Shining light on sunscreen application

By Janine Jaramillo, class of 2020

Last week, I was on an early Zoom call with a close friend who lives overseas (different time zones can be tough). While we were debating which dog breed reigns supreme, I was also doing my morning skincare routine, and she noticed that I’ve put on my sunscreen.

“Sunscreen? Isn’t it useless to put that on if you’re just going to be inside today?”

The effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays on our skin have been extensively studied, especially regarding their strong link in skin cancer. [Check out these blog posts to find out more about UV rays]. Considering that melanoma (a deadly form of skin cancer) was the 4th most diagnosed cancer and 9th most common cause of death in Australia in 2016, I thought it would be a great way to start a discussion on sunscreen use. Specifically, my friend and I are curious to know if we have been applying our sunscreens properly.


Sunscreen ( by perjano2 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Daily use?

Whether I’m only going for a short walk outside or I’ll be staying inside the entire day, I always put on my sunscreen. I’ve been indoors for a significant amount of time (I feel you, fellow Victorians), but I suspect that UV rays still have their sneaky little ways to attack me. How? Well, my main suspects are windows. They’re just… there, letting the light in. My friend thinks I’m being neurotic and over the top. But it seems that I’m not completely paranoid (yet).

Window View

Window View ( by Jenele (CC BY-NC 2.0)


Glass can block most UVB rays, but it doesn’t shield us from all UVB rays. And it doesn’t bode well for protection against UVA rays. This makes me feel vindicated about wearing sunscreen daily. Furthermore, recent studies indicate that people should be wearing their sunscreen daily, regardless of the season or weather. Who’s being crazy now? (Probably me but that’s another topic to talk about another day).

Wait… how much sunscreen?

We weren’t entirely sure how much sunscreen we should be wearing, but did you know that the recommend amount for a full body application is about 35ml of sunscreen? For the face and neck, that means about 5ml or 1 teaspoon of sunscreen. Same amount goes for each limb, your front body, and your whole back. I was quite proud that I was close to that amount. My friend confessed she wasn’t even close.

You (most likely) missed a spot!

The most easily missed areas of sunscreen application are the sides and back of the neck, upper chest, lips, feet, and hands. Fun fact: a study found that the most common spot people miss is around the eyes, specifically the medial canthus (aka the inner corner of the eye where the upper and lower eyelids meet).


eyes-5 ( by JamesYoung067 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


My friend and I agree that putting sunscreen around the eyes is very tricky. My eyes are easily irritated, so I often avoid putting products around this delicate area. To compensate for the lack of sunscreen, we put on our best sunnies forward when we’re out and about.

UVA or UVB protection… ¿Por qué no los dos?

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) relates to the amount of time it takes for redness/burn to appear on the skin compared to when no product is used at all, which is determined and tested in laboratories. SPF covers you from UVB but not UVA rays, which is where investing in a sunscreen that includes both SPF and broad-spectrum protection comes in. For those that solely rely on their makeup and skincare with SPF for sun protection, keep in mind that they may be doing a poor job at protecting you from UVA rays.

Sunscreen isn’t meant to be alone

While sunscreens are super helpful in protecting our skin from the sun, it shouldn’t be the only form of sun protection we rely on. Other ways we can protect ourselves from the sun, include sun protective clothing, putting on a hat, seeking shade when outside, and sliding on your sunglasses. When it comes to sun protection, my friend and I say, ‘the more, the merrier’. Our skin does an incredible job of protecting us from the harmful rays of the sun, but we may sometimes forget to return the favour. Sunscreen is one of the most important sun protection tools that we have at our disposal. When applied correctly, it can shield us from the harmful rays of the sun and consequently reduce our risk of skin cancer.