Once the forecast switches to sunny skies, our attention turns to these skin savers without fail. But the reality is that the damaging effects of the sun’s rays are felt all year round. As for picking the best sunscreen, the advice we always hear from dermatologists is—to borrow an iconic sports slogan—just do it! Using sunscreen daily protects us from UV damage and is essential for reducing our risk of skin cancer and avoiding premature signs of aging (like wrinkles, dark spots, and dryness).
The good news is that the sun care category has seen a lot of innovation over the past few years. Now, there’s a sunscreen for every multi-tasking need out there: added hydration, mattifying effects, skin-tone-specific formulas and tinted. Yet it’s still not that straightforward. It’s not enough to have the best sunscreen for face or the best sunscreen for body—you also need to apply it correctly to get the full benefits.
If you’re unsure how to put together the ultimate sun care routine or looking to brush up on the application basics, consider this your expert-backed guide.
The Perfect Sun Care Routine
Taking the time to care for ourselves is a necessity, especially when it comes to proper and effective sun care. If you’re wondering about the best way to put on sunscreen, you’re not alone. Over 60,000,000 searches on Google prove that many people are unclear about proper application. Here are some key terms and tips to level up your sun safety.
- What does SPF mean?
SPF stands for “sun protection factor”; it’s important to note, however, that SPF is specifically related to UVB (burning rays) and doesn’t tell you anything about protection from UVA (aging rays). When you’re purchasing sunscreen, make sure the words “broad spectrum” are on the label; this indicates that it offers UVA protection.
- What level of SPF should you use?
Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen product that has an SPF of 30 or higher and that also provides broad-spectrum protection (guarding against UVA and UVB).
- How to apply sunscreen to your face
Applying sunscreen incorrectly really defeats the purpose. If you don’t put enough on, it won’t give you full SPF protection. There are two ways to make sure you put enough sunscreen on your face, neck and ears. You can measure out ¼ teaspoon and apply it, or you can try the user-friendly two-fingers method. For the latter, simply squeeze one line of sunscreen on your pointer finger and another on your middle finger and then rub it over your face, neck, and ears thoroughly.
Equally important is putting your sunscreen on in the right order of your skincare routine. It’s easy to remember because it should always be your last step of skincare, just before you apply makeup. Both physical and chemical sunscreens are formulated with protective ingredients and designed to be applied over moisturizer. Even if you have the best sunscreen moisturizer, adding a broad-spectrum SPF 30 on top is important to ensure protection from UVA rays.
- How to apply sunscreen to your body
You’ll need a lot more sunscreen than you probably think. The average adult needs a shot glass of sunscreen applied to their body for full protection. And if you’re planning on exposing a lot of skin because you’ll be wearing a swimsuit, the best way to make sure you get full coverage is to apply it before you get dressed.
- How often to reapply sunscreen
Whether you’re planning on going for a long walk or hanging out by the pool in direct sunlight, the reapplication rule remains the same: Apply sunscreen to exposed skin every two hours. If you’re wondering how to reapply sunscreen with makeup, there are a few things you can do. Powder sunscreens and setting sprays with SPF come in handy, both of which can be applied casually over makeup. However, if you are working out or just sweating off your sunscreen, there are easy ways to add more on the go: Try a tinted sunscreen or one made specifically to layer well over makeup, like a stick sunscreen.
BEST SUN PROTECTION PRODUCTS
Frequently Asked Questions
- How long does sunscreen last?
A sunscreen’s sun protection factor (SPF) is only fully effective for two hours after you put it on—or after 40 to 80 minutes of swimming or sweating and always reapplying immediately after towel drying. In terms of expiration, skincare products, in general, aren’t made to last forever—and this is especially true of your sun protection because formulations are complex. So, it’s best to check to make sure your product isn’t expired, because an expired sunscreen may be less effective.
- Can you still tan with sunscreen on?
The truth is, there’s no such thing as a safe tan. The increase in skin pigment, called melanin, is a sign of damage. It may still be possible for your skin to tan even when you’re wearing sunscreen with a high SPF, but no amount of deliberate tanning is considered safe.