Application of sun protection factor (SPF) moisturizers tends to miss more of the face, especially around the eyelid regions, compared with sunscreen application, according to a study published recently in PLOS ONE.

Moreover, people applying these products are unaware that they are failing to cover regions vulnerable to skin cancer, note researchers Kevin Hamill of the University of Liverpool, and colleagues, in a media release from PLOS.

Many moisturizers contain SPF equivalent to those found in sunscreens, but there is a lack of research into how SPF moisturizer application compares to sunscreens in terms of coverage achieved and protection afforded.

Previously, Hamill and his team demonstrated that users incompletely covered their eyelid regions during routine sunscreen application. In the new study, the researchers aimed to determine if SPF moisturizer users also displayed these tendencies.

Eighty-four participants were exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and photographed using a UV-sensitive camera on two separate visits. At visit one, images were acquired before and after application of either SPF30 sunscreen or moisturizer, then at visit two, the study was repeated with the other formulation.

Application was significantly worse for the moisturizer than the sunscreen in terms area of the whole face missed (11.1% missed with sunscreen compared to 16.6% for SPF moisturizer). This difference was primarily due to decreased coverage of the eyelid regions (14.0% missed with sunscreen, 20.9% moisturizer).

A post-study questionnaire revealed that participants were unaware of their incomplete coverage. Despite potential advantages in terms of increased frequency of moisturizer application, the areas of the face that are at higher cancer risk are likely not being protected, and participants are unaware that they are at risk.

According to the authors, alternative sun-protection strategies should be promoted and a more extensive public awareness campaign is warranted, the release explains.

“When applying both sunscreen and moisturizer, the area around to eyes is often missed, particularly near the nose. Participants covered a smaller area of the face when using moisturizer compared to sunscreen,” they comment.

“We conclude that particular attention should be paid to the eyelid area when applying any SPF cream. Alternative methods of protecting the eyelids should be considered, such as UV filter sunglasses. Moisturizer is not as well applied as sunscreen; therefore, if planning prolonged sun exposure we advise sunscreen be used.”

“If using moisturizer we advise one with SPF: any SPF is better than none but it should not be considered the equal of sunscreen,” they continue.

[Source(s): PLOS, Science Daily]