Learn How to Properly Apply Your Sunscreen

Kristin Booker

Woman applying sunscreen

We all know that sunscreen is an essential all year round, but when the mercury starts to rise we have more conversations about the good stuff. The thing is that it can get kind of confusing with all that information out there: which SPF is best, what kind of sunscreen works best for which skin type, etc.

We attended a Skinceuticals breakfast this week and cornered Dr. Adam Friedman, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and Director of Dermatologic Research at Division of Dermatology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine. We wanted him to give us the lowdown on the ins and outs of sun protection so we could figure out if we were properly applying it. Here’s what the good doctor had to say:

First of all, what is the rule of thumb when it comes to SPF coverage? SPF 15 is really the minimum, but I always recommend at least SPF 30. The problem that’s come to light is that when you don’t apply it properly, you actually get even less coverage than what you think you’re applying. Most people don’t apply enough, so when you increase the SPF factor of the product you’re using, it acts as an insurance policy to make sure that you’re getting adequate coverage.

We’ve all heard that you need to apply at least a shot glass of sunscreen to cover the entire body. How do you equate that to the sunscreen sprays? You can’t. It really applies to the physical creams and gels. There’s a lot of discussion right now about spray-on sunscreens in regards to coverage (if a wind blows, the person next to you could be more covered than you are) and the inhaling of the chemicals. But no, there’s no equivalent with the physical sunscreens when it comes to the sprays.

What types of sunscreens work on different tones of skin? When it comes to skin tone, some sunscreens can give a chalky cast from the formulation. Those with darker skintones should go for micronized formulas where the sunscreen aspects are so small they’re not visible. It keeps you from getting that weird, gray-ish cast but they still protect from ultraviolet radiation, which is what you want. Those types of skin are also prone to higher water loss at the top layers of skin, so using a formula that has a higher moisturizing factor will help keep the formula put so the SPF factor has a chance to work.

Are there sunscreens that work better for different types of skin? Acne prone, for example? Most people are actually a mix of different skin types, so if you use multiple formulas that do various things and apply them regularly, you might see a higher success rate than using one formula that only does one thing. Obviously, if you’re acne prone, avoid oils and creams, but try layering.

Is there a trick to applying sunscreen? Yes! Apply it twenty minutes before going outside, and it works best if you slather it on wet skin, so it has time to absorb into the body and it can act as a dual moisturizer and sunblock.

[Image via Istock]