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  • Writer's pictureDr. Leslie Baumann

How to Get Patients to Be More Compliant with Sunscreen Use

Updated: Mar 25, 2020

May is Skin Cancer Awareness month, so your patients will likely be bombarded with infographics and news stories touting the benefits of sun protection. Despite this widespread understanding that the sun’s UV rays can cause deadly types of skin cancer and signs of aging like wrinkles, sagging, and sun spots, many patients still do not comply with their doctor’s sunscreen recommendations.

For doctors, this can mean elevated health risks and increased skin problems, no matter how many in-office treatments patients schedule. To learn more about why patients are not using sunscreen and how to get them to be more compliant with sunscreen use, take a look at this guide.

Sunscreen Compliance Is Notoriously Poor

With all of the information available about the dangers of UV exposure, you might think that more patients would stick with their prescribed sunscreen regimen. However, studies show that this is not the case. One study published in Dermatologic Therapy found that a daily SPF of 5 was shown to reduce sun exposure by 50% at age 70, yet people are still not compliant with sunscreen use.

Further, when patients do use sunscreen, most of them do not apply enough and are missing important areas of their skin. According to research published in JAAD, an astounding 95% of patients tend to underdose on all topical medications, including sunscreen. Recommend that your patients use ½ teaspoon of sunscreen on their face and 1 ounce (a shot glass full) of sunscreen to cover their body.

Research has also shown that most patients do not apply sunscreen to their eyelids and eye area, yet the prevalence of skin cancer in this area is significantly higher than other parts of the face. You can recommend that your patients use an SPF eyeshadow and wear sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats to keep this area protected from the sun. Remind patients that any areas they miss when applying sunscreen will be exposed to the damaging effects of UV light, even if they did apply sunscreen to most of their face and body.

How to Increase Sunscreen Compliance

Your patients are likely reading many confusing reports in the media, especially this time of year. One of the best ways to get rid of this confusion is to properly educate your patients about how and when to use sunscreen, and what type of sunscreen to use. To do this, you must first educate your staff so they can properly educate patients about sun protection. Studies show that skin cancer and sun protection education have a positive impact on patients’ confidence and compliance using sunscreen. Once your patients know and understand more about their sunscreen options, they can choose from various personal preferences and will therefore be more likely to be compliant.

Our Skin Type Solutions system generates regimens that automatically prescribe a sunscreen based on four categories and preferences that patients select while taking the validated Baumann Skin Typing questionnaire:

  1. Baumann Skin Type

  2. Tinted vs. untinted

  3. Chemical vs. physical

  4. Application type (spray, gel, lotion, etc.)

This can be a helpful tool to get patients to use sunscreen, as personal preferences and skin type will ultimately affect compliance. For example, a person with an oily skin type will not tolerate a greasy SPF, and an acne-prone type will not use SPF if it contains acne-causing ingredients. If you have a patient who plays golf, for instance, you might suggest using a spray SPF to quickly and easily reapply on the ninth hole. For the patient who doesn’t spend much time in the sun on a daily basis, an SPF 15 or 30 lotion for their face will be more appropriate.

Another common concern surrounding sunscreen use is “hazardous ingredients.” It is true that some chemical sunscreen ingredients like avobenzone and oxybenzone can cause eye or skin irritation and may also have hormone effects, but using any type of sunscreen is still better than using none at all. If patients are worried about hazardous ingredients or have allergies to chemical SPFs, encourage them to try a physical SPF that contains zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.

In Summary

By providing patients with the right sunscreen choices to match their skin type, personal preferences, and lifestyle habits, you can increase the chances that they will follow your guidelines for sunscreen use and see better results with other prescribed products and treatments.

If you’d like more information about how the Skin Type Solutions system works or what the Baumann Skin Type quiz is, please contact us online or send an email to You can also read more skin care news and advice by connecting with me (Leslie Baumann) on LinkedIn, where I post more articles.


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