Australian children do not apply the recommended amount of sunscreen before school, suggest study results, which may put them at increased risk for sunburn.
The researchers noted that the mean amount of cream applied by the children went up when they used pump action or squeeze bottles rather than roll-on.
The Children and Sunscreen Study recruited 103 children from schools in Brisbane, Australia, who were aged 8.7 years on average. The children were asked to apply sunscreen each morning before school for 3 consecutive weeks.
The children were instructed to use a different dispenser each week from a 500 mL pump, a 125 mL squeeze bottle, and a 50 mL roll-on bottle.
Median thickness of sunscreen application was calculated for each child in a four-step manner. First, the child’s body surface area (BSA) was calculated; second, the child was asked to mark on a pictogram where they had applied sunscreen for each day; third, age and gender-specific data were used to estimate the proportion of the body receiving sunscreen coverage; and fourth, the weight of sunscreen used was divided by the sum of daily proportions and BSA (total coverage area).
The recommended thickness of sunscreen that should be applied each day is 2.00 mg/cm2, which is the thickness at which sunscreens are tested during development in the laboratory.
As reported in the Archives of Dermatology, Abbey Diaz (Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, Australia) and colleagues found that the median thickness of sunscreen applied per day by the children was significantly lower than the recommended amount, at 0.48 mg/cm2.
Of note, this amount increased to 0.75 and 0.57 mg/cm2 when the children used the pump applicator and squeeze bottles, respectively, whereas use of the roll-on bottle only resulted in a median applied thickness of 0.22 mg/cm2.
The researchers say: “This study confirms previous findings among adult populations. Applying sunscreen at a thickness of 2.00 mg/cm2 is infeasible; however, there is room for improvement in the way sunscreen is used.”
They add: “Educational interventions are needed to maximize the protection received from sunscreen, along with enhanced availability of sunscreens that are highly accepted, easily dispensed, and encourage uniform coverage of sunscreen at greater thickness.
“Our results highlight the need for continued recommendations that sunscreens should be combined with other forms of sun protection, such as hats, clothing, and shade, to achieve optimal [ultraviolet] protection.”
Arch Dermatol 2012; MedWire News