Ask LH: How Can I Apply Sunscreen To My Own Back?

Dear Lifehacker, I have a simple question. What's the best way for a single guy living alone to put sunscreen on his own back when help from others is unavailable? Thanks, No Stripes Please

Picture by Paul Kane/Getty Images

Dear NSP,

We've got a couple of suggestions to make here, but we'd absolutely welcome further reader input on this one. With any of these options, you'll need to look over your shoulder in a full-length mirror to see how your coverage actually is when you're done.

Check to see if you can do it. I've found that I can actually apply sunscreen across my entire back with a little judicious stretching and by placing it on the back of my fingers for a couple of hard-to-reach places. Whether this is possible for you will vary depending on your size, flexibility and degree of musculature, but it's worth checking rather than just assuming it's impossible.

Use spray-on sunscreen. This is probably the easiest solution; you can grab spray-on sunscreens at your chemist or online. You'll likely go through a little more than if you rub it in yourself, but unless you're grossly obese it's possible to achieve coverage.

Use a small paint roller. I'll confess I haven't actually tried this, but it strikes me you could potentially use a small edging roller to reach the parts of your back your fingers can't. A popular online suggestion is to use a towel and rub it across your back as if you were drying yourself, but that would, I imagine, waste a lot more sunscreen.

Leave your T-shirt on. OK, that's slightly defeatist. But if it's a really sunny day, you're not actually swimming and you can't manage with one of the other methods, staying covered is a much more effective cancer prevention technique than just saying "oh, stuff it".

As ever, if readers have additional suggestions, please share them in the comments.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    a thick mat of back hair will also work equally as well as a t shirt

      I'm imagining a giant flat thing like a 2d dreadlock down your back, kind of like a doormat.

      I'm picturing Kowalski from Ren & Stimpy.

    just get a 100% UV block out shirt. yeah it might be a little dorky but these days not many people will care. plus you dont have to worry about getting sunscreen coverage on your back or front torso. besides sunscreen is a bit messy putting it on and some sunscreens are a little greasy too.

    Use a stick and a rag.

    If your Nathan Sharpe (the dude in the image) just take your shirt off and then select from the willing girls who queue up, the dude is 200cm tall!


    A sexy, sexy sunscreen assistant also works a charm.

    But then why stop at my back?

    A rash guard, also known as rash vest or rashie. Sun protection rated to UPF 50+. Dries quickly and is appropriate for beach or pool. If you get the long sleeved version, it'll cover everything from your shorts to your neck.

    Easier and quicker than sunscreen. Also don't need to worry about missing parts.

    You mean not everyone can reach their back? *confused* =\

    Just get to the beach & ask a hottie there... It will be a good ice-breaker...

    Put the blob of sunscreen on the back of your hand rather than on the palm of your hand before you transfer it onto your back. The angle works much better and you can cover much more of your back that way.

    I hate when people offer advice like "wear a rashie"... I'd hate to work with people like you, answering questions that haven't been asked. Argh. Arrggghhhh.

      Sorry Chris, I guess you've already lost the Christmas cheer.

      The original advice was to leave your T-Shirt on, I offered an alternative that I believe is better for people who enjoy water sports.

      I agree, I'd hate to work with people like you too, people fixated on one solution, not open to an alternative.

      I had to google "rashie" :(

      I assumed it was some kind of clothing that disolves in water and applies sunscreen to the body as it does so, giving an even cover.

    Buy some pvc sheeting, drape it on the floor, then squirt lots of sunscreen there. Now roll around on the floor and get it all over you. Can be re-used with lubricant for other types of "fun" later :)

    Lol @ using a sunscreen soaked paint roller on your back. Classic

    Poor mans version = sunscreen-soaked toilet roll on a stick. Awesome.

    Awww.. this is both funny and a bit sad.. hahah the legitimate problems of the lone wolf!


    Duh! Walk up to cute gal on the beach, introduce yourself and ask her to do it.

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