illustration of hands holding up sunscreen

The Ultimate Guide to Proper Sunscreen Application: Dermatologist-Approved Tips and Techniques

Sunscreen Is Always A Good Idea

No matter what time of year it is, sunscreen is always a good idea. However, it is especially important during the summer months when the UV rays are stronger and we spend more time outdoors. 

For many individuals, applying sunscreen is an afterthought and they only put it on when they feel as though their skin is “burning.” However, rain or shine, burn or no burn, sunscreen is essential for protecting your largest organ—the skin—and preventing dangerous skin cancer. 

If you’re unsure of how to effectively apply sunscreen, we’re here to help. Read our guide on when to apply it, how much sunscreen you should wear, how often to reapply, and more. 

When To Apply Sunscreen

It’s always best to apply sunscreen before you go outside and into the sun’s harmful rays. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it takes around 15 to 30 minutes for sunscreen to sink in and protect your skin. 

If you head out too early and don’t apply sunscreen right away, you pose the risk of getting burnt and doing irreversible damage to your skin. 

How To Apply Sunscreen

To adequately protect your skin, you need to use enough sunscreen. Though this varies from person to person, the general recommendation is one ounce of sunscreen—enough to fill a shot glass—to cover your entire body. If you’re larger and taller, you may need a bit more for optimal coverage. 

For your face, we recommend about a teaspoon of sunscreen and avoid getting sunscreen into your eyes. 

Before applying, make sure to vigorously shake the sunscreen bottle to ensure the particles are properly mixed together. Then, apply thickly and thoroughly to the parts of your body that are exposed to the sun. 

Additionally, make sure it is rubbed in thoroughly and don’t miss applying the sunscreen to often forgotten areas like the neck, ears, feet, back of the knees, and hands. 

How Often To Reapply Sunscreen

Reapplying regularly throughout the day is key to staying optimally protected from harmful UV rays. In many cases, people who have been sunburned didn’t use enough sunscreen or did not reapply often enough to provide adequate coverage. 

If you’ve been swimming or strenuously exercising, reapply immediately afterwards. If you work outdoors, reapply every two hours or so and make sure to wear a wide-brimmed hat and protective clothing. 

How To Choose The Right Sunscreen

There are a few key characteristics to look for when choosing the right sunscreen for you. Here are our recommendations: 

  • 30 SPF or higher 
  • Water-resistant sunscreen 
  • Broad-spectrum coverage

Additionally, you have two sunscreen types to choose from: physical or chemical. Generally, physical sunscreens are better for those for sensitive skin, as the chemical ingredients in chemical sunscreens may cause irritation. 

However, physical sunscreens may give the skin a white cast, as they do not blend in as well as chemical sunscreens. 

Additionally, while both sunscreen types are often water-resistant, chemical sunscreens are typically more effective than physical sunscreens at staying on the skin in water. Nonetheless, both are exceptional options. Make sure to choose one you can wear comfortably on a daily basis.


Finding The Right Sunscreen For You

If you need help choosing the right sunscreen for your skin type, consult with a Westerville Dermatology provider. A member of our experienced team can recommend a sunscreen that is right for you!


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