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Sunscreen application at the beach

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Summary Background 

The sun protection factor (SPF) of sunscreens is determined after application of a standard amount. The European Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association (COLIPA) standard amount is 2 mg/cm2. Real-life application of sunscreen is probably less than this. Aim 

To determine the amount of sunscreen present on the skin of people at the beach. Methods 

Volunteers at the beach were selected randomly and were not aware of being tested for the adequacy of their sunscreen application. All volunteers had applied sunscreen. Application had been more than 30 min before testing (sometimes up to 4 h earlier). The amounts of sunscreen applied to different body sites were determined quantitatively by tape stripping. Actual amounts of sunscreen applied were compared with the COLIPA standard. Also, sunscreen containing a fluorescent dye was applied to the skin of volunteers in a laboratory setting. The distribution of sunscreen application was visualized by UVA photography in a darkened room. Results 

Sixty volunteers, 33 males and 27 females, aged 17–68 years (median 32 years), were recruited at the beach. Sunscreen coverage was inadequate at all body sites. Coverage at various body sites differed greatly. Most volunteers had applied 10% or less of the COLIPA standard amount to all body sites assessed. The best protected areas were the upper arm and décolleté but, even in these areas, most volunteers had only applied 10% of the COLIPA standard amount. The worst protected areas were the ears and top of the feet. The back was typically badly protected if treated by the volunteers themselves. The back was better protected if another person had applied the sunscreen. In the laboratory, the fluorescent dye-containing sunscreen showed the same pattern of sunscreen application as at the beach. Conclusions 

In real life, at the beach, very little sunscreen remains present on the skin.

Keywords: COLIPA standard; SPF; UV protection; fluorescence measurements; sunscreen application; tape stripping

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Centre for Experimental and Applied Cutaneous Physiology (CCP), Department of Dermatology, Charité University Hospital, Berlin, Germany 2: Lancaster-Coty, International Research & Development Center, Monaco

Publication date: 2004-04-01

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