We can spend hours looking for the right sunscreen that won’t feel too greasy or leave a white cast on our skin. We read the labels carefully to make sure it provides broad-spectrum protection. And, often, in the summer, we opt for products with high SPF numbers that promise to keep our skin protected for hours.
But it doesn’t matter how good the sunscreen we bought is if you we don’t apply it properly. If you think you can just pour out a bit of product, slather it on your face, and go about your day without reapplying it, think again. Sunscreen application has its own rules and, if you break them, you’re seriously reducing the effectiveness of your SPF.
Here are a few tips to avoid that:
1. Apply sunscreen first, get dressed later
Sunscreens should be applied at least 20 minutes before going out. So, why not apply it right after your shower? By applying sunscreen while naked, you won’t miss any spots, not even those hard-to-reach-and-easy-to-forget-about ones such as your feet and the back of your neck. We also tend to apply less sunscreen on the areas around sleeves etc for fear of staining our clothes. By applying sunscreen before getting dressed, your clothes won’t hinder you.
2. The proper order
Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide create a shield on the skin that reflects sun rays away from it. These can be applied at anytime. All other sunscreen agents, such as Avobenzone and Octocrylene, for instance, need to bind with the skin in order to provide sun protection. Therefore, they should be applied first, before moisturizer and makeup.
3. Apply the proper amount
I know, I know. A lot of sunscreens are pasty, thick, and leave a white residue behind. But that’s not an excuse to apply a thin layer and expect it to protect you for hours. In fact, that won’t offer much protection at all. Instead, shop around until you find a sunscreen that fits all your requirements and apply the proper amount. That’s a shot glass for the whole body and a 1/2 of teaspoon for the face and neck. If you use a zinc oxide-based sunscreen, you can use a bit less. But in no case a thin layer is enough. Ever.
4. Follow instructions
Let’s face it. Often, the directions printed on the back of beauty products are odd and absurd. Use the shampoo only with its matching conditioner? Apply the cream with a weird massaging technique that’s supposes to help the ingredients penetrate better into the skin? Usually, this stuff is there to make you think these products do something their competition doesn’t and nothing more. But, other times, the instructions are actually very helpful and should be followed to a T. Otherwise, you’ll just compromisethe effectiveness of the products. That’s the case with sunscreen. Always apply the recommended amount printed on the label, and reapply every couple of hours, and always after swimming, sweating, and towel-drying.
5. Don’t rub it in!
If you’re vigorously rubbing sunscreen into your skin, stop! A 2006 study has shown that sunscreen works better when it is applied as a thin film than when it is rubbed into the skin. Now, thin film doesn’t mean that you can apply less than the recommended amount. That is NEVER a good idea. Instead, it means that after you’ve covered all areas, you should feel a thin film on the skin.
6. Don’t dilute it!
Some people like to mix their sunscreen with their moisturizer to create a 2 in 1 product that does it all. In reality, rather than protecting your skin, you are damaging it. By mixing the two together, you’re diluting your sunscreen. That means that you’ll have to apply more to have the level of protection stated on the bottle! And no one does that. Not to mention that your moisturizer may contain some ingredients that can compromise the effectiveness of the sunscreen. So, just use two separate products. Better be safe than sorry.
7. Don’t use sunscreen with insect repellant
Mosquitoes must be, by far, the worst thing about summer. But covering yourself in insect repellant while at the beach (or whenever you’re wearing sunscreen for that matter) is not a good idea. A 2000 study has shown that, while the effectiveness of the insect repellant isn’t diminished when used with sunscreen, the active ingredient used in insect repellant, N,N -diethyl-3-methylbenzamide (diethyltoluamide; deet), can reduce by 33.3% the effectiveness of sunscreen. This happens even if you layer the products one after the other. Therefore, use them together only if absolutely necessary.
Are you inadvertently reducing the effectiveness of your sunscreen?