The Best Way To Apply Sunscreen

Do you start at your feet and move up? Give it all a quick spray and move on? If you’ve fallen into a routine of using sunscreen each day, you may be surprised to hear that there’s a preferred method for how it should be applied.

Are you doing it the right way? Here’s what the experts say.

Top-down is the preferred method.

Face-first is always the way to go, experts said. “I recommend starting at the face and then working your way down the body to your feet, so that you don’t wind up with bacteria from your body on your face,” said dermatologist Dr. Corey Hartman.

Dermatologist Dr. Teresa Song agreed with this approach, and she explained why it’s a good idea. “Generally, skin care products used on the body are more occlusive, which means they can use heavy, greasy ingredients that create a physical barrier for the skin,” she said. “That heavier body skin care should be separated from products intended for face and neck, since they could potentially cause breakouts on the face.”

Globs or dabs?

“One way to apply your sunscreen is to focus on the cosmetic subunits of the face,” said dermatologist Dr. DiAnne Davis. “If you follow this method, the forehead gets one dot or glob of sunscreen. Each cheek gets another, then the chin area, around the mouth, the nose and finally around the eyes.”

But that’s not the only method. “Alternatively, you could take a glob of product and spread it into both hands by rubbing them together, followed by one large application to the entire face with both hands,” Davis said.

Before or after makeup?

“We always recommend layering products from thinnest to thickest,” said dermatologist Dr. Claire Wolinsky. “If you’re using chemical sunscreen, it should be as close to the skin as possible and preferably the first product applied before moisturizer, then makeup. If you’re using a thin serum like a vitamin C, then the serum would be applied first. But if you’re using mineral sunscreen, that should be the last step so it’s closest to the sun.”

Once the sunscreen goes on, give yourself some time before doing anything else, experts said.Let sunscreen sit on the skin for at least 10 minutes before applying makeup, just to make sure it fully absorbs,” Hartman said.

MR.WUTTISAK PROMCHOO via Getty Images

Does your sunscreen fill this shot glass? If not, you’re not using enough to cover your body.

Put on enough — and in the right places.

The experts said that the biggest sunscreen mistake they see is people not applying enough. “You need a full ounce of sunscreen to cover your body, which equates to a shot glass or a golf ball-sized amount,” Hartman said.

He noted that while sprays are very easy to use, they need some follow-up before they can provide protection. “Spray multiple passes across each body part, usually two to three times per arm and three to four times per leg,” Hartman said. “Hold the sunscreen nozzle about 3 to 4 inches from your skin. Stop in between sprays and rub the sunscreen into the skin entirely. If you skip this step, the spray will only protect where it hits the skin.”

As you’re paying attention to application, make sure you’re getting even coverage — especially in spots you might otherwise miss. “Many people realize the importance of applying sunscreen to the face, but other areas like the ears, neck and back of the hands also receive a significant amount of UV radiation and are common sites for skin cancer,” said dermatologist and Mohs surgeon Dr. Carolyn Stull. “Applying sunscreen to these areas on a regular basis is important to reduce the risk of UV damage.”

What type is best?

“I recommend a physical or mineral sunscreen that contains zinc oxide as the active ingredient,” said dermatologist Dr. Mojgan Hosseinipour. “Tinted sunscreens contain iron oxides that protect against blue light, infrared and visible light as well. Choose a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher, is water-resistant, and provides broad-spectrum coverage, which means it protects you from UVA and UVB rays [two types of ultraviolet light].”

If you’re confused about how to read all of this on a label, Song put it this way: “‘SPF’ stands for ‘sun protection factor,’ and ‘PA’ stands for ‘protection of UVA rays.’ An SPF number of 30 and up is recommended, with a PA rating of 4-plus. If you’re wearing SPF 30, it blocks 97% of UVB, whereas SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays. While SPF only measures for UVB protection, PA measures for UVA protection, and more pluses means higher protection.”

Finally, SPF makeup doesn’t make the grade for medical aesthetician Victoria Waked. “Makeup with SPF is not enough coverage,” she said. “People often apply makeup sparingly, focusing on achieving a desired look rather than ensuring even and thorough sun protection. This can result in an insufficient amount of SPF being applied, leading to reduced effectiveness in shielding the skin from UV rays.”

Apply … and then reapply.

Now that you know which kind of sunscreen to buy and the best way to apply it, make sure you’ve got your timing right, too. First, you need to apply it before those harsh rays hit your delicate flesh. Here’s what Hosseinipour recommended: “Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors. It takes approximately 15 minutes for your skin to absorb the sunscreen and protect you.”

And keep reapplying it as long as you’re in the sun. “If you’re outside for longer than two hours, you need to reapply sunscreen,” Hartman said. “You should also reapply immediately after swimming or sweating. There are amazing products available that make reapplication easy, so find one that you like and stick with it.”

Want to shop the best sunscreens around? Shop this selection of highly rated picks.

HuffPost and its publishing partners may receive a commission from some purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently curated by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.

HuffPost Readers’ Favorite Mineral Sunscreens

Sephora

Summer Fridays ShadeDrops Mineral Milk Sunscreen SPF 30

Alongside our readers, both Pamela Anderson and Hailey Bieber are fans of Summer Fridays’ ShadeDrops SPF 30 mineral sunscreen. It’s a great option for anyone looking for a lightweight, naturally radiant finish that protects from UV rays while also providing nourishing ingredients to the skin. Made with vegan and cruelty-free ingredients, this sunscreen is formulated with zinc oxide, squalane, chamomile and an antioxidant blend of vitamin E and ethyl ferulate. They work together to shield the skin from sun damage and to hydrate, soften and smooth the skin and protect against further damage from free radicals.

Sephora

Supergoop! Mineral Sheer Screen SPF 30

Dr. Brandan Camp, a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology, recommended this reader-fave screenie. “This is a 100% mineral sunscreen product that offers SPF 30 protection,” Camp said. “The labeling also includes information about protection from UVA radiation, PA (protection grade of UVA), which many sunscreens do not report.” It also shields the skin from blue light. It’s completely sheer so you don’t have to worry about a white cast and has a lightweight finish that won’t weigh your skin down.

Amazon

Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Face mineral sunscreen SPF 50

“This lightweight, non-greasy product provides SPF 50 protection and contains zinc oxide as the active ingredient,” Camp said. It’s specially formulated with antioxidants to be water-resistant, is naturally sourced and dries down quickly without leaving a greasy finish.

HuffPost Readers’ Favorite Chemical Sunscreens

Sephora

Supergoop! Glow Screen SPF 40

High on my personal list of sunscreen essentials is Supergoop! Glow Screen, and I’m thrilled to see it is one of our readers’ top picks from our chemical sunscreen story. It’s what I reach for when I want a hint of tint and shimmer. It’s basically your skin, but better — plus sun protection. It’s available in four different shades and has a slightly heavier finish than other chemical sunscreens, in part because of the tint component. But since it essentially replaces foundation for me, I don’t mind that it isn’t as lightweight as others. The pearlescent finish gives skin an immediate glow while hyaluronic acid and niacinamide hydrate, nurture and help to diminish the look of common signs of aging. This was also a top reader pick from our article featuring sunscreens with anti-aging ingredients!

Dermstore

SkinCeuticals Daily Brightening UV Defense sunscreen

Along with the rest of the SkinCeuticals line, HuffPost readers swarm to this popular, luxurious sunscreen. Not only does the chemical formulation protect against sun damage, it claims to actively work to diminish the look of discoloration, helping to brighten and even out skin tone thanks to ingredients like tranexamic acid and niacinamide. Reflective pigments help to give the skin an immediate glow, making it ideal for someone looking to perk up their skin quickly and visibly. This was also a top pick from our article about the best sunscreens with anti-aging ingredients!

Stylevana

Beauty of Joseon probiotic SPF 50+

If you’re a fan of Korean beauty products, then you’re going to want to stock up on this gorgeous sunscreen. It’s wildly popular among the skin care set, with everyone from beauty lovers to influencers touting its skin-enhancing abilities. It’s my go-to daily sunscreen — primarily because it perfectly splits the difference between a fluid and a cream — and I’m thrilled to see it top the chemical sunscreen list of faves. It has a bit more grip than a fluid finish but doesn’t feel as heavy or oily as a full-on cream or moisturizer. I rarely get more compliments than when I head out wearing this sunscreen and a touch of concealer. As with all Korean beauty products, it’s important to remember to only purchase via reputable sites like Stylevana. It does take about two to three weeks to arrive, so I usually order two at a time to tide me over, but each tube lasts around three months, making it worth the already low price and shipping wait time.

HuffPost Readers’ Favorite Korean And Japanese Beauty Sunscreens

Amazon

Round Lab moisturizing birch juice sun cream

According to Flores’ previous article on Korean and Japanese beauty sunscreens, “this hydrating daily sun cream by Round Lab is lightweight, non-greasy and fast-absorbing and doesn’t leave a white cast. The broad-spectrum SPF 50 formula feels cool and refreshing on the skin and contains both birch tree sap and hyaluronic acid to help keep skin moisturized throughout the day.” It was one of HuffPost readers’ top three picks and with good reason!

Amazon

Biore UV Aqua Rich Sunscreen Water Essence facial sunscreen

Shopping writer Tessa Flores pointed out in previous coverage that, “A prime example of water-based Japanese sunscreens, Bioré UV’s Aqua Rich SPF 50 sun essence is a feather-light and oil-free gel formula that feels virtually undetectable on the skin and is compatible with all skin types including those who are acne-prone. It’s infused with hyaluronic acid for lasting hydration and breathable protection that layers seamlessly under makeup.” No wonder HuffPost readers couldn’t get enough.

Stylevana

Isntree hyaluronic acid watery sun gel

Both Flores and myself have covered this reader-beloved sunscreen in the past. It’s great for people with dry skin and anyone who loves a dewy (not greasy) finish. I love that is white-cast-free and has hydrating ingredients including eight different types of hyaluronic acid to help strengthen the moisture barrier and keep skin hydrated all day long. It boasts a hypoallergenic formula that is great for those with sensitive or compromised skin, and has been a popular pick among K-beauty fans for many years.

HuffPost Readers’ Favorite Water-Resistant Sunscreens

Amazon

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Milk sunscreen SPF 60

If you’re as big a fan of French pharmacy beauty products as I am (and according to our data, you are), try La Roche-Posay’s various sunscreens. In my opinion, their Anthelios melt-in sunscreen is by far their most exciting formulation. This super lightweight SPF truly does melt into the skin, leaving it dewy, natural-looking and non-greasy while providing a whopping SPF 100 protection that is also water-resistant. Your skin will love it.

Dermstore

SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense mineral sunscreen

Skin care devotees will likely be familiar with SkinCeuticals’ line of high-end serums and creams, but did you know that its sun protection products are just as effective and good for your skin? You likely do now, because this was one of our bestselling water-resistant sunscreens. This has a subtle tint that gives skin a radiant glow without leaving behind a thick white cast or oily residue. It’s a surprisingly lightweight mineral formula that is water-resistant for up to 40 minutes and can also help to defend skin against environmental stressors.

Amazon

Vacation Classic Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 travel size three-pack

I can’t get enough of the entire Vacation lineup, and it was the clear frontrunner for readers looking for water-resistant sunscreen. It has a really clean, lightweight finish that disappears into the skin leaving behind a delicious coconut-forward summery scent. It is easy to rub into skin and is water-resistant, making it ideal for all manner of summertime activities. It’s also packed with skin-friendly ingredients like vitamin E, niacinamide, banana extract, aloe vera and coconut oil that help to soothe, soften and nourish skin. You can’t go wrong with a three-pack of travel sized options from Amazon, just pop one in each of your bags and in your bathroom cabinet for easy access. Or you can purchase them individually and full-size at Ulta.

HuffPost Readers’ Favorite Sunscreens At Amazon

Amazon

Sun Bum Original SPF 50 sunscreen

You can’t go wrong with sunscreen classic, Sun Bum — no wonder it’s a HuffPost readers’ top pick at Amazon. This moisturizing sunscreen lotion is clearly a crowd favorite. It’s oxybenzone-, octinoxate- and oil-free, plus water-resistant.

Sephora

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen spf 40

This cult-favorite and HP reader-favorite sunscreen from Supergoop has a clear, lightweight and unscented formula so you don’t have to deal with an irritating white cast. It’s also oil-free and great for anyone who might have sensitive or acne-prone skin.

Amazon

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch sunscreen

Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer sunscreen is lightweight and fast-absorbing, making it especially ideal for use on hot summer days. It even provides up to 80 minutes of water resistance — no wonder it’s a popular reader go-to.

HuffPost Readers’ Favorite Sunscreens For Mature Skin

Dermstore

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light sunscreen SPF 50

According to Dr. Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist at MCDS Dermatology, “This ultralight sunscreen fluid is mineral-based, containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, but also offers a fast-absorbing, lightweight texture. It is easy to apply and also offers antioxidant protection.” It’s also one of HuffPost readers’ favorite options for mature skin.

Amazon

CeraVe hydrating mineral sunscreen SPF 50

Garshick noted that “[t]his hydrating formulation contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to provide broad-spectrum coverage. In addition, it contains hyaluronic acid to help provide moisture, ceramides to help support the skin’s natural barrier as well as niacinamide which can soothe the skin. This mineral sunscreen is fragrance- and paraben-free making it a good option even for those with dry or sensitive skin.” Readers agree!

Walmart

La Roche Posay Anthelios XL 50 Anti-Shine Dry Touch gel-cream SPF 50+

Dr. Corey L. Hartman, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama personally uses this sunscreen. He says it “applies easily and doesn’t leave the skin feeling extra shiny or sticky. It also doesn’t leave a white cast on my skin.” It absorbs quickly and has soothing antioxidant ingredients that HuffPost readers can’t get enough of.

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