6 Common Sunscreen Misconceptions

by Gio
six sunscreen myths debunked

I’m not going to tell you to use sunscreen every day. I know you know it.

But, are you doing it right? I often hear my friends proudly say they only applied a thin layer or mixed their sunscreen with lotion. It makes me want to scream.

They have no idea, but they’ve just made their sunscreen useless. Sunscreen is a serious business with its own rules. Break them at your peril.

But what if you break them without knowing it? After all, so much of the common sunscreen advice is wrong.

Time to bust some myths, me think. Here are some common misconceptions about sunscreen set right:

1. Is it ok to apply only half the recommended amount of sunscreen?

No. No. No. No. No.

I know, 1/4 teaspoon of sunscreen (the recommended amount for the face only) is a lot. But, if you apply less, you’ll cut down your sun protection by a lot.

How much? Dr. Darrell S. Rigel, a clinical professor of dermatology at New York University, puts it like this: “if you apply half the amount, you get the protection of only the square root of the SPF“.

Translation: apply half the recommended amount of SPF 70 and you get only SPF 8.4!

That’s way less than SPF 15, the minimum recommended by derms. Pile on that teaspoon, ladies!

2. Can I mix sunscreen with a lotion?

Nope (Ok, I’m starting to annoy myself with all these no nos, but hear me out).

I get it. Some sunscreens are greasier than a frying pan. Others make you look like Caspar The Ghost, which isn’t the best of looks even at Halloween…

Mixing sunscreen with your moisturizer seems like the perfect solution. But, there’s a huge problem with this.

It dilutes your sunscreen. If, for example, you mix a SPF 25 sunscreen with a moisturizer, you can end up with SPF 10… or lower. There’s no way to know for sure.

That’s dangerous. Cos you’re thinking you’re so well protected and next thing you know, you’ve got a sunburn. And why are those wrinkles creeping up on your face so soon?

Don’t do it.

Related: Why You Shouldn’t Mix Sunscreen With Lotion

3. Can I use only sunscreen and skip the moisturizer?

It depends (see, I don’t say no all the time. 🙂 ).

If you have dry skin, I don’t recommend it. Your skin is thirsty for moisture and it’s unlikely any sunscreen will satisfy it.

You have more luck with this if you have oily skin. If your skin produces enough moisturizing oil (a.k.a. sebum) on its own, you can get away with skipping the moisturizer and putting on only the sunscreen.

How do you know the sunscreen’s enough? Listen to your skin. If you’ve skipped the moisturizer and your skin starts to feel tight and uncomfortable, you know you need to put it back into your skincare routine.

Shop My Fave Sunscreens

4. If I use cosmetics with SPF can I skip the sunscreen?

Ok, I’m going back to being an annoying headmistress and tell you, no way.

Cosmetics with SPF don’t offer adequate protection. Think about it: you need to apply 1/4 of a teaspoon of sunscreen to get the level of SPF stated on the bottle.

It’s the same for moisturizers, foundations, powders etc. You need to pile on at least 7 layers of foundation and 14 of powder to get the stated SPF. Who does that?!

You can try, but after the second layer, the powder’s gonna look cakey. Do your skin a favour and use a separate sunscreen.

Related: Do Cosmetics With SPF Provide Adequate Sun Protection?

5. Can I use my child’s sunscreen?

Yes, you totally can.

You’d think that sunscreens for kids are gentler but the truth is, they use the same ingredients as sunscreens for adults!

Sunscreens for kids and adults are the same, but companies try to convince us they are different to make us buy the same product twice. It’s just another marketing technique.

Dr. Neal Schultz, a cosmetic/medical dermatologist in NYC confirms it: “To my knowledge there is no difference between sunscreens made for children and sunscreens made for adults and conversely children can use adult sunscreen.”

P.S. If you’re looking for a gentle sunscreen that can be used on babies, too, check out my fave picks here.

Related: Why It’s Totally Ok To Use Your Child’s Sunscreen

6. Can I make my own sunscreen at home?

That’s a very bad idea.

Sunscreen is a very delicate thing. You can’t just find a recipe online, buy a few ingredients and become a sunscreen pro.

You need to understand what UV filters work well together, at what concentrations they are most effective, put the right preservative system in place… and a gazillion other things. Make a mistake and you’ve compromised its effectiveness.

But, let’s say that you go ahead and make one anyway. How the heck are you going to test if it really works? By slathering it all over your skin and not getting burned?

That can simply mean you didn’t spend enough time outdoors to get a sunburn. But, it can’t tell you if you’re protected by UVA rays and the wrinkles they cause.

Bottom line: without adequate testing, you can’t tell the level of SPF your sunscreen has. If you don’t know that, how can you protect your skin safely?

Make all the DIY moisturizers and masks your heart desires. But when it comes to sunscreen, leave it to the experts.

Did you fall for any of these myths? Let me know in the comments (don’t be shy – we all did!).

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Dao June 1, 2010 - 8:03 pm

Love your new layout, Gio! It looks so sleek!

Sunscreen is a complicated business and should not be made at home. I know that we can buy titanium dioxide and zinc oxide but the percentage is kinda hard to gauge.
.-= Dao´s last blog ..Good Find: Rimmel London Lasting Finish Pro Nail Polish in Steel Grey =-.

beautifulwithbrains June 1, 2010 - 8:52 pm

Dao, thank you, I’m glad you like it.

And I agree with you about not making sunscreens at home. Sure, you can buy the ingredients and mix them, but unless you’re a cosmetic scientist or expert in the field, we don’t know the amount of ingredients we have to use, what other ingredients we shouldn’t put in the mix that would interfere with the sunscreen agents or how to make the formula easier to apply.

Singithi Liyanage March 25, 2018 - 11:22 pm

I was wondering if it was ok to mix the sunscreen with a few drops of my foundation? I use my serum and moisturising lotions as separate preceding steps and then finish with Heliocare oil-free gel spf 50 and a Clinique foundation.i just find its gives me a nice sheer finish to my skin that’s easy and quick to apply! But I’ll stop if this is wrong!!

Gio March 31, 2018 - 8:10 am

Singithi, I’m afraid it is wrong. When you mix your sunscreen with anything, you’re diluting it and with it the level of protection it provides. Use it separately!

xin June 2, 2010 - 5:45 am

a good reminder article for those who might have forgotten some facts about sunscreen 😀

beautifulwithbrains June 2, 2010 - 10:41 am

Xin, thanks. I thought now that summer’s approaching fast it’d be nice to remind people some facts about sunscreens and how best to use them. 🙂

Vonvon June 3, 2010 - 5:14 am

I have found a sunscreen which is moisturizing on its own without the need for moisturizer, and it’s the new Kiehl’s Dermatologist Solutions Ultra light Daily UV Defense SPF 50/PA+++.

Been wanting to review this, but just couldn’t find the time…. one minus for this sunscreen is, it’s expensive. 🙁
.-= Vonvon´s last blog ..Photos: Hauls & Pressies; And A Little Update On Myself =-.

beautifulwithbrains June 3, 2010 - 9:34 am

Vonvon, sounds great! Can’t wait for your review. It’s a shame it’s expensive but broad-spectrum sunscreens are one of the very few items I don’t mind splurging on since they protect my skin from so much damage. 🙂

Rachel June 3, 2010 - 7:50 am

Thank you for this informative post. I learn something new everytime I visit your blog. 🙂

beautifulwithbrains June 3, 2010 - 9:34 am

Rachel, aww thank you. I’m glad you find my blog useful and hope to see you around a lot. 🙂

Marion August 27, 2011 - 11:52 am

That teaspoonful of sunscreen – does that cover the face, neck and chest areas or is it a teaspoonful for each of these areas…………. and should I pat the sunscreen around my eyes?

Kindest Regards


beautifulwithbrains August 28, 2011 - 7:51 pm

Marion, a teaspoon just for the face. I apply sunscreen around my eyes but not on the lid as I don’t think sunscreen is necessary there. Hope this helps.


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