If you Google "how to apply sunscreen to your own back," you can expect some pretty wild answers. There are all kinds of different moves, devices, and products out there—but the problem is, a lot of them may not work.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) put some of those techniques to the test when it asked people to self-apply sunscreen in front of an ultraviolet (UV) camera. Beachgoers twisted their bodies to spread and spray on every inch. Despite their efforts, a rainbow-shaped space was often left unprotected, right between the shoulder blades.

That empty space on the back poses problems: UV exposure can raise the risk of sun damage and worse, skin cancers like melanoma. In fact, the most common place for melanoma to develop is on the back. Men, who might be inclined to go shirtless for things like exercise or lawn work, face a particularly high risk, reports the Skin Cancer Foundation. Even more troublingly, people may not see early warning signs like moles or lesions on their back.

Still, what do you do if you're heading outside without a friend who can help you apply sunscreen to hard-to-reach places? In reality, experts recommend that you don't. If there's nobody around to help, try to wear an SPF-rated long-sleeved shirt and seek shade when possible.

If you're really in a pinch, however, you can try the following tips.

Use an Applicator

The one thing the AAD video didn't capture is the use of an applicator. These devices, such as rollers or long-handled pads, work like a backscratcher: they help you reach places you otherwise couldn't. Without a UV camera, you may not be able to see the full effects of an applicator—including whether it helps you cover your entire back—but it's likely better than an alternative of missing areas.

Find a Double Mirror

The more you can see when self-applying sunscreen, the better. To get more visibility on your back, stand between two mirrors—for instance, one above your bathroom sink and one propped against the opposite wall. Make sure you have plenty of good lighting, too.

Mix in Sprays and Sticks

The AAD's video did include a few people self-applying a spray sunscreen, and even they failed to properly cover their entire backs. That's because sprays need to be rubbed in to get the best protection. Even so, spray and stick sunscreens can be a good alternative to lotions if they help you get to those hard-to-reach places.

Try rubbing in a base application with sunscreen lotion in front of a mirror. Then, apply an extra layer of spray or stick sunscreen and rub that application in, too. If using a spray, do a generous spritz close to your skin—enough for the skin to glisten. If using a stick, do at least four passes. Just make sure the ingredients match across the product types; mixing sunscreens with different chemical ingredients may not be the best idea.

How to properly apply sunscreen to your own back

Practice Your Flexibility

You can do a lot for your flexibility—and potentially your self-application skills—by practicing shoulder and upper back stretches that help to expand your chest and spine. Stretching is beneficial for the body and blood flow in general, so there's more than one benefit to this practice.

The Best Advice of All

Despite these tips and tricks, the best advice of all is to ask someone else to help. Human anatomies are the way they are, and the fact of the matter is that our backs are just not easily within reach but important to protect from sun damage. Fortunately, a variety of sprays, sticks, and lotions can make sunscreen application easier for more people, so it won't inconvenience others to help.

And don't forget to offer other people the same courtesy. Don't be greedy; spread the sun protection around!