How To Apply Sunscreen Correctly (The Comprehensive Guide)

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Sunscreen remains the skincare product that should be applied EVERYDAY before exploring your outdoor activities to shield the skin from UV rays exposure.


The sun is the devil, and leaving your skin unprotected while under the sun can ruin your skin which can be detrimental by causing damages such as sun burn, wrinklesdiscoloration (as a result of skin darkening) and even worse cancer. So, unless you want to ruin your skincare-efforts, keep applying your sunscreen CONSISTENTLY.

But if you don’t really know how to go about applying your sunscreen the right way, then this content is definitely for you. As i’m going to detail out a proper guide on how to correctly apply your sunscreen for optimal or full coverage sun protection.

But before we hit right into that, let’s know what a sunscreen is.

What’s A Sunscreen?

Sunscreen (also known as sunblock) contains active ingredients that help prevent the sun’s UV radiation from reaching your skin. These actives helps either absorb or reflect UV rays thereby preventing them from hitting the skin’s DNA cells to avoid skin damages.
There are two types of sunscreen, physical and chemical sunscreen.

Physical sunscreen acts like a barrier, they sit on the top layer of the skin to protect or shield the skin from sun exposure. That’s why you get to have white-cast residue after applying physical sunscreens.

Chemical sunscreen on the other hand penetrates into the skin, where it stays to absorb UVA and UVB light rays before it’s able to damage the sensitive DNA of the skin cells. That’s why chemical sunscreens tend to be more elegant in terms of ease of application and minimizing that white-cast residue.

Chemical sunscreens act almost like a sponge, absorbing UV light, while physical (or mineral) sunscreens act more like a shield, deflecting the sun’s rays.

Physical sunscreens are made with mineral-based ingredients, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

While common ingredients in chemical sunscreens include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate.

So…….What’s The Right Level Of SPF To Use?

According to skincare experts, recommended level of SPF should be 30 or higher.

Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97 percent of the sun’s UVA & UVB rays. Higher-number SPFs block slightly more of the sun’s UV rays, but no sunscreen can block 100 percent of the sun’s UV rays.

These are sunscreens (SPF) protection levels:

  • Low protection: SPF is below 15.
  • Medium protection: SPF is 15 to 29.
  • High protection: SPF is 30 to 49.
  • Very high protection: SPF is over 50.

According to the FDA, the use of a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above, combined with other measures, such as wearing protective clothings, sunglasses and avoiding the mid-day sun, can help prevent skin cancer.

To sum it up. SPF 30 is the minimum we recommend, but higher is always better.

What Should I Look Out For While Shopping For A Sunscreen.

  • Ensure your SPF is atleast 30, to provide optimum sun protection.
  • Be sure the sunscreen says “broad spectrum” on the label, which means it protects against UVA and UVB rays.
  • Look for products that have earned The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation to be sure a product is safe and effective.

How To Apply Sunscreen Correctly.

Boiling down to what the topic is all about, when it comes to applying sunscreen, so many individuals makes some mistakes even without knowing it.

Mistakes such as, not applying enough, and also forgetting to apply sunscreen on the tips and back of the ears, exposed scalp, back of the neck, around the eyes, on the lips and the tops of the hands and feet. The best way to make sure you get full coverage? – Apply sunscreen before you get dressed, and then reapply to all exposed skin areas.

Below Is A detailed guide on how to apply sunscreen correctly:

1. Apply Sunscreen At The Last Stage Of Your Skin Care Routine. 

Ensure you finish applying your skincare topicals before applying your sunscreen. Sunscreen comes at the last stage of your skincare routine. That’s to say, cleanse, tone or hydrate, treat, moisturize and apply SUNSCREEN.

2. Apply Enough Amount Of Your Sunscreen.

One of the popular mistakes people tend to make when applying their sunscreen is – they don’t apply enough. Although for some skincare products, “less means more“, (retinoids for example) but when it comes to sunscreen, “less means less“. You have to apply reasonable amount of your sunscreen to ensure optimum protection.

The most recommended amount of sunscreen to be applied is amount equivalent to two tablespoons on your face and neck. Or you can simply use the three-finger-worth amount. Then apply generous amount on other exposed skin areas.

Apply Sunscreen Correctly
Example of three-finger-worth amount of sunscreen

3. Don’t Miss Out Any Spot.

While applying your sunscreen on your face, extend the same kind gesture to the tips and back of your ears, exposed scalp, back of the neck, around the eyes, on the lips and the tops of your hands and feet. If you don’t like the idea of applying your sunscreen on your lips, you can as well use a moisturizing lip balm with SPF which is to be re-applied around every 2 hours. Here’s a list of the best moisturizing lip balms with SPF.

4. Apply Water Resistant Sunscreen If You Must Swim Or Engage In Sweat Triggering Activities. 

If you must engage in sweat inducing activities or swimming, then do well to apply a water resistant sunscreen to ensure enormous-protection while engaging in these activities.

Water-resistant and very water-resistant sunscreens are good for hot days or while playing sports, because they’re less likely to drip into your eyes when you sweat or wear-off while you swim.

However, these may not be as good for everyday wear. They may be stickier and don’t go on as well under makeup.

5. Reapply Your Sunscreen Every Two Hours. 

Generally, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, especially after swimming or sweating (if you’re not wearing a water resistant sunscreen). If you work indoors and sit away from windows, you may not need a second application. But mindful of how often you step outside.

In Conclusion.

Sunscreen remains your best sun-defense and as such, you must take it serious. Never skip a day without sunscreen, if you must go out, apply your sunscreen 30 minutes before stepping out so as to allow the ingredients to fully bind with the skin.

Possible Questions & Answers.

Q: Must I wear sunscreen everyday?

A: Unless you want to incur skin discoloration, or skin aging signs, or worse CANCER, wear your sunscreen everyday before stepping out under the sun all year round. Broad spectrum sunscreens protects you from UVA and UVB rays. You should apply sunscreen not just on your face but all over exposed skin areas too.

Q: Should I still apply sunscreen during cloudy days?

A: Yes, you should apply your sunscreen even on cloudy days, because it could be possible some  wavelengths are making it past those grey clouds and being absorbed by your skin. So, to ensure full UVA and UVB protection – apply your sunscreen without seasons.

UP NEXT: Here’s My Honest Experience With Missha Aqua Sun Gel SPF 50.


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