A New Method to Quantify the Application Thickness of Sunscreen on Skin


Corresponding author email: m.kimlin@qut.edu.au (Michael G. Kimlin)


Proper application of sunscreen is essential as an effective public health strategy for skin cancer prevention. Insufficient application is common among sunbathers, results in decreased sun protection and may therefore lead to increased UV damage of the skin. However, no objective measure of sunscreen application thickness (SAT) is currently available for field-based use. We present a method to detect SAT on human skin for determining the amount of sunscreen applied and thus enabling comparisons to manufacturer recommendations. Using a skin swabbing method and subsequent spectrophotometric analysis, we were able to determine SAT on human skin. A swabbing method was used to derive SAT on skin (in mg sunscreen per cm2 of skin area) through the concentration–absorption relationship of sunscreen determined in laboratory experiments. Analysis differentiated SATs between 0.25 and 4 mg cm−2 and showed a small but significant decrease in concentration over time postapplication. A field study was performed, in which the heterogeneity of sunscreen application could be investigated. The proposed method is a low cost, noninvasive method for the determination of SAT on skin and it can be used as a valid tool in field- and population-based studies.