How to Apply SPF Correctly

How to Apply SPF Correctly

There is nothing I love more than sitting outside on a hot day, socking up the sun. My vitamin D levels rise, my mood improves, and I get this gorgeous glow all thanks to the beloved sun. And we are no doubt coming up to lots of sunshine as we enter spring and then summer, finally saying goodbye to these dreaded winter days. But applying SPF is a necessity when sitting out in the sun for any length of time, even I know that! Now applying SPF is an important preventative step in your skincare routine for achieving different goals, whether that’s because you want to prevent a sunburn, skin cancer, or even wrinkles, or all three. So it’s important that you apply it correctly, ‘cause if not, then you’re bound to get burned (literally and figuratively). So what does that mean?

Step 1: Add to Cart

When shopping for an SPF pick the right one. You’ll want one that has UVA and UVB protection for the most comprehensive coverage. It’s those UVA rays that increase the risk of skin cancer, which no one wants. Meanwhile those UVB rays lead to those pesky burns that hurt, peel and look less than pretty.

You’ll also want one that is SPF 30 or more. Now, I always heard that the number correlates to the minutes you can be in direct sunlight before needing to reapply, but was shocked when a dermatologist told me that isn’t necessarily true. Indeed, it works but only slightly better apparently. So SPF 30 is like the standard and from there it should always be treated as 30, so that would follow that even if you went with a 50 or 55, then you should reapply as you would with SPF 30… after 30 minutes in direct sunlight. Why is all that? Apparently, SPF just absorbs and reflects rays to avoid burns and damage, and the likelihood of that can’t grow exponentially when you increase the number. Interesting, huh? But don’t worry, because if it doesn’t make sense you can always chat with a dermatologist and they’ll explain it.

Another tip my dermatologist once gave me was to always find an SPF that has zinc oxide or even titanium dioxide in the ingredients list. Yes, that’s what makes it white and pasty-looking, but apparently it matters so now I say bring it on.

Step 2: Read the Label

The label doesn’t only have the ingredients listed, but it also has instructions on applying the sunscreen. Now, I get this seems like a waste of time, but every product is different, so it’s good to know you’re following the instructions.

Step 3: Apply It

When you’re getting ready, knowing you’re going to be in the sun, it’s important that you apply your SPF about a half an hour before entering direct sunlight. That should give your skin enough time to absorb the sunscreen and do it’s job.

You also want to make sure you’re using enough. I’ve read plenty of beauty and medical articles and the amount usually varies and can be referred to any number of ways — a quarter size, golf ball size, shot glass amount. It’s downright confusing, but the best advice I’ve heard: apply 1 ounce to every body part, that way you’ll know it’s enough and can do its job. Confession: I’m usually just focused on my face, but in recent years I’ve upped the ante to include my neck (front and back), chest, ears, tops of my feet. It seems like a lot, I know, but for me, those are the parts I’ve found I want to protect most.

Step 4: Reapply It

SPF is not a miracle product, it doesn’t last all day like your long-wear lipstick. You’ll need to reapply it for it to do its job because under those strong rays from the sun it does melt, absorb and generally burn off the skin. So go back to all those things you did when first applying it and do it again after being in direct sunlight for a period of time.

Here’s where I get mixed advice: 30 minutes, 60, or 120. I’m not sure, so I just go with what feels right in the moment. Usually for me that’s about an hour in, if I even last that long without needing a cold shower to bring down my body temp. Also, this may vary based on what you’re doing — swimming, baking or whatnot — and of course whether it’s a spray or cream. Hint: sprays come off more easily, making the need to reapply come faster.

And with these 4 steps to correctly apply SPF, you’ll be on your way. But remember, it’s not a miracle as I said before, so you might want to remember other things that will protect you from the sun. Ideas: a wide rim hat, darling, the latest designer sunglasses (with UV protection), darker shades of clothes.

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