There's nothing exciting about putting on sunscreen — it just doesn't compare to slathering on a creamy mask — which might be why people don't really think about application. That's why the University of Liverpool tasked everyday people to apply sunscreen as they normally would. Unsurprisingly, the participants simply went through the motions and missed some key spots on their faces, offering some real insight to the importance of SPF.
Mental Floss reports that the university used a special UV camera to snap photos of 57 volunteers' faces post-application. That way, the cream would show up as a dark-colored smear and places that didn't get any protection at all would be clearly visible.
The result? Most of the participants missed 9.5% of their faces. The most common forgotten spot was the eyelids, which is sort of understandable, since sunblock is known to sting when it gets in your eyes. Even more than that, almost 75% of the volunteers missed their "medial canthal region," the spot across the bridge of the nose and inner corners of the eyes.
Guys with facial hair also neglected to slather SPF onto their beards and a majority of people also missed the area right around the mouth.
The findings support the researchers' correlation between SPF and skin cancer around the eyes. According to Mental Floss, 5 to 10% of skin cancers affect the eyelids. Seeing that most people forgo protection there, it makes sense that it's prone to cancer.
The researchers decided to delve a little further, instructing each volunteer on how to properly apply their SPF and pointing out all the spots that most people neglect. Even with the explanation, the results didn't get much better. The 9.5% of missed surface area went down to 7.7% and the majority of volunteers still missed that spot between their eyes. Researchers noted that their findings support the importance of sunglasses — in addition to careful SPF application — which can help block harmful UV rays in the oft-forgotten medial canthal region. Consider it an excuse to pick up a new pair of shades.
"Perhaps the most important thing to take away from this research is the importance of sunglasses," Dr. Kevin Hamill, one of the study's researchers, told Metro U.K. "However, they do more than that — they protect the highly cancer-prone eyelid skin as well."
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