Sun & Skin News

5 Secrets of Sunscreen Users in the U.S.

By Skin Cancer Foundation • June 12, 2024

Americans are notoriously not great at protecting their skin from the sun. One recent national survey found that 11 percent reported not wearing sunscreen at all, and only 13.5 percent said they use sunscreen daily. Even skin cancer survivors are not very compliant (more than a third of them say they infrequently use sunscreen, according to a 2024 review of a large 2015 survey).

That’s why the authors of a first-of-its-kind nationwide survey (published in 2023 in Food and Chemical Toxicology) looked at the habits of more than 2,200 regular sunscreen users. They represent a mix of men and women from various areas in the U.S. who used at least one form of sunscreen five or more days a week during a certain period of time.

“Most of the existing studies focus on recreational products, the sunscreens you use when you’re on the beach with high ultraviolet (UV) rays,” says study author Kimberly Norman, senior director, safety and regulatory toxicology, for the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC). “We wanted to understand the other product types (including moisturizers, cosmetics and lip products) and the true consumer habits, practices and drivers of purchase.”

“We’ve learned that giving the consumer choices is critical,” says Alexandra Kowcz, study author and chief scientist, EVP science, at PCPC. The participants had different product preferences for their faces and body, for their kids and according to the weather. “We know the best sunscreen is the one you’ll use, so having a palette of innovative products is important.” Here are a few eye-opening tidbits from the study:

1. Many users don’t protect themselves from incidental exposure, which adds risk.

On average, sunscreen users only applied sunscreen products if they planned to be outside for at least three hours on sunny days. But consistency is key for skin cancer prevention, no matter what the weather or amount of time outside!

2. There are gender differences (of course)!

Graphics: Man and woman under umbrellas and boxes that say “Males are more likely to” and “Females are more like to.”

Women are more likely to use sunscreen regularly and layer products with SPF (sun protection factor) on their face, but men are more likely to reapply when they do wear sunscreen. “It makes sense because many women apply products with SPF, including cosmetics, in the morning, but are reluctant to reapply later in the day,” says Norman. Reapplication is low overall on cloudy days.

3. Parental guidance is mixed.

Moms and dads do a better job protecting their children than they do themselves, covering kids’ faces and bodies more completely. However, a shocking 45 percent of adults say they wait until they see redness to reapply a beach sunscreen on their kids’ skin.


of adults wait until they see redness to reapply a beach sunscreen on their kids’ skin.

4. Users care about the SPF number.

The SPF level is the most important factor when purchasing a beach or skin-care product, but when it comes to cosmetics and lip products, skin appearance and skin feel, respectively, trump SPF. “Consumers know what works for them and what gives them the skin appearance, feel and texture they’re looking for, especially on the face,” says Norman.

5. Use of additional sun protection products is limited.

The best sun strategy includes protective clothing, accessories and shade. Clearly, there’s room for improvement. See “Find Your Sun Protection Style” blog for tips on incorporating stylish, sun-smart clothing and accessories into your everyday lifestyle.


wear sunglasses


wear a hat


wear sunglasses that block UV light


cover skin with additional clothing


use umbrellas or sun shelters


wear clothing with UPF



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