Facial areas prone to skin cancer are disproportionately missed during sunscreen application

October 30, 2017


Application of sunscreen is a widely used mechanism for protecting skin from the harmful effects of UV light. However, protection can only be achieved through effective application, and areas that are routinely missed are likely at increased risk of UV damage.

Here we sought to determine if specific areas of the face are missed during routine sunscreen application, and whether provision of public health information is sufficient to improve coverage. To investigate this, 57 participants were imaged with a UV sensitive camera before and after sunscreen application: first visit; minimal pre-instruction, second visit; provided with a public health information statement. Images were scored using a custom automated image analysis process designed to identify areas of high UV reflectance, i.e. missed during sunscreen application, and analysed for 5% significance.

Analyses revealed eyelid and periorbital regions to be disproportionately missed during routine sunscreen application (median 14% missed in eyelid region vs 7% in rest of face, p<0.01).  Provision of health information caused a significant improvement in coverage to eyelid areas in general however, the medial canthal area was still frequently missed.

These data reveal that a public health announcement-type intervention could be effective at improving coverage of high risk areas of the face, however high risk areas are likely to remain unprotected therefore other mechanisms of sun protection should be widely promoted such as UV blocking sunglasses.


Pratt H, Hassanin K, Troughton LD, Czanner G, Zheng Y, McCormick AG, et al. (2017)  UV imaging reveals facial areas that are prone to skin cancer are disproportionately missed during sunscreen application. PLoS ONE 12(10): e0185297. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal. pone.0185297 Editor: Andrzej T. Slominski, University of Alab


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