I’ve always been pretty militant about applying sunscreen. I wear it on my face and whatever body parts aren’t hidden by clothing. And when I go to the beach, I’m covered in it before my toes even touch the sand. The only hiccup I keep side-swiping instead of, like, actually addressing is knowing how to apply sunscreen when it’s summer and reapplication is absolutely necessary. When it comes to sunscreen tips, I always follow the one that says the amount of SPF should increase with the amount of skin I’m showing. However, it’s knowing when and how much to layer on after that initial application that escapes me almost daily.
With Memorial Day finally (!) here and the promise of even warmer weather on the horizon, there’s no better time than now to finally get my act together so I can get the most use out of the tubes sitting on my dresser. As it turns out, it shouldn’t take long to get through all of them if I’m doing this whole sunscreen thing the right way. Here are 5 pro-approved tips that’ll motivate you to actually prioritize SPF this summer and beyond.
Your SPF Makeup Isn’t Enough Protection
First, remember that makeup infused with SPF is never enough. According to NYC-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Shari Marchbein, this is especially true in the summer when we’re being exposed to stronger sun rays. Start applying sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to the face every day before foundation or any other makeup to ensure that your skin is protected. Also, don’t forget to give it a few minutes to really set in before continuing with your routine.
“I like CeraVe Hydrating Sunscreen because it’s an oil-free formula that also provides 100% mineral broad-spectrum SPF protection plus hydration thanks to its three essential ceramides,” says Dr. Marchnbein.
When You Apply Actually Matters
While some would argue that applying sunscreen just before you run out the door is totally okay, Marchbein disagrees. “If you first apply sunscreen when you are outside, the skin will be unproductive and you will leave yourself vulnerable to sun damage and sunburns,” she says.
According to her, this is really important for chemical sunscreens as it takes the skin approximately 15 minutes to absorb the sunscreen and therefore protect the skin. However, we recommend skipping the chemical formulas altogether since some of the most popular ingredients in these formulas can also be harmful and irritating to the skin. On the other hand, mineral sunscreens utilize natural ingredients that sit on top of the skin and reflect away sun rays instead. Whichever you decide to use, just make sure you’re applying to the skin at least 20 minutes before going outside.
Beach Days Require More Than the Usual
According to Dr. Marchbein, the general rule of thumb is that sunscreen needs to be reapplied liberally every 2 hours and sooner if you’re wet or sweating. When you’re at the beach for more than a couple hours, this same rule applies. So if you’re planning to be there for say, six hours, you should definitely go through an entire bottle.
This is because “most sunscreens are 3-4 ounces and each application every 2 hours needs to be 1 ounce to cover exposed skin properly. That’s far more than what the average person uses but that is the correct amount for maximum efficacy,” adds Marchbein. When reapplying, it may help to know that 1 oz of sunscreen is about the size of a shot glass. And for your face, you should apply about a teaspoon worth every two hours.
Water-Resistant Formulas Aren’t An Exception
Oh, and those “water-proof” and “water-resistant” formulas aren’t any more special either. In fact, most bottles once labeled water-proof has been changed to water-resistant, a more realistic description.
Marchbein says that most are either indicated as 40- or 80-minute products, meaning that’s exactly how long they’ll protect your skin once it’s been exposed to water. That’s a pretty short time, so if you’re someone who spends more time splashing around than laying out, know you’ll have to reapply even more than the standard two hours.
Spray Sunscreen Isn’t As Effective
Lastly, sunscreen sprays are undoubtedly the easiest and quickest to apply. They go on lightly and evenly without feeling greasy and don’t require as much labor as a lotion or oil. Unfortunately, sprays also make it difficult to know if the amount you’re applying is actually enough to protect your skin. Realistically, if the required amount is a shot glass-worth for the body and teaspoon-worth for the face, you would need to hold the bottle pretty close to the skin and hold that button down for a long time to dispense that much onto your skin.
Ironically, that would likely leave a visible film on the skin and need to be rubbed in, thus eliminating the convenience of using a spray to begin with. So if you’re committed to truly protecting your skin, you should probably skip these altogether. Marchbein also adds that you should never use this on the face (tempting, I know!) since it’s unsafe to inhale a spray sunscreen.