Everyone knows that wearing sunscreen is important, but often they don’t know how much sunscreen to apply and how often. Although I have regretfully had my wild days under the sun with tanning oils and tanning booths, I have been an avid sunscreen user since my early 20’s. Still, even after being warned of the dangers of UV exposure, I haven’t always used SPF correctly. I am going to venture out and say that a lot of you reading this might not be wearing your sunscreen the right way either and there for could be getting some unnecessary sun damage.
Since May is skin cancer awareness month, I thought it would be appropriate to break down some sunscreen facts and answer questions about the best ways to protect your skin. Read along to see if you are wearing your sunscreen the right way!
How much sunscreen should you be wearing? Ever since I got serious about my skincare routine, protecting my skin from damaging UV rays was at the top of the list. Wearing sunscreen daily is incredibly important to protect your largest organ, the skin, from getting premature fine lines, wrinkles, brown spots, and most importantly, skin cancer. But while you might find yourself applying your sunscreen first thing in the morning, there is a good chance you aren’t using nearly the right amount.
In general, the rule is that you should be using a shot glass size, 1 oz, or 2 tbs of sunscreen on your entire body from head to toe for the average size person. If you are smaller in size (I am 5’1), then you can adjust the amount to a little less. But, in general, to get the full SPF rating, you need to apply sunscreen liberally, and evenly over every inch of exposed skin.
If just your face, neck, and chest are exposed, use nickel to quarter size amount for each area. Again, your goal is to make sure that you have sufficiently covered every square inch of your exposed skin. Since these areas of your body typically see the sun most, they are also the quickest to age.
Is applying my sunscreen once a day good enough? I wish I could tell you that sunscreen was a one and done kind of thing. But, to maintain the full SPF coverage, you need to apply it every two hours to dry skin about 20 minutes prior to being in the sun. If you are going to swim, sweat, or ball your eyes out at a wedding and are wearing waterproof or water-resistant SPF, you will still need to reapply. The FDA says that if a sunscreen say’s “waterproof” it will last on the skin for 80 minutes with exposure to water; if it says “water-resistant”, it will only last 40 minutes.
What about re-applying if I have makeup on? I am not going to lie, this re-apply your sunscreen business can be super annoying when you are wearing makeup. But, regardless of the hassle, it must be done. What I do to re-apply my sunscreen and attempt to not mess up my makeup is to press it into my skin and not rub it around. I also find that using a spray on SPF works well for re-applying my sunscreen over makeup. Found Here
With that said, there is controversy over using a spray SPF directly on the face because of the possibilities of inhaling the fumes. For myself, I hold my breath and spray. But if you don’t feel comfortable with that, using the press on method works just as well.
What sunscreen should I use? According to the melanoma foundation, “an SPF of 15 absorbs 93% of UV Rays while an SPF of 34 absorbs 97%.” This tells me that we should all be wearing a minimum of 15, but if you easily burn, a 30 to 50 is your best bet. You also want to make sure that your sunscreen says broad spectrum so that it protects you against UVA and UVB Rays.
It’s very important to understand why you need to protect against UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are what cause pre-mature aging like fine lines and wrinkles. It’s also known to damage the basil layer of the epidermis where the beginning stages of skin cancer occur. UVB rays are the culprit for sunburns as well as brown pigmentation and the development of skin cancer.
When you are out looking for a sunscreen, there are two different types: physical and chemical. There are a lot of people that are sensitive to chemical sunscreens, but they are more appealing on the skin because they are less noticeable. Usually, these are made with ingredients like Octylcrylene or Helioplex that absorb the UV rays. Physical sunscreens are made with Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, which deflect the sun rays but are pretty noticeable on the skin.
- Chemical sunscreen: Murad Essential-C Day Moisturizer SPF 30 Found Here
- Chemical sunscreen: MelonSol 100% natural sunscreen SPF 30 (Similar) Found Here
There is sunscreen in my makeup, so I am good, right? Not necessarily. Although I am will be the first to advocate getting a makeup that already has sunscreen in it, it’s highly unlikely that you are using the correct amount to be able to get full UV protection. As I said, you need a quarter size of SPF for your face. Unless you are using a tinted moisturizer, a quarter size of foundation is way too much; especially if that foundation is full coverage.
Instead, apply your SPF of 15 or higher and then gently sponge on your foundation with a beauty blender. You could also DIY your own tinted moisturizer by adding a few drops of your favorite foundation to the quarter size of SPF you will be applying to your face.
But it’s cloudy outside! Just because it’s cloudy outside doesn’t mean you can skip the sunscreen. UV rays can bounce of the corner of clouds and actually intensify your UV exposure. Also, if it’s a cloudy (or sunny) day and you are near water, snow, or sand, your UV exposure will increase by 50% due to reflection.
I look and feel healthier when I go tanning! Can I take a moment to jump on my soapbox? I cringe when I hear people talking about sunbathing to get tan or tanning in a booth because it makes them just feel happy and healthy. If you are worried about your Vitamin D in-take, there is a vitamin for that. If you want to look tan, use a fake tanner.
Tanning just for tanning is a dangerous decision. If you end up with skin cancer, there is no vitamin for that and getting melanoma burned off your skin doesn’t look fun either. Have you seen the picture of Tawny Willoughby, the girl who shows her picture after having a skin cancer treatment? It looks awful.
The moral of the SPF story…
In the end, don’t be stupid and not where SPF! Make sure to follow the rules of how much sunscreen to apply and how often every-single-day. While I would think that the motivation for potentially preventing skin cancer would be enough, the anti-aging benefits of using a sunscreen is essential in your skincare routine. So, my beauty loving friend’s, make sure to use your sunscreen daily, re-apply every few hours, apply the correct amount, and wear a cute hat with sunnies.
Have a great day!