For many people, sun screen is essential for escaping the summer months unscathed. Unfortunately, sun burns are still a fairly common occurrence. If University of Liverpool researchers are correct, one reason for these troublesome burns might be something rather unexpected – misapplication of sunscreen.
A Big Blind Spot
The research team examined a small group of 57 male and female volunteers. Each subject was required to apply sunscreen to his or her face; using a UV-sensitive camera, the authors photographed the participants before and after they applied sunscreen. These photographs were subsequently analyzed by a custom-designed program, allowing the researchers to gauge how well each person shielded their face.
As it turns out, people tend to do a less-than- stellar job of keeping their skin safe. Specifically, the participants left nearly a tenth (9.5%) of their faces unprotected. One areas that was frequently overlooked was the eyelids; a second frequently- missed location was the area between the inner corner of the eye and the bridge of the nose.
Upon reviewing these results, the Liverpool team ran their experiment a second time, but with one major difference – the subjects were informed about the risks of skin cancers of the eyelid region. Thanks to this advance warning, the participants did a somewhat better job the second time around when applying sunscreen; the authors found that 7.7% of the average face had no sunscreen protection.
In response to the report, the University of Liverpool’s Dr. Kevin Hamill stated that “It’s worrying that people find it so hard to sufficiently apply sunscreen to their face, an area which is particularly at risk of skin cancer due to the amount of sun exposure it receives.” However, Hamill did offer up a solution. “Perhaps the most important thing to take away from this research is the importance of sunglasses. Most people consider the point of sunglasses is to protect the eyes, specifically corneas, from UV damage, and to make it easier to see in bright sunlight. However, they do more than that, they protect the highly cancer prone eyelid skin as well.”