When free sunscreen was made available at the Minnesota State Fair, only one-third of the participants applied sunscreen to all sun-exposed areas, according to recent research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
“These results highlight some of the ways people use sunscreen incorrectly,” researcher Ingrid Polcari, MD, FAAD, an assistant professor in the dermatology department of the University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, stated in a news release from the American Academy of Dermatology. “To get the best possible sun protection, it’s important to wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, and to apply sunscreen to all exposed skin, not just your face and arms.”
Complimentary sunscreen dispensers were installed at 10 information booths at the 12-day Minnesota State Fair, which attracts more than 1.7 million attendees each August.
The sunscreen was titanium- and zinc-based with a sun protection factor of 30.
Volunteers inconspicuously observed 2,187 people using the sunscreen at four of the stations during 93 hours.
Females made up 51% of the fair population, and they used the sunscreen more often than males (57%; P < .0001).
Among those using sunscreen, 33% applied it to all sun-exposed areas of the skin.
Of those who did not apply sunscreen to all sun-exposed areas, sunscreen was most frequently applied to the face (42%), chest (6%) and lower extremities (3.6%).
The was a significant relationship between sunscreen use and the amount of sun or lack of clouds (P < .001); however, there were times when the UV index was high while sunscreen use was low, most likely because of cloud cover, according to the researchers.
“Sunscreen use decreased dramatically on completely overcast days, despite the UV index remaining at a dangerous level (> 6) on one of those days,” the researchers wrote. “This reflects a common public misconception that there is no risk for sunburn on cloudy days.
“Our study also highlights the public’s receptiveness to free sunscreen, with a calculated estimate of about 17,000 persons using the sunscreen over the course of the event. We encourage other venues to offer free sunscreen as part of a strategy to reduce UV exposure in their patrons.” – by Bruce Thiel
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.