Repeat after me: I will slather myself in sunscreen before heading outside.
Good. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here are a few other things you should commit to memory when it comes to applying sunscreen.
Putting on sunscreen needs to be a daily habit, and not just in the summer.
There’s been a lot written recently about the need to apply sunscreen even when you’re planning to spend most of the day inside because, well, many of us have been spending most of our days inside. Yes, there is evidence that you can be exposed to ultraviolet light simply by sitting next to a window. UVB is blocked by glass, but UVA is not.
But more of a reason to include sunscreen in your morning grooming routine is that we tend to underestimate the amount of time we actually spend outside. Even just running a couple of errands, that incidental sun damage can add up, particularly during the summer. So, apply it early in the day, and then you don’t have to think about it later.
And, on those days when you’re not expecting to be outside for long periods at a time, you don’t need to get it all over like you would if you were headed to the beach. Focus on the areas that are going to get the most exposure: your face, ears, neck, and hands. Your clothes—yes, your clothes—will sufficiently protect everything else.
If you’re going to be outside for a while, reapply every couple of hours.
I imagine you’ve heard this advice before. It’s worth stating again because not many do it. Your sunscreen’s going to start to become less effective after a couple of hours, and that process only speeds up when you’re sweating and swimming—even if the bottle says “sport” or “waterproof.” Both of those terms, by the way, are pure marketing. “Water-resistant” is the only one regulated by the FDA.
Just so we’re on the same page, let’s jump back to square one for a moment. Find a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Feel free to go even higher, but there’s not a whole of difference in the amount of protection provided by a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 and another with a higher SPF. SPF 30 is clinically proven to provide sufficient protection, no matter your skin tone.
If you want to go a step further, seek out a mineral sunscreen. They’re better suited for those with sensitive skin (and everyone else, really) because they contain natural ingredients, like zinc and titanium.
As for how much you should be putting on, aim for a thin layer on both your face and body. That equates to a dime-size dollop for the face and a shot glass’s worth for the body. There’s no harm in using more, but you run the risk of diluting the SPF value if you use less.
Finally, don’t forget your lips.
They’re the most neglected body part, even among those who consistently wear sunscreen. But skin cancer in this area can be particularly dangerous. So, find a lip balm with an SPF of 30 and use it daily when applying sunscreen.