Have you ever applied sunscreen only to notice a bright red burn a couple hours later? Us, too. While applying sunscreen is supposed to prevent our skin from burning, there are a few rules to sunscreen application that must be followed to ensure proper skin protection. To figure out just how to apply sunscreen and eliminate those aforementioned burns, we asked a couple dermatologists for their expertise on the matter.
While the act of applying sunscreen may sound easy, it is a bit more complicated than one might think. According to Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, MD, board-certified NYC dermatologist and clinical instructor at Mount Sinai, the majority of people who wear sunscreen are applying it incorrectly, with most people using only 25% to 50% the recommended amount of lotion. Not sure what the correct amount of sunscreen is? Don’t worry—we’ve compiled everything you need to know about sunscreen application below. For the lowdown on how to apply sunscreen according to dermatologists, keep on reading.
What SPF Should We Use?
Dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD, recommends wearing SPF 50+ year-round, as she says this will protect from summer's harsh UV rays as well as incidental sun exposure that can happen in the winter months.
Should We Apply Sunscreen Before or After Going Outdoors?
To allow the ingredients to fully bind to the skin, Engelman recommends applying sunscreen to dry skin 30 minutes before going outdoors.
How Much Sunscreen Should Be Applied?
According to Levin, most people aren't using enough sunscreen to properly protect their skin from the sun's harsh rays. So just how much sunscreen should we be using? Levin recommends applying one shot glass full of sunscreen to the entire adult body and one tablespoon of lotion to the face and neck.
How Should We Apply Sunscreen?
All forms of sunscreen, whether a cream, lotion, or spray, need to be rubbed into the skin, says Levin. And while spray-on sunscreens might be a convenient form of sun protection, Levin says it is of the utmost importance that you spray enough of the lotion on to the skin so that you can properly rub it in.
When Should We Reapply Sunscreen?
Sunscreen is typically effective for up to two hours and should be reapplied as such, say both Engelman and Levin. However, if you have recently gone swimming or are experiencing excessive sweating, Engelman recommends reapplying said sunscreen sooner, even if your formula claims to be water-resistant and sweatproof.
Now that you know how to properly use sunscreen, scroll down to shop our favorite skin-protecting formulas.
Created with antioxidants including Idebenone, which Engelman says protects the skin from free radicals, Elizabeth Arden's sunscreen protects from both the sun and pollutants. Bonus: This formula has a universal tint that Engelman says blends flawlessly into all skin tones.
Levin says her go-to body sunscreen is this fast-absorbing lotion from La Roche-Posay. Ranked as the number one sunscreen by Consumer Reports Study this year, Levin says this broad-spectrum sunscreen is a must-try.
Both Engelman and Levin recommend Isdin's sunscreen, which is formulated with 11% zinc oxide. And while zinc oxide tends to be thick and chalky, Engelman insists that this lotion is anything but. She says, "This ultra-light emulsion is easily spreadable and instantly absorbs into the skin."
"I love Elta MD sunscreens because they're lightweight, well formulated, and at a fair price point," says Levin. Her favorite sunscreen from the brand, UV Elements, as it has a host of hydrating ingredients as well as 10% micronized zinc oxide for sun protection.
Cover FX's invisible chemical sunscreen goes on clear, says Engelman. Because the formula is lightweight and easy to use, she recommends carrying it throughout the day for SPF touch-ups as needed.
Next up: how to reverse sun damage.