How To Use Sunscreen

By Natalie WrightLast update: 2024-06-22

Sunscreen is your skin's best friend when it comes to protection against the sun's harmful rays. It's a product that's essential year-round, whether you're enjoying a day at the beach, going for a hike, or simply stepping out for errands. However, using sunscreen effectively goes beyond just slathering it on. In this comprehensive guide, we'll unveil the secrets to using sunscreen correctly to shield your skin from the sun's potentially damaging effects.

Why Sunscreen is Crucial

Before we dive into the how-to of sunscreen application, let's first understand why sunscreen is so crucial:

  1. Skin Protection: Sunscreen forms a protective barrier on your skin that absorbs or reflects the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This helps prevent sunburn and long-term skin damage.

  2. Skin Cancer Prevention: Prolonged exposure to UV radiation increases the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form. Sunscreen can significantly reduce this risk.

  3. Anti-Aging: UV rays accelerate skin aging, leading to wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots. Using sunscreen daily can help keep your skin looking youthful.

  4. Hyperpigmentation Prevention: Sunscreen can prevent or reduce the appearance of dark spots and uneven skin tone caused by sun exposure.

How To Use Sunscreen

Now that we appreciate the importance of sunscreen, let's explore the steps to use it effectively:

1. Choose the Right Sunscreen

Not all sunscreens are created equal. Here's what to consider when selecting one:

  • SPF (Sun Protection Factor): Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF rating appropriate for your skin type and intended sun exposure. SPF 30 is a good starting point for daily use, while higher SPF levels are better for extended sun exposure.

  • Broad-Spectrum: Ensure the sunscreen provides broad-spectrum protection, meaning it shields against both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays cause sunburn, while UVA rays penetrate deeper and can lead to premature aging and skin cancer.

  • Water Resistance: If you'll be swimming or sweating, opt for a water-resistant formula. Keep in mind that no sunscreen is entirely waterproof, so reapplication is necessary after swimming or heavy sweating.

  • Skin Type: Consider your skin type and any specific concerns. There are sunscreens designed for sensitive skin, acne-prone skin, and those with added moisturizers or anti-aging ingredients.

2. Apply the Right Amount

One common mistake is using too little sunscreen. For adequate protection, follow these guidelines:

  • Use about a shot glass-sized amount (approximately one ounce) of sunscreen to cover your entire body when wearing a swimsuit.
  • For your face and neck, apply a nickel-sized amount.
  • Don't forget often-overlooked areas like your ears, the back of your neck, and the tops of your feet.

3. Apply Early and Generously

Timing matters when it comes to sunscreen application:

  • Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before sun exposure to allow it to absorb into your skin fully.
  • Reapply every two hours, or more frequently if swimming or sweating.
  • Don't skimp on reapplication. Use the same generous amount as your initial application.

4. Cover All Exposed Skin

It's crucial to cover every bit of exposed skin:

  • Pay special attention to areas like your face, neck, ears, shoulders, and the tops of your feet.
  • Apply sunscreen to less obvious areas, like the backs of your hands and your scalp if you have thin or no hair.
  • Consider wearing sun-protective clothing, including long sleeves, pants, and wide-brimmed hats, to reduce the amount of sunscreen needed.

5. Don't Forget Your Lips and Eyes

Your lips and the skin around your eyes are delicate and often overlooked. Use lip balm with SPF and sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays to protect these areas.

6. Be Mindful of Product Expiration

Check the expiration date on your sunscreen and discard it if it's expired. Expired sunscreen may not provide adequate protection.

7. Use Sunscreen Every Day

UV rays can harm your skin even on cloudy days. Make sunscreen a daily habit, even when it's overcast, as UV rays can penetrate cloud cover.

8. Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is crucial for overall skin health. Drinking plenty of water helps maintain your skin's natural protective barrier.

9. Seek Shade When Possible

While sunscreen is essential, seeking shade during peak sun hours (usually from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) is an excellent additional measure to protect your skin.

10. Perform Regular Skin Checks

Lastly, keep an eye on your skin. If you notice any new or changing moles, growths, or spots, consult a dermatologist promptly. Early detection is crucial in skin cancer prevention.


Sunscreen is a powerful tool in protecting your skin from the sun's harmful rays. By choosing the right sunscreen, applying it generously and correctly, and making it a part of your daily routine, you can enjoy the outdoors while safeguarding your skin's health and beauty. Remember, sun protection is a year-round commitment, so stay sun smart and cherish your skin.

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