Heading outside this weekend? Keep this mind in when you’re slathering on sunscreen: People miss 10 per cent of their face when they’re applying SPF, one of the most common sites for skin cancer, according to a new study presented at the British Association of Dermatologists’ Annual Conference.
For the study, University of Liverpool researchers simply asked 57 men and women to apply sunscreen to their face. They took photos of each person with a UV-sensitive camera before and after application. In the after photos, the areas that were properly covered in SPF appeared black.
After analyzing these images, the researchers found that people missed 9.5 per cent of their entire face and 13.5 per cent of their eyelid area on average. What’s more, 77 per cent of the study participants missed the area between the inner corner of their eye and the bridge of their nose.
Here’s why that’s a problem: Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and the most common forms of skin cancer—basal and squamous cell carcinomas—typically appear on highly sun exposed areas of your body, like your head, face, and neck, according to the American Cancer Society.
What’s more, your eyelids are particularly susceptible to UV damage. Skin cancers of the eyelids make up about 5 to 10 per cent of all skin cancers, and about 95 per cent of the ones that appear around your eyes are basal and squamous cell carcinomas, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
While they’re not nearly as deadly as melanoma, non-melanoma skin cancers still have a chance of spreading to other parts of your body. Some research suggests that these skin cancers can even put you at risk of developing another kind of cancer later on in life.
But even if you feel like you’re generously coating your face in sunscreen, you might not even realize that you’re missing a few spots, the researchers found. After they gave the study participants extra information about skin cancers of the eyelid area, they asked them to go back and repeat the experiment—but even with the extra guidance, people still left nearly 8 per cent of their face unprotected.
So, what’s a guy to do? You guessed it: Applying sunscreen thoroughly, liberally, and often is the first step.
But if you tend to avoid your eye area (many bottles even recommend that you do), then SPF shouldn’t be the only form of protection you rely on when you’re soaking in the rays.
“Perhaps the most important thing to take away from this research is the importance of sunglasses,” explains study author Kevin Hamill, Ph.D., in a press release. “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.”