Products that offer protection from the sun are widely popular, thanks to their ability to keep the harmful effects of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation at bay. But a recent study has shown that despite their best efforts, certain parts of the face remain unprotected. In a study published in the peer-reviewed open-access journal PLOS ONE, researchers from Liverpool in the U.K. discovered that people still tend to miss some spots, especially when applying SPF products to their eyelids. On average, people fail to protect this area 20 percent of the time.
In the two-visit trial, researchers included 84 participants from the University of Liverpool. They asked the participants to apply a bottle of SPF moisturizer on the first visit and sunscreen on the next. For each visit, the participants were asked to apply the product “as they normally would,” without any direction in terms of mode of application or volume of the substance used. Afterward, the participants were exposed to a UV camera to view the results of the application. The team discovered that areas more vulnerable to skin cancer — namely the ears, lips, and especially the eyelids — are also more likely to be missed. Interestingly, the participants were not even aware that they failed to cover these vulnerable spots.
“People were applying cream [and] going out in the sun thinking they were protected,” said lead author Austin McCormick. “And yet one of the most vulnerable areas was left unprotected.”
Not as easy as you think
The Liverpool study highlights the need to protect the whole face from UV radiation. However, it isn't as easy as applying protective cream on the spots missed. The skin on the ears, lips, and eyelids are sensitive and thin, which make it difficult to apply things such as moisturizers and sunscreen because of their potential harm. Studies have found that most commercial sunscreens contain chemicals such as oxybenzone and avobenzone that are absorbed into the body and can be found in blood samples. These chemicals can build up over time and trigger other health risks such as rashes. Oxybenzone, in particular, has the potential to cause hormonal imbalance.
Another way out of the sun
The sun produces harmful UV rays that increase the risk of skin cancer. However, that does not mean you should be avoiding the sun at all cost. The body still requires a sufficient amount of vitamin D to remain healthy. Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself without resorting to commercial sunscreens and moisturizers:
Seek shade — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the sun can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes if left exposed. You can reduce your risk of skin damage by taking refuge under an umbrella or even a tree every once in a while if you're out on a walk. It is also recommended to avoid standing in direct sunlight for long periods of time when UV light is at its peak — between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Put on a hat — One of the better ways to protect the sensitive parts of the face is by wearing a wide-brimmed hat. Hats made with tightly woven fabric will help prevent any UV rays from getting to your head.
Wear other protective clothing — Wearing long clothing (e.g., long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and long skirts) is a simple and effective way to keep the rays at bay. You can opt to use dark or brightly colored clothing instead of lighter shades because they absorb the light instead of allowing them to reach the skin.
Use natural sunscreens — If you must use sunscreen, using natural and organic sunscreens are the best way to go. Researchers from Seoul found that using mountain hydrangea extract can improve skin health. They saw that the antioxidant effect of mountain hydrangea might help protect against the damage of UV rays. Additionally, improved dermal thickness and decreased wrinkling were observed when the extract was ingested by hairless mice.
Go for astaxanthin — A recent study in the journal Experimental Dermatology revealed that astaxanthin is able to protect the skin from UV damage, thanks to its potent antioxidant properties.
Eat foods that provide UV protection — Food can also be a good alternative for sun protection. Studies show that foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent certain types of skin cancer. Compounds present in dark chocolate have also been observed to protect against UV -induced issues.