How to Apply Sun Block: 14 Steps (With Pictures)

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How to Apply Sun Block: 14 Steps (With Pictures)
How to Apply Sun Block: 14 Steps (With Pictures)

You probably know that you need to apply sunscreen while sunbathing on the beach. However, dermatologists recommend that you use sunscreen every time you go outside for more than 20 minutes, even in winter. You should wear sunscreen even when it's shady or cloudy. The UV (ultraviolet) rays from the sun can begin to cause skin damage in just 15 minutes! This damage can even lead to skin cancer.


Part 1 of 3: Choosing a sunscreen

Apply Sunscreen Step 1
Apply Sunscreen Step 1

Step 1. Look at the FPS number

"SPF" refers to the "sun protection factor" of a sunscreen or how long it blocks UVB rays. The SPF number reflects the amount of time it takes you to get sunburned when you wear sunscreen as opposed to when you don't.

  • For example, an SPF of 30 means you can spend 30 times more time in the sun before burning compared to not wearing any sunscreen. So if you would normally start burning after 5 minutes in the sun, an SPF of 30 would theoretically allow you to spend time outside for 150 minutes (30 x 5) before burning. However, your unique skin, your activities and the intensity of the sun cause variations in the effectiveness of sunscreen, so you may need to use more than the others.
  • The SPF number can be tricky, as your protection is not proportionally increased. Thus, SPF 60 is not twice as good as SPF 30. SPF 15 blocks about 94% of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks about 97%, and SPF 45 blocks about 98%. No sunscreen blocks 100% of UVB rays.
  • The American Academy of Dermatology recommends an SPF of 30 or higher. The difference between extremely high FPS is often negligible and not worth the extra money.
Apply Sunscreen Step 2
Apply Sunscreen Step 2

Step 2. Choose a “broad spectrum” sunscreen

SPF refers only to the ability to block UVB rays, which causes sunburn. However, the sun also emits UVA rays. UVA rays cause skin damage, such as signs of aging, wrinkles, and dark or light spots. Both increase the risk of skin cancer. A broad spectrum sunscreen provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays.

  • Some sunscreens may not say "broad spectrum" on the packaging. However, they must always declare whether they protect against UVB and UVA rays.
  • Most broad-spectrum sunscreens contain "inorganic" components such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, as well as "organic" components such as avobenzone, cinoxate, oxybenzone, or octylmethoxycinnamate.
Apply Sunscreen Step 3
Apply Sunscreen Step 3

Step 3. Find a waterproof sunscreen

Because your body eliminates water through sweat, you should look for a waterproof sunscreen. This is especially important if you are going to be doing a lot of activity, such as running or hiking, or if you will be in the water.

  • No sunscreen is "waterproof" or "sweat-proof." In the United States, sunscreen cannot be advertised as "waterproof."
  • Even with a waterproof sunscreen, reapply every 40 to 80 minutes or as directed on the label.
Apply Sunscreen Step 4
Apply Sunscreen Step 4

Step 4. Decide what you like

Some people prefer spray sunscreens, while others prefer gels or thick creams. Whatever you decide, make sure to apply a thick, even coat. Application is just as important as SPF and other factors - if you don't apply it properly, sunscreen won't do its job.

  • Sprays may be better for hairy areas, while creams are usually better for dry skin. Sunscreens in alcohol or gel are good for oily skin.
  • You can also buy wax sticks of sunscreen, which are good to apply near the eyes. This is generally a good alternative for children, as it prevents the sunscreen from getting into the eyes. They also have the benefit of not spilling (like in a purse) and can be applied without smearing lotion on your hands.
  • Water-resistant sunscreens are usually sticky, so they are not good options to apply under makeup.
  • If your skin is prone to acne, choose your type of sunscreen carefully. Use a specific one for your face and that does not clog the pores. These usually have a higher SPF (15+) and are less likely to clog your pores or increase breakouts.

    • Many acne-prone people claim that zinc oxide-based sunscreens tend to work better.
    • On product labels, look for the phrases "non-comedogenic," "won't clog pores," "for sensitive skin," or "for acne-prone skin."
Apply Sunscreen Step 5
Apply Sunscreen Step 5

Step 5. Go home and taste a small patch around your wrist

If you see an allergic reaction or skin problem, buy a different sunscreen. Repeat the process until you find the right sunscreen, or talk to your doctor about recommended brands if you have sensitive skin or allergies.

Itching, redness, burning, or blisters are signs of an allergic reaction. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are less likely to cause allergic skin reactions

Part 2 of 3: Apply a sunscreen

Apply Sunscreen Step 6
Apply Sunscreen Step 6

Step 1. Check the expiration date

The FDA requires that sunscreen retain its protective power for at least 3 years from the date of manufacture. However, you should always be aware of the expiration dates. If the date has passed, ditch the old bottle and buy some new sunscreen.

  • If your product doesn't have an expiration date when you buy it, use a permanent marker or label to write the date of purchase on the bottle. This way you will know how long you have had the product for.
  • Obvious changes to the product, such as color changes, separation, or different consistency, are signs that the sunscreen has expired.
Apply Sunscreen Step 7
Apply Sunscreen Step 7

Step 2. Apply before going out in the sun

The chemicals in sunscreen take time to adhere to your skin and become fully protective. Apply your sunscreen before going out.

  • Sunscreen should be applied to the skin 30 minutes before going out in the sun. Sunscreen for lips should be applied 45 to 60 minutes before going out in the sun.
  • Sunscreen needs to “cure” on the skin for it to work fully. This is especially important in the water resistance factor. If you put sunscreen on and go into the pool 5 minutes later, much of the protection will be lost.
  • This is also very important in the case of children. They are generally very restless and impatient, and they are usually doubly so when they are excited about an adventure abroad. After all, who can rest easy when the ocean is right in front? Therefore, it is recommended that you apply sunscreen before leaving home, in the parking lot or at the bus stop.
Apply Sunscreen Step 8
Apply Sunscreen Step 8

Step 3. Use enough

One of the biggest mistakes when using sunscreen is not using enough of it. Adults usually need about 1 ounce or 29 ml (whatever will fit in the palm of your hand or in a tequila glass) of sunscreen to cover exposed skin.

  • To apply a cream or gel sunscreen, squeeze a pinch into your palm. Spread it all over the skin that will be exposed to the sun. Rub the sunscreen on your skin until you can no longer see its white color.
  • To apply a spray sunscreen, hold the bottle vertically and swirl it back and forth across your skin. Apply a generous, even coat. Make sure the sun doesn't blow away the wind before it makes contact with your skin. Don't inhale sunscreen spray. Be careful when applying sunscreen sprays to your face, especially around children.
Apply Sunscreen Step 9
Apply Sunscreen Step 9

Step 4. Apply sunscreen to all of your skin

Remember areas like your ears, your neck, the tops of your feet and hands, and even the part in your hair. Any skin that is exposed to sunlight should be covered with sunscreen.

  • It can be difficult to completely cover hard-to-reach areas like your back. Ask someone to help you apply sunscreen to these areas.
  • Thin clothing often doesn't offer much protection from the sun. For example, a white T-shirt only has an SPF of 7. Wear clothing designed to block UV rays or wear sunscreen under your clothing.
Apply Sunscreen Step 10
Apply Sunscreen Step 10

Step 5. Don't forget your face

Your face needs even more sunscreen than the rest of your body, as many skin cancers occur on the face, especially on or near the nose. Some cosmetics or lotions may contain sunscreen. However, if you are going to be on the street for more than 20 minutes (in total, not once) it is advisable to also apply a sunscreen for your face.

  • Many facial sunblocks come in cream or lotion form. If you use a spray sunscreen, spray it on your hands first, then apply it to your face. If possible, it's best to avoid spray sunscreen for your face.
  • The Skin Cancer Foundation has a search list of recommended sunscreens for the face.
  • Use lip balm or lip sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 on your lips.
  • If you are bald or have thin hair, remember to apply sunscreen to your head as well. You can also wear a hat to help protect against sun damage.
Apply Sunscreen Step 11
Apply Sunscreen Step 11

Step 6. Reapply after 15 to 30 minutes

Studies have shown that reapplying your sunscreen after about 15 to 30 minutes after going out in the sun is more protective than waiting 2 hours.

Once you've made this new initial application, reapply the sunscreen every 2 hours as directed on the label

Part 3 of 3: Staying Safe in the Sun

Apply Sunscreen Step 12
Apply Sunscreen Step 12

Step 1. Stay in the shade

Even when you wear sunscreen, you will still be exposed to the powerful rays of the sun. Staying in the shade or using an umbrella will help protect you from sun damage.

Avoid “rush hours”. The sun is highest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If you can, avoid sun exposure during this time. Find shade if you are on the street at this time

Apply Sunscreen Step 13
Apply Sunscreen Step 13

Step 2. Wear protective clothing

Not all clothing is created equal. However, long-sleeved shirts or long pants can help protect your skin from sun damage. Wear a hat to give your face additional shade and protect your scalp.

  • Look for a tightly woven fabric in dark colors, which offers more protection. For people who are very active outside, there are special clothing with built-in sun protection, available in specialty stores or online.
  • Remember those sunglasses! UV rays from the sun can cause cataracts, so buy a pair of glasses that block both UVB and UVA rays.
Apply Sunscreen Step 14
Apply Sunscreen Step 14

Step 3. Keep young children out of the sun

Sun exposure, especially during the “peak” hours of 10 a.m. at 2 p.m., it is very harmful to young children. Look for sunblocks specifically made for children and babies. Consult with your pediatrician to determine what is safe for your children.

  • Children under 6 months should not use sunscreen or be in direct sunlight. Young babies' skin has not yet matured, so they may absorb more chemicals from sunscreen. If you must take young children outside, keep them in the shade.
  • If your baby is older than 6 months, use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Be careful when applying sunscreen near the eyes.
  • Dress young children in sun protective clothing, such as hats, long-sleeved sun shirts, or light long pants.
  • Get sunglasses with UV protection for your children.


  • Buy a special sunscreen for your face. If you have oily skin or your pores tend to clog, look for "oil-free" or "non-comedogenic" sunscreens. There are special formulas available for sensitive skin.
  • Even if you apply sunscreen, don't overexpose yourself to the sun.
  • Reapply sunscreen after getting wet every 2 hours or as directed on the label. Sunscreen is not a single-use product.

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