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Living in Australia means that lathering on sunscreen is likely ingrained in your daily routine — so much so, that you probably apply it on autopilot. You've been doing it for so long, why think twice?
Well, given that it’s National Sunscreen Day, we want to give this daily ritual more thought. Rates of melanoma are still rising year on year across the country, so there has to be room for improvement somewhere. Cancer Council Australia recommends avoiding unprotected sun exposure when UV levels are at three or above — which, if you don't keep on top of the index, is most of the year, for almost every capital city. So it's crucial that we cover every last bit of our skin, all year round.
Sunscreen application put to the test
Researchers at The University of Liverpool asked 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 real insight into where we're going wrong.
The study used a special UV camera to snap photos of 57 volunteers' faces post-application. That way, the cream would show up as a dark-coloured smear and the places that didn't get any protection would be clearly visible. The result? Most of the participants missed around 9.5% of their faces.
The big spots people forgot
The most common forgotten spot was the eyelids, which is understandable, since sunscreen is known to sting when it gets in your eyes.
Eyelids aside, almost 75% of the volunteers missed their "medial canthal region", the spot across the bridge of the nose and inner corners of the eyes. People with facial hair also neglected to slather SPF onto their beards, and a majority of people missed the area right around the mouth.
If you are struggling to apply sunscreen in those tricky-to-reach spots, try closing your eyes and spraying a mist sunscreen like the Bondi Sands SPF 50+ Fragrance Free Sunscreen Face Mist. It can be sprayed over the top of makeup, so there's really no excuse to be without SPF every day.
Testing the technique again
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.
Protecting our faces every day
The findings support the researchers' correlation between SPF and skin cancer around the eyes. Basal cell carcinoma is one type of skin cancer that's really common in Australia, especially around the lower eyelid. Seeing as most people forgo protection there, it makes sense that it's prone to cancer.
Researchers also noted that their findings support the importance of sunglasses — in addition to SPF — which can help block harmful UV rays in the oft-forgotten medial canthal region.