How To Apply Sunscreen The Right Way

by beautifulwithbrains
how to apply sunscreen the right way

I used to roll my eyes when someone tried to tell me how to apply sunscreen.

Dude, how difficult can it be? Pour a small amount of cream on your hands, rub it all over your body, wait 20 minutes and go out in the sun. Job done.

Except, I still got a sunburn every now and then. WTH?

Worse, if I got a sunburn, did that mean I’d get wrinkles later, too? (Priorities, ladies!)

Turns out, it’s not enough to apply sunscreen. You have to apply it the RIGHT way too.

Yep, my old sunscreen technique was all wrong. Here’s how to apply sunscreen the right way, so you can make the most of it and keep those pesky sunburns and wrinkles as far away from you as possible:

Sunscreen Application Tip #1: Be Generous

I used to be a scrooge with sunscreen. I’d treat it like my moisturizer. Put on a pea-size amount and off in the sun I went.

That’s not nearly enough, my friend. Derms recommend you use an average ounce (30ml) to cover your entire body (adjust based on your height and weight – no judgments. It’s about safety, girl!).

For the face, you need 1/3 of a teaspoon. Don’t know how much that is? Check out Dr Sam Bunting’s 13 dot technique to visualise how much sunscreen you need and how to apply it:

P.S. The 13 dot technique starts at minute 3:36.

Related: How Much Sunscreen Do You Really Need To Apply?


How effective is your sunscreen? Sign up to the newsletter below to receive the “Sunscreen Audit” Worksheet and find out if your sunscreen is really up to the job:


Sunscreen Application Tip #2: Slather Sunscreen On Everywhere

As a rule, if an area of skin is exposed to the sun, apply sunscreen there.

That means your face, arms, legs and all those often-forgotten areas like ears, the back of knees, feet and nose. No exception. If the sun can reach it, it can damage it.

And don’t forget to use a lip balm or lipstick with SPF on the lips, too!

Related: What Are The Best Lip Balms With SPF?

Sunscreen Application Tip #3: Wait 20 Minutes Before Going Outside

Have you noticed everyone tells you to apply sunscreen 20 minutes before sun exposure but no one explains why?

Here’s the mystery solved: you need to give sunscreen time to dry down and form a film on the skin. If you go out before this shield is properly in place, UV rays all get through AND hurt your skin.

Be a little patience. It’s worth the wait.

Related: Do You Really Need To Apply Sunscreen 20 Minutes Before You Leave The House?

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Sunscreen Application Tip #4: Reapply Frequently

It’s not enough to know how to apply sunscreen the right way. You have to do it consistently too. One application a day is NOT enough.

UV filters may fight UV rays well, but they don’t come out of the battle unscathed. Every time they neutralise one UV ray, they lose a little of their effectiveness. Overtime, they become useless.

As a rule, the longer you stay in the sun, the quicker your sunscreen will stop working.

Then, there’s sweating. Swimming. Drying yourself with a towel. All things that brush the sunscreen off your body. If your sunscreen ain’t there anymore, it can’t protect you.

That’s why you have to reapply sunscreen frequently at the beach. That means every two hours or after every swim/sporting activity that makes you sweat. 

If it’s winter and you’re spending most of your time indoors, you can get away with reapplying your sunscreen less often. But, do reapply it. That’s NOT optional.

Related: How To Reapply Sunscreen When You’re Wearing Makeup

Now you know how to apply sunscreen the right way, do you have to change your technique or were you on point already? Let me know in the comments below.

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12 comments

HaNNa_HuLLaBaLoo June 4, 2009 - 4:07 pm

After reading this post, I’ve realized how WRONG I have been in terms of sunscreen application. One of the reasons why i dont really fancy applying sunscreen is due to its oily texture. I know it’s harmful to my skin, but I just havent found the right suncreen with affordable price. Plus I;m not comfortable with layering too many products onto my face.

Thanks Gio, your blog has been so informative. =) No wonder it’s called ‘beautiful with brain’. =)

Nikki June 5, 2009 - 4:57 am

I think I am not applying enough! thanks for the post!!! super helpful

Dao June 5, 2009 - 3:23 pm

An oz is about the size of a shot glass and if you apply enough, a bottle of sunscreen should last only around a week to 10 days. I obviously do not apply enough sunscreen as well.

beautifulwithbrains June 9, 2009 - 11:24 am

Hanna: thanks a lot hun! Finding the perfect sunscreen is hard. I prefer physical ones but they tend to leave a white cast on skin. But still, alwats better be protected. If you’re not comfortable with using a sunscreen on your face, you can try a moisturizer or foundation with SPF in it.

Nikki: you’re welcome!

Dao: I know, it’s a shame sunscreens don’t last long if you us enough, kinda puts you off a bit. It’s not good for our wallets, but our skin will thank us if we protect it well.

shruti January 24, 2011 - 9:26 pm

OMG, i never applied tht on ears.. :0 i guess i need to start doing that right away! or less my ears will age sooner than my face.. 😉 bt really nice n informative post. another mistake which i do is, i dnt reapply it at all. 🙁

beautifulwithbrains January 24, 2011 - 10:29 pm

Shruti, I’m glad you found this post useful. Ears are such an overlooked place to apply sunscreen. I always skipped that bit when I was younger lol but am more careful now. I don’t think reapplication is that necessary in winter (unless you live somewhere where it’s hot and sunny in winter too) butu in summer is a must. 🙂

shruti January 25, 2011 - 6:29 pm

yep, right. by the way, i made sure to apply it on my ears too while going to college. 😉

beautifulwithbrains January 25, 2011 - 8:03 pm

Shruti, that’s great. 😉

Tatiana January 3, 2020 - 5:51 am

Have you ever used Purito sunscreen? I love it so much that sometimes I doubt it’s really protecting my skin. Can’t wait to know your thoughts about it.

Gio January 17, 2020 - 3:30 pm

Tatiana, I haven’t tried it yet, but Asian sunscreens are usually really good. As long as you apply enough, I don’t see any reasons why it shouldn’t protect you well.

Michelle January 16, 2020 - 4:00 pm

For a regular morning routine, where I’m just going into the office and not spending time much outdoors, what order should I apply sunscreen versus makeup primer? Also, what do you think about Tatcha’s silken spf primer? Are there other products that double-task that you favor?

Gio January 17, 2020 - 3:37 pm

Michelle, apply sunscreen first. Wait 15 minutes for it to settle and then use primer.

I’m not a fan of primers with SPF. You need to use a lot of product to get the SPF on the bottle. Better use two separate products instead.

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