We all know using sunscreen is absolutely essential if you want to maintain youthful looking skin for as long as possible.
But did you know you’re probably not using it the right way? Most people aren’t even aware of it and unknowingly suffer the consequences years down the line.
We’re talking about visible signs of aging like saggy skin, wrinkles, fine lines, crow’s feet around the eyes, brown pigmented spots, and if worse comes to worse even skin cancer such as melanoma.
The problem is that even if you use sunscreen everyday if you’re not using it correctly you reduce the product’s ability to block the sun’s rays no matter how good of a product it is.
So to make sure your skin stays young and healthy for a long time to come, follow these must-do sunscreen tips.
The Importance of Layering Your Sunscreen
The first thing, and arguably the most important, is understanding in which order to include sunscreen within your skincare routine.
You might be confused for example, if it’s best to apply your sunscreen before or after your moisturizer or it it’s okay to do your makeup over your sunscreen.
Typically you want it to be the LAST step in your AM daytime routine. This means it should go over your moisturizer.
A simple routine might look like this:
Note: Retinoids and BHA exfoliants such as glycolic acid increase the photosensitivity of your skin meaning they make it more vulnerable to UV damage. Make sure you use sunscreen!
Ideally you wait 5-10 min. or until your moisturizer has completely been absorbed by your skin before applying it. The reason for this is that you don’t want any other products interfering with the active ingredients which can then compromise the protective layer sun block creates over your skin.
Furthermore, sunscreens are usually tested with nothing over them. That’s how they get their SPF rating. If you apply another product over the sunscreen you might dilute its effectiveness. So instead of SPF 30 you might only be getting SPF 15.
As long as it’s layered as the outermost product it isn’t necessary to always apply it on bare skin.
The exception is if you’re wearing makeup. You can mess up your makeup by adding sunscreen on top of it. So how do you get around it?
Wearing Makeup With Sunscreen
First, you should wait until those sun protecting ingredients get a chance to really sink into your skin. This will make your makeup application much easier. It might take a while but it varies from product to product. Wait at minimum 10 minutes if you can.
When your skin is ready you can then do your foundation. Use smooth motions so as not to rub off any product. You can then finish off with a powder which will also reduce any shine leftover and give you a matte finish while keeping the rest of your makeup in place.
It would be best if your foundation, creams, powders, and/or tinted moisturizer also contained some SPF protection on their own but don’t exclusively rely on them.
Remember that makeup can come off easily and it’s not always applied evenly which can leave exposed areas on your face. If you’re relying on those loose powders with added SPF protection to guard you from UV rays you’re going to need a lot of powder. It’s just not practical. They’re a nice bonus and can be used to touch-up when you reapply later in the day but always use a real sunscreen underneath.
When To Apply
If you’re using a chemical sunscreen and not those that exclusively use physical blockers like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as their primary ingredients (known as mineral or physical sunscreens) you must apply it before going outdoors.
It can take up to 30 minutes for the UV filters in chemical sunscreens to soak in properly. If you wait until you’re outside to apply it you could burn and have decreased protection those first 15-30 minutes. For the same reason, if you’re at the beach don’t jump into the water right away. It will wash off even if it says “water-resistant” which keep in mind is not the same as “waterproof”.
With physical sunscreens you don’t need to wait. These stay on the surface of your skin because the molecules are too large to sink into your pores. That’s why they leave a heavier white finish behind and often work better.
How Much To Use
People always say to apply a “generous” or “liberal” amount. But how much is that considered?
For your body, one palmful should be enough for most adults. Really you just want enough to be able to spread a thin and even layer over any parts of your skin that will be exposed to sunlight. This comes out to about 1 or 2 oz.
For your face, a teaspoon or about the size of a nickel in your palm. In general, the thicker your sun cream the less of it you need but don’t be afraid of applying too much. Most people apply too little and it’s not going to hurt if you have a little extra on.
Massage it thoroughly until the white disappears into your skin. You can also try patting it on instead of rubbing to reduce the chances of irritation. Patting also makes it harder for it to rub off if you’re wearing a physical sunscreen as they often tend to do.
If you’re using a spray apply an even coating moving your hand back and forth over the area but avoid using sprays on your face. Instead use a facial sunscreen or lotion with SPF and apply it directly onto the skin instead of rubbing it between your palms first to help it absorb quicker.
Easy To Forget Areas
These places get sunburned because people often forget to cover them.
- The neck including the nape (often shows the first signs of aging!)
- The hands (no one wants wrinkly hands when they’re older)
- The tops of your feet.
- Your scalp if you have thinning (hats come in handy).
- The ears and lips.
- The nose!
We all know getting it on your back can be a hassle so ask someone for help or use a spray sunscreen to get those hard to reach areas. Lip balm works nicely for your lips and is better than traditional sunscreens in this case because the skin is more sensitive and you don’t want to accidentally ingest their ingredients.
Wear It Daily
You wake up one winter morning, look outside, and see a gray cloudy sky. Looks like you won’t be needing sunscreen today, right?
While it’s true the UV rays from the sun won’t penetrate as much as on a hot summer day in the middle of July, they’re still there and over time your accumulated UV exposure will cause your skin to age prematurely.
Even sitting next to a window at work can cause damage. While you won’t be getting sunburned, if the UVA rays which are responsible for aging your skin faster are hitting its surface guess what? You’re going to need sunscreen to prevent that from happening.
(We know, we know this is for the ultra paranoid but seriously wearing sunscreen everyday at least on your face will do wonders and you’ll thank yourself 10 years from now).
Don’t Forget To Reapply
Did you know most sunscreen ingredients actually become unstable when exposed to sunlight? This means the longer they’re exposed to UV radiation the less they work.
Note that it’s not time that degrades the ingredients but sunlight. So if you apply it in the morning and are indoors all day you should still be fine in the afternoon.
That may seem counterintuitive but it’s one of the reasons why you need to be reapplying your sunscreen every 90 minutes or so if you’re outside. At most you should wait 2 hours but doing it more often will obviously be more beneficial. Especially if you sweat a lot or will be swimming in the water.
If you’re using paper blotters to soak up excess oil throughout the day it’s also a good idea to reapply because these can also strip off the sunscreen. If you’re reapplying over makeup those mineral powders we mentioned before with SPF protection come in handy here since it can be a hassle. It really depends on your skin and how naturally oily it is.
Check The Expiration
Most sunscreens have an expiration date and if you use them after the product has expired it’s not going to work anywhere near as well if at all.
If for whatever reason the bottle doesn’t have a date make yourself a note when you buy it. They usually last for about 2-3 years before having to replace them.
Look for changes in color, consistency, and separation because these are all signs you need to ditch the product for a new one.
We can’t stress enough how critical it is for everyone to use sunscreen everyday. Few things will help your skin remain youthful looking better than properly guarding your skin from UVA and UVB radiation.
Unless you’re using a moisturizer with SPF 30+ protection, you want a real sunscreen to layer over the rest of your products with the exception of makeup. Use it daily, use enough, reapply as needed, and don’t forget to cover those easy to forget areas if you’ll be spending a long time outdoors.
During your PM routine before bed remember to wash off your sunscreen with an oil based cleanser because water won’t work as well. You want a blank slate for the next day.
It’s really that simple. Even if you’re trying to get tanned, do yourself a favor and put on some sun block. It’s debatable whether tanning even makes you look better in the first place…
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