A New Study Shows Which Areas People Miss When Applying Sunscreen

You probably miss them, too.

By this point, we hope that none of you, our smart, in-the-know readers, need to be told about the importance of wearing SPF. Not just when you’re on the beach. Not just on your face. Not just once in the morning. All day, every day, everywhere that’s exposed to the sun. Want to brush up on the whys, hows and whens? Head here, here and here. (Okay, and here and here.)

All brushed up? Great. Even if you’re indeed wearing the recommended one ounce of sunscreen (that’s a shot glass full), applied about 15 minutes before you head out if you’re using a chemical sunscreen (no need to wait if you’re using a physical—aka mineral—one), chances are you’re missing some spots. A group of researchers at the University of Liverpool set out to learn which areas people miss the most.

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A total of 57 volunteers participated in the study, which was presented at the British Association of Dermatologists’ Annual Conference, and they were instructed to simply apply sunscreen on their faces as they normally would. A series of photos were then taken with a UV camera. The camera darkens areas that are covered in sunscreen, and leaves bare the spots that didn’t get any SPF. You can check out the photos here, but overall, the group missed a median of 9.5% (!!!) of their faces. Not ideal.

Men who had facial hair, understandably, missed huge chunks around that area, and most of the volunteers missed the area right around their mouths. However, the real problem spots occur on the top half of the face. Most people missed their eyelids (again, understandable, because sunscreen can sting eyes), and 75% of participants missed the areas between the bridge of the nose and the inner corner of the eyes, aka the medial canthal region.

While it’s easy to see why those areas are the most neglected, it’s important to take extra care to change your application habits, because studies have found that between 5 and 10% of skin cancers affect the eyelids. This is, of course, a combination of two factors: firstly, eyelid skin is so thin (the thinnest anywhere on your body, in fact) and secondly, people skip applying sunscreen there because, well, it’s the thinnest and it stings. Quite the vicious cycle, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, even after being given all this information, and told to apply again with their newfound knowledge, participants still missed 7.7% of their eyelid area (down from 13.5% before). While it sounds like there’s no solution to the problem, not to worry, there obviously is (we’d never leave you hanging like that). Your best bet is to apply sunscreen as close to your eyelid area as you can without it stinging, and then get yourself a chic pair of sunglasses that you’ll want to always wear. May we suggest these?