Sunscreen use optimized by two consecutive applications

PLoS One. 2018 Mar 28;13(3):e0193916. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0193916. eCollection 2018.


Sunscreen users are often inadequately protected and become sunburned. This study aimed to investigate how much two consecutive sunscreen applications increased the quantity of sunscreen applied and decreased the skin area left without sunscreen (missed area) compared to a single application. Thirty-one healthy volunteers wearing swimwear were included and applied sunscreen two consecutive times in a laboratory environment. Participants had pictures taken in black light before and after each application. As sunscreens absorb black light, the darkness of the skin increased with increasing amounts of sunscreen applied. We conducted a standard curve establishing a link between change in picture darkness and quantity of sunscreen. The quantity of sunscreen at selected skin sites as well as the percentage of missed area was determined after each application. Participants had missed a median of 20% of their available body surface after a single application. After double application they had missed 9%. The decrease in missed areas was significant for the whole body surface and for each of the body regions separately. The median participant had applied between 13% and 100% more sunscreen at the selected skin sites after double application than after single application. We recommend double application, especially before intense sun exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Color
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Skin / drug effects*
  • Sunburn / prevention & control
  • Sunscreening Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects
  • Young Adult


  • Sunscreening Agents

Grants and funding

Galderma A/S provided sunscreen for the study but had no additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Except for this, the study was funded solely by Bispebjerg Hospital.