Efficacy of Applicator Devices for Self-Application of Topicals to the Back

Jeremy G. Light*, Travis Frantz, Kyle McNamara, Arjun M. Bashyam, Steven R. Feldman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Background: Self-application of topicals on the back can be challenging. Objective: The aim was to assess topical back coverage using commercially available back applicators. Materials and Methods: Ten subjects applied sunscreen to their back using their hands and then with 3 back applicators (large foam tip, small foam tip, roller tip). The amount of lotion used and the time it took to perform the application were recorded. The resulting distribution of sunscreen was assessed with a Wood’s lamp; the area covered fluoresced less than the uncovered skin. Images were captured and then analyzed using an automated thresholding technique. Results: Subjects applied more lotion when using the large foam tip (7.58 g, 95% CI 6.47-8.70 g; P <.004) and small foam tip (7.46 g, 95% CI 6.35-8.57 g; P <.006) applicators compared to hands alone (6.22 g, 95% CI 5.10-7.33 g). Application time was longer with the small foam tip applicator (113.4 s, 95% CI 96.7-130.1 s) relative to hand application (78.7 s, 95% CI 62-95.4 s) (P <.03). Coverage of the back was higher for the large foam tip (84.8%, 95% CI 78.4%-91.3%; P <.03), small foam tip (88.0%, 95% CI 81.6%-91.5%; P <.006), and roller tip (84.3%, 95% CI 77.9%-90.8%; P <.04) applicators compared to hand application (71.5%, 95% CI 65%-78%). The middle back tended to have less coverage when applying with the hands. Conclusions: Topical coverage of the back is improved with the use of applicator devices during self-application.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)249-252
Publication statusPublished - 14. Feb 2020


  • applicator
  • back
  • coverage
  • efficacy
  • hand
  • sunscreen
  • topical
  • Wood’s lamp

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