A new US study reveals that frequent sunscreen users may be more likely to experience a seriously bad sunburn.

Reported by American health website WebMD on July 14, the new study examined the sunscreen habits of more than 3,000 Caucasian adults.

While 30 per cent of people claim they happily slather on sunscreen regularly, 25 per cent opt instead for shade, with 16 per cent wearing a hat. Another six per cent donned long sleeves to shield themselves from the sun.

However, those who wore sunscreen regularly also had 23 per cent greater risk of multiple sunburns in the past year compared to those who seldom used sunscreen, suggesting that sunscreen may give a false sense of security from the sun’s harmful rays.

The study is published in the journal Cancer Causes & Control.

WebMD noted the study was designed to look at patterns, not cause and effect, and cited the possibility that the fairest people are not only more likely to use sunscreen but also more likely to burn.

The website noted that those who frequently sought shade and wore long sleeves are presumably a fair-skinned group as well, but still had about a 30 per cent lower sunburn risk compared to the sunscreen wearers.

Another possibility for the finding is in the application of sunscreen itself: prior studies show that most people, even after being tutored in how to wear sunscreen, still don’t wear enough or apply it properly.

How much to use? "A golf ball-size blob for every exposed body part, applied at least 30 minutes before going outside, since sunscreen takes that long to absorb into the skin," stated WebMD.

Also reapply that same amount of sunscreen every two hours, or more frequently if you’re swimming or sweating, or using a spray-on product, which doesn’t last as long as creams.

Experts also caution against sun exposure during midday hours in the summer, from 10am to 4pm. — AFP RELAXNEWS

Are you wearing the right sunscreen? Access a list of top recommended sunscreens by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a US-based advocacy group: breakingnews.ewg.org/2011sunscreen