Am I the only one who finds it difficult to put on sunscreen like a normal human? At least once a summer, it seems, I end up with some weird Coppertone-induced mishap: that time I somehow forgot about my knees and ended up with bright-red stoplights midway down my legs, a strip of sunburned scalp, an unfortunate spray-on incident that left me with a stomach burned in stripes.
Go ahead, snicker all you want. But according to new research recently presented at the British Association of Dermatologists’ annual conference and highlighted by Mental Floss, there’s a good chance you’re not doing it right, either (even if your sunburn issues are a little less obvious).
The researchers gave 57 participants simple instructions — all they had to do was put sunscreen on their faces — and then took their picture with a special UV camera, which made the skin look darker wherever sunscreen had been rubbed in:
On average, people left around 9.5 percent of their faces exposed. The eyes were the biggest problem: Roughly 14 percent of study volunteers missed their eyelids, and a whopping 77 percent missed the skin between the inner eye and the nose. Even when the researchers asked participants to reapply, this time providing them with information about skin cancer around the eyelids, it didn’t make a difference — this time, they missed an average of 7.7 percent.
To be fair, if you read the back of your sunscreen bottle, it’ll likely warn you not to get the stuff in your eyes, which isn’t exactly an incentive to be super thorough around that part of your face. Fortunately, though, you may not need to be, so long as you find another way to cover the skin in question.
“Perhaps the most important thing to take away from this research is the importance of sunglasses,” study co-author Kevin Hamill, a professor of eye and vision science at the University of Liverpool, said in a statement. “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.” It’s a good thing everyone looks hotter in shades.