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April 03, 2019

Pretty much everyone misses this important spot when applying sunscreen

You gotta get that SPF into every single crack

At this point, most people know that sunscreen is a nonnegotiable for any sort of time spent outdoors — especially in the warmer months.

But the thing is, facial moisturizers with sun block may not be providing the protection we need to protect from skin cancer and user error is to blame.

According to a study published Wednesday in PLOS ONE, people do a less thorough job applying an SPF-rated moisturizer to their face than when using a more "traditional" sun blocking lotion. Researchers found that users tend to miss more skin, especially the region around the eyelids — an area particularly defenseless to certain types of skin cancer.

To determine this, researchers provided 84 participants with a bottle of SPF moisturizer and had them apply it to their faces. The team of British researchers utilized UV cameras to determine what areas of the face participants missed in their application.

RELATED READ: FDA to update sunscreen regulations to improve safety and efficacy

The team uncovered that participants using moisturizer missed the eyelids region, where sensitive skin is prone to cancer,  about 20 percent of the time. This compared to about 14 percent missed when using traditional sunscreen lotion, NPR reports. 

"People were applying cream [and] going out in the sun thinking they were protected," says Austin McCormick, lead author of the study. "And yet one of the most vulnerable areas was left unprotected."

Cancer-prone areas — like the face and ears — are often some of the most neglected in sunscreen application. Mount Sinai Hospital dermatologist Joshua Zeichner tells NPR that patients often neglect to apply sunscreen to their neck and the tips of their ears, spots, prime targets for cancer causing UV rays.

Another area of the face with a high risk of developing skin cancer due to a lack of protection is the bottom lip — it faces up toward the sun, after all. 

Researchers weren't able to determine why the SPF moisturizer wasn’t as thoroughly applied. However, the believe it could be because it isn't as "spreadable" as normal sunscreen or that it could be due to moisturizer being sold in smaller bottles, so people feel inclined use smaller quantities, TODAY reports.

While it may seem concerning to put moisturizer with SPF and sunscreen all over your eyes, experts agree that you can and should be doing so. Especially because the skin in the inner corner of your eye and the skin under the eyelashes is the thinnest on the body and therefore the most susceptible to cancer.

Experts suggest opting for a mineral-based sunscreen, instead of chemical-heavy options which are known to sting the eyes, for a tear-free, but full-protection, sunscreen application. 

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