Face it: Part of becoming an adult is realizing how naive you were when you were younger. What seems unimportant at 18 starts to seem very important to you at 30. For example, saving money or staying hydrated.
Here we must include the importance of sun protection. While most people know how important applying cream is to preventing skin damage and especially skin cancer, it’s tempting to skip the hassle of applying cream when you’re young and feeling unstoppable. But even as adults it is very easy to forget another important detail about sunscreen creams: you have to apply it several times throughout the day.
Applying and reapplying sunscreen throughout the day is essential to get the best possible protection, especially in places with a lot of sun exposure. And even if you reapply the cream regularly, there are some things you could be doing wrong because you don’t understand the process.
When to apply (and reapply) sunscreen
The most important thing is to remember that you should always put it on before going outside. And point. What’s more, it’s a good idea to apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before you go out so it absorbs into your skin, says dermatologist Debra Jaliman.
If you wear makeup, this means letting your skin absorb the layer of sunscreen first before applying makeup or other products. Jaliman recommends waiting 3-5 minutes after applying sunscreen and then applying foundation in “smooth, downward motions” without “rubbing back and forth.” If that foundation also has some SPF, even better.
After applying sunscreen and makeup, it’s time to think about reapplication. The generic recommendation is to apply sunscreen every two hours, but it is a more flexible period than it may seem.
First of all: don’t worry, you don’t have to take off all your makeup and start over every two hours.
“It wouldn’t be practical and it’s also not necessary if you applied a high-SPF sunscreen generously the first time,” Jaliman explains. “The two-hour thing is said because in the investigation it was clear that most people do not apply enough sunscreen. Therefore, the manufacturers take a cue from health and reason that if a person reapplies the sunscreen two hours later, at least they will be ensuring more adequate protection. But if it is applied generously the first time, it is not so necessary to give it again.
When in doubt, consider what you plan to do that day. If you’re going to be outside in direct sunlight all day, consider wearing sunscreen with a higher SPF, a wide-brimmed hat, or clothing that protects you from the sun. In that case, it would be convenient to reapply the cream throughout the day. If you’re going to be indoors all day, you can be more flexible.
“If you apply sunscreen in the morning and spend most of the day indoors (not sweating much) and seek shade when outdoors, wear sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats, your sunscreen should still being effective at the end of the day,” says Jaliman. “This is because the active ingredients in sunscreen break down with exposure to sunlight, not just over time.”
How to reapply sunscreen on top of makeup
Let’s say you’re going to spend the whole day outside in the sun. What should you do in that case? As Jaliman points out, it’s important to reapply sunscreen, along with wearing protective clothing (such as hats and long sleeves). What’s also important is finding a type of sunscreen that you actually want to use over and over again.
For many people, putting a cream on top of makeup is not practical, but there are other options, although they may not be as effective.
“Powdered sunscreens work, but not as well as initial sunscreen. I usually recommend cream as initial protection and powder sunscreens for reapplication,” explains certified dermatologist Morgana Colombo. “The effectiveness of sun protection is related to the SPF of the product and the amount that is applied. Applying enough powders to work as well as a cream is difficult. In addition, the powders come off more easily with sweat or with the friction of the mask.
A sunscreen spray is another option, says dermatologist Lindsey Zubritsky.
“My favorite way is to use a spray,” she says Zubritsky. “It’s great because it even works as a makeup fixative. I usually use a colored sunscreen to combine it with my makeup base”.
What NOT to do when reapplying sunscreen
As for what not to do when reapplying sunscreen, the most important thing is to keep in mind the plans you have that day. If you’re going to sweat a lot or swim, it’s especially important to keep that in mind.
“Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours if you’re in the sun, and every hour if you’re also going in and out of the water,” explains Colombo. In other words, waiting two hours or more to reapply sunscreen if you’re going to spend all day at the pool or beach can wreak havoc on your skin. Any reapp is better than none, of course, but it’s worth overcoming laziness.
“With water-resistant sunscreens, follow the manufacturer’s specific instructions to get adequate protection after getting wet or sweaty,” advises Jaliman.
Another tip: just because you’re at home or in the office all day doesn’t mean you can skip reapplication, especially if you’re sitting by the window.
“You should reapply sunscreen if you’re sitting by a window, since UVA rays pass through window glass,” says dermatologist Corey L. Hartman, founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology.
Also, don’t think that just because you applied an SPF 50 cream under your makeup you have to stick with the same SPF level afterwards. As Hartman explains, as long as you reapply cream with at least SPF 30, you’re getting an adequate level of protection. However, facial skin is more sensitive than the rest of the body, so higher FPS won’t hurt.
Another common mistake is waiting until you notice you’re burning to reapply sunscreen, or worse yet, to remember that you haven’t put on a layer of cream yet. No matter how hot or cool the day may seem to you, if you go outside during the day, your skin will be exposed to sunlight.
“Research shows that sun damage begins the moment unprotected skin sees the light of day. Not direct sunlight, but daylight!” explains Jaliman.
Finally, while powdered sunscreens can be used for reapplying and retouching, Jaliman insists that people shouldn’t rely on these products as their only protection, as it’s difficult to use enough to achieve complete sun protection.
When in doubt, any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen at all
Knowing exactly which products to use to reapply sunscreen can be difficult. When in doubt, remember that any sunscreen is better than none. If possible, have an SPF 30 or higher.