Sunscreen Use

Summary and Comment |
June 19, 2015

Sunscreen Use

  1. Hensin Tsao, MD, PhD

Patterns of use are alarming.

  1. Hensin Tsao, MD, PhD

Although sunscreen use has been a cornerstone of public messaging on sun safety throughout the world, actual use patterns have not been fully studied. These authors assessed patterns of sunscreen use on the face and other exposed skin among US adults. The 2013 Summer ConsumerStyles survey is a cross-sectional online survey designed to examine public opinion and beliefs and health behaviors among randomly selected adults. These researchers made use of such a survey completed by 4033 adults.

The survey posed three questions regarding sunscreen application to the face and other exposed skin, addressing frequency of application, sun protection factor, and whether products were broad-spectrum. Responders were also asked to classify the usual response to sun exposure of their unprotected skin. They found that 18.1% of men and 42.6% of women regularly applied sunscreen to the face and that 19.9% and 34.4%, respectively, regularly applied sunscreen to other exposed skin. Factors that were significantly associated with regular sunscreen use included having sun-sensitive skin, having an annual household income of $60,000 or higher, having children younger than 18, nonsmoking, meeting aerobic activity guidelines, and, for women, healthy body weight.


It is quite alarming that fewer than half of women and less than 20% of men regularly use sunscreen on the face. Women may report higher use because of sunscreens in cosmetic products. Additionally, having a diagnosis of skin cancer within 1 year was not associated with greater sunscreen use among men, though it was associated with sunscreen use on the face among women. Use of other protective behaviors (e.g., wearing hat or clothing) was not explored, and self-reporting may have been biased. Nevertheless, it appears we have a long way to go in terms of improving sunscreen utilization.

Editor Disclosures at Time of Publication

  • Disclosures for Hensin Tsao, MD, PhD at time of publication Consultant / advisory board Lubax; WorldCare Clinical Equity Lubax Grant / Research support NIH; Department of Defense; American Skin Association; Piramal Editorial boards British Journal of Dermatology ; Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology; Journal of Investigative Dermatology Leadership positions in professional societies American Academy of Dermatology (Chair, Skin Cancer and Melanoma Committee); American Board of Dermatology (Director)


Reader Comments (1)

MALCOLM LANE-BROWN Physician, Dermatology, Sydney,Australia


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