Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Rithi Choudhary (Journalist) on 27th Feb 2021

When and how much sunscreen should you apply? What is the best way to use sunscreens?

When & How Much Sunscreen Should You Apply?

If you have been through previous articles on this blog, you will find at least one or two lines on the utmost importance of wearing sunscreen. We religiously urge everyone to wear sunscreen (with SPF 30 or above), be it rain or sunshine, outdoors or indoors, because not wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen is a sin committed to the skin.

While we have been adamant on our stance that you should wear sunscreen no matter what, we haven't enlightened you on how much you should be applying and if once a day is enough.

Today's beauty lesson will be all about sunscreens because if you have skipped sunscreen, all the other actives you have been using will go futile once your skin has been through UV exposure damage. 

Sunscreens 101 

Sunscreens are lotions, creams, or gels that absorb or reflect some of the Sun's ultraviolet radiation and help protect against tanning and sunburn. They also come in the form of sticks, sprays, mineral powders, and foams.  

Physical Sunscreen vs. Chemical Sunscreen

Sunscreens are further divided into two categories: Physical Sunscreen and Chemical Sunscreen.

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UV rays from the sun and altering them before they can cause any harm to the skin. Chemical sunscreen ingredients include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate. Chemical sunscreens are usually not taken well by those with sensitive skin. Neither are they suitable for people with hyperpigmentation since what they do is convert the absorbed UV rays into heat in the body.

Physical-based sunscreens, on the other hand, reflect and scatter the UV rays away from the skin. They are made from fine particles of minerals, commonly titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Physics sunscreens are also known as mineral sunscreens due to the presence of zinc and titanium. They are well tolerated by sensitive skin, provided the formulation is fragrance-free. However, one downside of physical sunscreen is the white cast it leaves behind and therefore isn't a great option for people with color and darker skin tones. However, one can always add some foundation is to tone down the white cast. 

Sunscreen vs. Sunblock  

We will let you in on a secret. Sunscreens, sunblock, suntan lotion, sun shield, and SPF lotion are all the same but with a different name. 

How Much Should You Be Wearing? 

It is often noticed that sunscreen users are inadequately protected and eventually get sunburned. This is because they do not follow the proper way and do not take adequate protection from the UV rays even after applying the Sunscreen. Now let us understand and know about the correct way to use Sunscreen and take better protection from the sun's UV rays.

As you know, your skin is constantly exposed to the dangerous Ultraviolet rays from the Sun; Sunscreen should be applied daily. We are regularly exposed to UV rays year-round. Sunscreen becomes a necessity to keep your skin healthy. Even on a cloudy day, 80% of the Sun's UV rays can still penetrate your skin. So, the best way to apply sunscreen would be to: 

  • Apply the lotion thoroughly and adequately on your feet, neck, ears, arms, and body parts that the clothing will not cover from the sun, around 15mins before going out. 
  • It is always better that you apply sunscreen on dry skin. This makes the sunscreen less likely to wear off. 
  • Remember that even your lips are exposed to UV rays. You can apply lip balm or lipstick with an SPF of 30 or higher to protect your sensitive lips.   

Now, remember that there is no such thing as applying too much sunscreen. You can apply a lot of sunscreen at once, but that will not give any better result than what it should typically give from the proper recommended amount. You'd be only wasting sunscreen.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the right amount or the recommended amount to use sunscreen on your skin is at least 1 ounce (a handful). It is equivalent to 28 milliliters should be enough to cover an adult's whole body in one use. However, this may vary according to the brands and type of products. 

How Often Should You Reapply Sunscreen 

Now the question arises, how many times a day should you apply Sunscreen? Is once a day enough?

It would help if you kept in mind that sunscreen is generally effective for 2 hours. So, if possible, keep your sunscreen with you while traveling and apply it every couple of hours for the optimum protection of your skin.

Also, reapply sunscreen after swimming and heavy exercise. The UV rays are at the peak from 10 am to 3 pm. Remember to wait for at least twenty minutes before stepping out of the house because the sunscreen or suntan lotion takes approximately that amount of time to be absorbed by the skin and work. 


Check for the expiry date of your sunscreen before use. If the expiry date is not mentioned, check the manufacturing date. If the manufactured date exceeds three years, then do not use the sunscreen.

Sunscreen generally has a life expectancy of 3 years, and after that, some ingredients start to degrade and might cause some allergy on the skin. 

  • Shake the bottle before use. There might be nanoparticles clumped up at the bottom of the bottle. 
  • Apply the sunscreen thoroughly on your body and mostly the parts that do not get covered by the garments and are exposed to the sun's UV rays. 
  • Apply enough sunscreen of nearly a handful such that every part of the body exposed to the sun gets covered thickly and thoroughly. 
  • Be very careful that the Sunscreen doesn't get into your eyes. Sunscreen can irritate your eyes. 

Sunscreen and Breakouts  

A common complaint about sunscreens is that they lead to breakouts. This can be because the wearer does not take it off at the end of the day. Sunscreens are supposed to be taken off just like makeup everyday. It is also important to turn the bottle or tube and check out the ingredient list to watch for any comedogenic ingredients.

While those with dry skin should go for a cream-based formulation, oily-skinned people should go for a gel formulation. Those with sensitive skin must go for fragrance-free variants. 

Chemical Exfoliation and Sunscreen  

While we recommend wearing sunscreen every day and even when staying inside the house. UV rays can penetrate windows. It is especially important to wear sunscreen if one uses Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) or Beta Hydroxy Acid, Vitamin C or Alpha-Arbutin, or any other facial acid that promotes cellular turnover and inhibits tyrosinase activity. This is because the freshly revealed cells are delicate and susceptible to sunburn.

Melanin in the skin has a purpose, and it defends against harmful UV rays. The melanin production often goes awry, and instead of an even tan, the skin is darkened unevenly in patches or burnt in case of Caucasian skin. Therefore, wearing sunscreen is a must when using the above-mentioned active ingredients and similar to making the most out of it and not worsening pigmentation.

When using facial acids without sunscreen, one runs the risk of worsening hyperpigmentation and tanning instead of improving it.

Keep Your SPF On!