toes and fingers as well as under nails should be done on a monthly basis. Regular self-checks, that include the scalp, are essential. While examining and protecting the scalp is a little tougher, it’s certainly not impossible.

Tips for scalp checks

Monthly self-exams of the scalp can be accomplished in a few ways:

  • Using a hand mirror, part your hair into sections and examine your scalp in a bathroom mirror. Make sure to cover as much of your head as you can easily see and feel for any raised areas or moles.
  • Have a friend or family member examine your scalp for you making sure to cover your entire head, again, examining it in sections.
  • Your hairdresser/barber can also aid in examining your scalp during appointments. Ask him or her to let you know of any changes they notice in spots or moles as they wash/style your hair. In fact, some hairdressers may be trained to identify different types of skin cancer via online certificate courses.1
  • Upon noticing any changes in spots/moles according to the ABCDE memory tool, make an appointment to see a dermatologist.

Tips for scalp sun protection

Protecting your scalp isn’t always the first thing we think about when we hear "sun protection," but it is as important as protecting the rest of your exposed skin. There are a few ways to provide adequate protection for your scalp while outdoors:

  • Wear a hat or cap when doing yard work, attending outdoor events, or exercising outdoors.
  • Many companies offer hats/caps with UV protection blocking 50% or more of the sun’s harmful rays.
  • Apply sunscreen to your scalp or to the part in your hair if you are going to be without a hat or cap.
  • The Skin Cancer Foundation also suggests, when other options are not readily available, applying the same cosmetic products you apply to your face to any exposed areas of your scalp. These products need to have at least an SPF of 15.2

One thing does, indeed, lead to another, and I am grateful for my accidental discovery. Had I not stumbled across that hairspray, I might not have remembered to check my scalp. In addition, that shopping trip led me to have a discussion with my own children about checking and protecting their scalps on a regular basis. It really is the little things, isn’t it?

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