Whether it’s summer or winter, sunny or cloudy, whether you’re fair-skinned or dark, you should know how to apply sunscreen to protect yourself and your family. This is especially true because sunscreen is something you should use each and every day that you’re exposed to the sun.
It’s not just a product for summer when you know you’re at a higher risk of sun damage. After all, your skin is your body’s largest organ, and sunscreen is your skin’s first defense against sunburn, premature aging, and most importantly skin cancer.
What’s the correct way to apply sunscreen?
Do you slap a thin layer of sunscreen on your arms and the front of your legs? In the past I was guilty of applying sunscreen in that haphazard way! Based on what I see at the beach, it seems that many of us don’t know how to apply sunscreen correctly. And this isn’t a trivial issue. It turns out that for sunscreen to provide its advertised SPF, we really need to slather it on properly.
In fact, experts say you should use about one ounce of sunscreen if most of your body is exposed to the sun (for example, a bikini at the beach). One ounce is about a shot glass full of sunscreen. I like to think of this as a small handful for the upper half of my body and a second handful for the lower half of my body.
When Should I Apply Sunscreen?
You might think that sunscreen is only necessary if you’re going to spend a day at the beach. This is definitely not true! Did you know that even when it’s cold or cloudy outside, your skin can still be damaged by the sun? The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that up to 40% of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays reach the earth even on a completely cloudy day! And it’s those UV rays that cause skin damage.
So whether you’re taking a hike in the fall, skiing in the winter, at the park with your kids in the spring, or by the pool in the summer, remember to use sunscreen year-round. Knowing when and how to apply sunscreen is a life-saver for your skin.
On days you need to use sunscreen it’s important to think ahead about when to apply sunscreen. You really need to apply it 15-30 minutes before you go outside (this is for chemical sunscreens, not physical). Don’t wait until you are already in the sun to apply sunscreen! Those extra 15-30 minutes give chemical sunscreens a chance to absorb into your skin before your skin is exposed to UV radiation. Letting your skin absorb the sunscreen also means you’ll be less likely to sweat it off if you’re doing something active and it’s hot.
How Often Should I Apply Sunscreen?
It’s important to keep in mind that sunscreen does not last all day. You definitely need to apply additional sunscreen after you go swimming, towel off, or even sweat a lot. In fact, experts recommend applying sunscreen every two hours even if you’re not swimming or sweating!
How often to apply sunscreen depends a bit on the type of sunscreen you are using. Sunscreen products labelled as water resistant hold on better through swimming and sweating, but should still be reapplied at least every 2 hours for the best protection.
And don’t forget that we’re talking about using a plentiful amount of this skin-saving product. Think about it: if you need an ounce to cover your body, and you need to reapply sunscreen every couple of hours, that means you should be using up at least half an 8-ounce bottle of sunscreen during a day outdoors in the summer!
Where Should I Apply Sunscreen?
You should apply sunscreen to every bit of your skin that is exposed to the sun’s rays. The American Academy of Dermatology reminds us where to apply sunscreen, including the tops of our feet, the back of our knees, and the tips of our ears.
If you have thinning hair, you should even use sunscreen to protect your scalp unless you plan to wear a hat. Make sure to protect your lips as well by using a lip balm with at least SPF 15 protection. Be careful applying sunscreen around your eyes because some all-over sunscreens can sting if they get into your eyes. I like to use a sunscreen made for the face on my face, ears, and neck, and a more general-purpose sunscreen for the rest of my body.
Now that you know how to apply your sunscreen, make sure you do so properly everytime you go out in the sun. The best sunscreen is the one you wear, but a poorly applied sunscreen isn’t much better than no sunscreen at all. So enjoy your time outdoors, and protect your one-and-only body covering from damage by properly using sunscreen!