How to Apply Sunscreen the Right Way

Sun, How To

How to Apply Sunscreen the Right Way

by Jana K. Hoffman
June 30, 2022

Picture this: You’re lying on a warm, sandy beach along the coast of Sayulita, Mexico. The sun is shining. It’s hot. Like, really hot. You go for a much-needed swim in the crystal-clear aquamarine ocean to cool off. Bliss!

Wait. Sorry to interrupt your daydream, but we need to talk about something very important. Sunscreen. Wearing SPF, and wearing it the right way, is the most important part of a beach vacay (other than picking out a cute swimsuit).

The right way looks a little something like this: First, you should apply sunscreen about 15 minutes before you go outside. If you’re using a sunscreen lotion formula, you’ll need a golf-ball-sized amount, which is about 1 ounce, to cover your whole body. Slather it on and rub it in until you don’t see any more lotion left. Don’t forget your neck, ears and the tops of your hands and feet. The neck is one very visible area that can show signs of premature aging first. Ears, hands and feet sadly don’t get enough attention but are definitely prone to sunburn.

For your face, we recommend using a face sunscreen formula for your skin type and applying about a nickel-sized amount every day — even when it’s cloudy. Try layering your sunscreen on top of your face moisturizer or using it instead of your moisturizer depending on the formula. Some makeup-friendly sunscreens come in mist or spray form. If you use one of those, you can spray it on top of your makeup to set your look. Protect lips with a sunscreen lip balm and reapply regularly.

Speaking of reapplying. Sunscreen doesn’t last forever, especially when you’re sweating and swimming. That means you need to treat yourself to more sunscreen. When? Every 2 hours. If you’re wearing a water resistant sunscreen, you should reapply every 40-80 minutes. Definitely reapply sunscreen immediately after you take a refreshing dip in the pool or catch some waves on your surfboard — or any other water activity for that matter.

Need some help getting those hard-to-reach spots like your back? Ask a friend! (Psst… Or use our super-easy spray sunscreen with a built-in handle. The sunscreen-on-your-back struggle is real so we fixed it.)



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OK, so let’s talk about the wrong way to apply sunscreen. Shockingly, we’ve seen a lot of people screw this up so hear us out. Spray sunscreens are one of the most misused products. Why? Because people who use them often don’t cover their bodies with enough product. So, go ahead and hold the nozzle close to your skin and spray it on until you glisten like a diamond. Another way to apply spray sunscreen is to spray it on your hands first and then cover your body with it.

If you prefer a stick sunscreen, apply about four swipes back and forth on each part of your body. Then, you know what we’re going to say here, rub it in for even coverage.

Now that you know exactly how to properly apply sunscreen, we’ll let you get back to your regularly scheduled daydream about vacations in Mexico.



  1. https://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/sunscreen-are-you-really-covered#1
  2. https://www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer/learn-about-skin-cancer/prevent/how-to-apply-sunscreen
  3. https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care/sunscreen-faqs
  4. https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/skin-care/sunscreen/how-to-use-stick-and-spray-sunscreens

I’m a writer, rescue dog owner, tattoo collector and traveler who shamelessly has an 8-step skincare routine.

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