A new study from King’s College London discovered people are using less than half the recommended amount of sun cream in a single application. By applying such a thin layer, beach goers aren’t getting the protection they think.
SPF manufacturers determine their protection levels by assuming people will use 2mg of cream per square cm of skin – but it has been revealed that most use merely 0.8mg for the same area, roughly 60 per cent less.
Enter the teaspoon method.
According to the study report author, Professor of Experimental Photobiology Antony Young, you should be applying half a teaspoon – about 3ml – to each arm, your face and neck. When it comes to your legs and the front and back of your body, you should apply a full teaspoon – 6ml – to each body part, individually.
When it comes to SPF strength, Young says SPF 20 should be enough to protect but due to improper application, that number is typically reduced to SPF 4. For a bikini-clad woman in a hot climate, she should be applying sun cream three times a day – meaning a 100ml bottle should be emptied daily.
“They overestimate the protection they are getting and then stay out in the sun too long and get burned. It is difficult to estimate how much to use and for the whole body you actually need a lot of sun cream, far more than people realise,” Young told the Telegraph. “Given that most people don’t use sunscreens as tested by manufacturers, it’s better for people to use a much higher SPF than they think is necessary.”
The study was conducted through two groups of eight people. With both groups being exposed to UV radiation, the first group spent a day wearing sunscreen of varying thickness. The second was exposed over five days to simulate a week-long holiday. After the experiment, skin biopsies revealed that those who had properly applied sun cream received 7.5 times less damage, regardless of how many days they were exposed. Another perk to properly applying sunscreen? Sunburn was reduced by 40 per cent on those who used the teaspoon method.
“There is no dispute that sunscreen provides important protection against the cancer causing impact of the sun’s ultra violet rays,” said Young. “However, what this research shows is that the way sunscreen is applied plays an important role in determining how effective it is.”
Dermatologist Nina Goad agrees with Young’s report, saying it’s better to be safe than sorry, encouraging the use of SPF 30 or higher.
“This research demonstrates why it’s so important to choose an SPF of 30 or more. In theory, an SPF of 15 should be sufficient, but we know that in real-world situations, we need the additional protection offered by a higher SPF,” said Goad of the British Association of Dermatologists. “It also shows why we shouldn’t rely on sunscreen alone for sun protection, but we should also use clothing and shade.”
When it comes to your sun cream, be heavy handed, ensuring you’re applying a great enough barrier to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. And when in doubt, use the teaspoon method.
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