Guide to Sunscreen Application

Sunscreen is essential for skin health because it protects it from harmful Ultraviolet (UV) rays. By applying sunscreen daily, you can reduce the risk of these harmful effects and maintain healthy, and youthful-looking skin. 

However, there are certain myth about the application of sunscreen that many people don’t know.

To debunk these common errors, we need to separate fact from fiction by providing you with the right guideline needed to make informed decisions about sunscreens. 

In this article, you’ll learn about the importance of using sunscreen to protect against the sun rays, the differences between physical and chemical sunscreens, and the most effective ingredients to look for based on your skin type.

We’ll also address common questions about reapplication, tanning, and the most common question – would sunscreen brighten or darken your skin?

By the end of this guide, you’ll know every single details about sunscreen and be able to make informed choices to protect your skin.

What To Expect

What is sunscreen all about?

Sunscreen is a topical product that helps to protect the skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. It works by absorbing or reflecting ultraviolet rays before they penetrate the skin, and this process helps to prevent sunburn, skin aging, and the risk of skin cancer.

All sunscreens contain factors that help us determine the amount of protection we receive from each specific bottle we purchase. These factors includes; The active ingredient present, and the Sun Protection Factor (SPF).

The value of SPF present in each sunscreen container is the principal focus when purchasing a sunscreen. As the SPF value increases, sunburn protection increases.

Unveiling The Myth About SPF

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. This factor is used to measure how well a sunscreen can protect your skin from the sun’s rays. 

The concept of SPF helps to determine how concentrated a bottle of sunscreen is, thus, the higher the SPF, the better the protection it provides.

According to Kinesysactive, a sunscreen with SPF 30 will protect you from around 96.7% of UV rays, whereas an SPF of 50 will offer protection from about 98% of UV rays.

Anything beyond SPF 50 makes very little difference in terms of risk of sun damage, and it is also important to note that no sunscreens provides 100% protection from ultraviolet rays.

How Much SPF Is Enough For Protection?

For effective protection against the sun’s ultraviolet rays, you should use a sunscreen with at least SPF 30, as it can block up to 97% of UV rays.

In addition to wearing sunscreens, taking other measures to protect your skin, such as wearing protective clothing, hat, sunglasses and seeking shade during peak sun hours can never be over emphasized.

These measures adds additional block or shield to your skin. Here’s a cheat; don’t wear dark clothes during peak sun hours. This is because dark clothes absorbs more heat from the sun and might cause sunburn, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.

How does Sunscreens really work?

Sunscreens work by creating a barrier on the skin’s surface which absorbs or reflects the sun’s harmful rays depending on the type of sunscreen you applied.

Most sunscreens contain active ingredients, such as zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or chemical filters, that absorb or scatter the UV rays, preventing them from penetrating the skin.

types of sunscreens you should know

Sunscreen can be simplified into two basic categories based on their ingredients. These categories are physical and chemical sunscreen.

  • Physical Sunscreen: These sunscreens work by reflecting or scattering the sun’s ultraviolet rays away from the skin. The active ingredients in physical sunscreens include minerals such as Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide. These minerals sit on top of the skin and forms a protective layer that reflects sun’s rays from the skin. They are also less irritating to the skin and suitable for sensitive skin types.
  • Chemical Sunscreen:  These sunscreens contain other active ingredients such as  Avobenzone, Octinoxate, and Oxybenzone. They protect the skin by absorbing UV rays and converting them into harmless heat, which is then released from the skin. 

Are there differences between physical and chemical sunscreens?

Yes, the main difference between physical and chemical sunscreen is that physical sunscreens reflect or scatter ultraviolet rays while chemical sunscreens absorb the rays. The absorbed rays are not harmful to your body and are eventually released out of your skin by heat.

what type of sunscreen is better for you?

The fact is that, there is no direct answer as to which type of sunscreen is better for you. Both physical and chemical sunscreens provide effective sun protection, but the choice often boils down to personal preference and of course your skin type.

Most people with sensitive skin may prefer physical sunscreens, while those who are more active and spend more time in the water may prefer chemical sunscreens.

The table below would help you understand the concept of choosing the right sunscreen for your face or body.

Physical SunscreensChemical Sunscreens
Contains active ingredient such as Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide.Active ingredients includes Oxybenzone, Avobenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Homosalate, and Octocrylene.
It works by reflecting UV rays off the skin.It absorbs UV rays and convert them to harmless heat.
Provides broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays.Provides broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays.
Generally considered safe for sensitive skin.Some ingredients may cause irritation for those with sensitive skin.
May leave a white residue on the skin, especially for darker skin tones.In most cases does not leave a white residue.
Should be reapplied especially after swimming or sweating.Should be reapplied especially after swimming or sweating.
Usually more expensive than chemical sunscreens.Generally more affordable than physical sunscreens.

Here is a compiled list of sunscreens that don’t leave white cast on the face – check it out after reading this guide.

What are the Advantages and disadvantages of each type of sunscreen

The pros and cons of each type of sunscreen varies from person to person and in most cases one might not experience any drawbacks from using any product containing physical or chemical sunscreen ingredients.

Below are some positive outcomes you would notice while using any of the sunscreens. 

Advantages of physical and chemical sunscreen

Physical SunscreensChemical Sunscreens
Reflects UV rays off the skin and also provides immediate protection.May require more time to take effect as it needs to be absorbed into the skin before providing protection.
Typically less likely to cause skin irritation or allergic reactions. However, some people may also be sensitive to it ingredients.May cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some individuals, especially those with sensitive skin.
Generally has a longer shelf life compared to chemical sunscreens.Has a shorter shelf life compared to physical sunscreens.
Generally considered safer for use on children.Can be used on children, but may cause irritation or allergic reactions in some individuals.
Can be suitable for people with oily skin as it doesn’t clog pores like chemical sunscreens may.May not be suitable for people with oily or acne-prone skin, as it can clog pores and exacerbate breakouts.

Disadvantages of physical and chemical sunscreens

Physical SunscreensChemical Sunscreens
Can leave a white or chalky residue on the skin which may not be desirable for some people.Typically absorbs quickly into the skin and leaves no visible residue.
Often has a thicker consistency which may make it more difficult to apply evenly and blend in.May have a lighter consistency and be easier to apply and blend in compared to physical sunscreens.
May not be as effective at protecting against UVA rays compared to chemical sunscreens.Can provide more complete protection against UVA and UVB rays.
While less likely to cause skin irritation, physical sunscreens can still cause irritation or allergic reactions in some individuals.Can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some individuals.

Choosing the right sunscreen

Choosing the right sunscreen can be overwhelming with so many options available. But it doesn’t have to be!

To make the right decision, several factors must be considered when choosing a good sunscreen and these factors include:

1. Your Skin Type

Everyone’s skin is unique, which means that different skin types require different types of sunscreens. If your skin is oily or acne-prone, choose a Physical sunscreen that is lightweight, oil-free, and won’t clog your pores. 

If your skin is dry or sensitive, choose a sunscreen that is gentle, hydrating, and doesn’t contain any fragrances.

2. Sun Protection Factor (SPF)

Choose a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 or higher. The higher the SPF, the better the protection.

Sunscreen with SPF 30 allows 1/30th of the sun’s rays to penetrate the skin, while SPF 50 allows 1/50th. However, keep in mind that no sunscreen can provide 100% protection.

3. Broad-Spectrum Protection

Broad-spectrum refers to a type of sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays from the sun. 

These sunscreens provide protection against both types of rays, helping to reduce the risk of skin damage and skin cancer.

4. Water Resistance

When choosing a sunscreen, make sure it’s water-resistant. While a water-resistant sunscreen can protect you while swimming, it’s essential to reapply it once you’re out of the water or after every 40-80 minutes because no sunscreen is 100% waterproof.

5. Active Ingredients

Ingredients are another important factor that you must check for. Get sunscreens that contain natural ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide for physical sunscreens, or avobenzone and oxybenzone for chemical sunscreens.

6. Sunscreen Spray, lotion, stick or gel application

Choosing a form of sunscreen should not be tough, but it should depend on your requirements. In the end, the main goal is to protect yourself against sun rays.

If you have dry skin that needs to be hydrated and moisturized, choose a sunscreen lotion. If you have oily skin and want something that feels light on your skin, choose a sunscreen gel because it is less likely to clog pores.

Spray and sticks sunscreen can be chosen with strict evaluation as well as your packaging desires.

7. Age

Most sunscreens are safe for use on infants, toddlers, or young children. Look for sunscreens that are specifically for children if you will be applying it to a child’s skin.

How to choose a sunscreen based on your skin type and sun exposure habits

Below is a guide that shows you how to choose the right sunscreen for your skin type considering your daily sun exposure routine.

1. Consider your skin type

The need to consider your skin type can not be overemphasized because different skin types require different types of sunscreens.

If you have oily or acne-prone skin, look for lightweight, oil-free, and non-comedogenic formulas. If you have dry or sensitive skin, look for gentle, hydrating, and fragrance-free options.

2. Consider your daily activities

If you spend most of your time indoors, a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 is sufficient. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, especially during peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), opt for a higher SPF  from 30 upward and reapply every two hours depending on factors such as sun intensity, sweat, and water exposure..

3. Test it out

Always test the sunscreen on a small area of your skin before applying it all over your body. This will help you avoid any allergic reactions or irritation.

Common myths about sunscreen that you must know

There are common misconceptions about the application of sunscreen that newbies and even professional skin care practitioners believed.

Many people are not aware of the proper application of sunscreen, such as the recommended amount to use, how often to reapply, and the importance of applying sunscreen to all exposed areas of the skin. 

These misconceptions can lead to inadequate protection from the sun’s harmful ray and can increase risk of sunburn and skin damage. 

Therefore to help you stand out, below are some common myths you need to correct during the application of sunscreen to ensure maximum effectiveness and protection.

1. Sunscreen is only necessary on sunny days

Here’s a common trending sunscreen error. Applying sunscreen daily is crucial, regardless of the weather. The sun’s UV rays can damage the skin on cloudy or overcast days. 

Clouds don’t fully block the sun’s ultraviolet rays. This phenomenal makes sunscreen essential as a basic skincare routine.

2. Higher SPF means better protection

While higher SPF provides more defense, the margin of protection is extremely small compared to other lower SPF and it doesn’t offer significantly superior protection. 

In this case, a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 is recommended, blocking up to 97% of UVB rays, and remember no sunscreen is 100% efficient.

3. You don’t need to reapply sunscreen if you’re in the shade

Here’s another misconception you need to opt out from. Even in the shade the sun’s UV rays reflect off surfaces to reach your skin. 

Also, reapplication is vital every two hours, especially during swimming or sweating, to ensure consistent protection.

4. A sunburn is the only sign of skin damage

Sunburn isn’t the sole indicator of skin damage. Prolonged sun exposure leads to abnormal aging, dark spots, and can as well increase the risk of skin cancer.

5. Sunscreen and sunblock mean the same thing

Sunscreen and sunblock differs. Sunscreen absorbs into the skin, filtering UV rays, while sunblock sits on the skin, physically blocking UV rays. 

Sunblock contains mineral ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, while sunscreens contains chemical or mineral filters.

6. Double the SPF, double the protection

Doubling the SPF doesn’t double protection. For instance, SPF 30 blocks around 97% of UVB rays, while SPF 50 blocks around 98%. 

Instead, prioritize using broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen and reapplying every two hours, especially during swimming or sweating, for effective sun protection.

Sunscreen facts and truths you should know

1. Expensive sunscreens do not guarantee adequate protection

The effectiveness of sunscreen is not necessarily determined by its price. Both expensive and inexpensive sunscreens can provide adequate protection when used correctly. 

But the key factors to consider are the sunscreen’s SPF, broad-spectrum coverage, and application method. You should choose a sunscreen that meets these criteria and also suits your skin type.

But be aware that higher-priced sunscreens may offer additional features or specialized formulations, but it doesn’t guarantee superior sun protection. 

2. UV rays can still penetrate through clouds and windows

UV rays have the ability to pass through clouds and glass windows to attack the skin even on cloudy or indoor days especially if you sit close to windows at the office. 

This means that the skin is still exposed to potential sun damage, such as premature aging and increased risk of skin cancer, regardless of the weather or location.

For effective protection, you should use sunscreen with a minimum SPF 30 on a daily basis. 

This SPF level is okay to provide a high level of protection against both UVA and UVB rays, reducing the risk of sunburn and long-term skin damage.

4. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours, even when in the shade

Regardless of whether you are in direct sunlight or shade, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours. This is because, the protective ingredients in sunscreen gradually break down over time and may become less effective. 

Reapplication ensures continuous protection throughout the day and minimizes the risk of sunburn and skin damage.

5. Sunscreens can be environmentally-friendly and safe for marine life

With growing concerns about the impact of sunscreen on the environment and marine life, there are now sunscreens available that are formulated to be Eco-friendly and safe for coral reefs and other aquatic organisms. 

Sunscreens that are labeled “reef-safe” or “ocean-friendly,” contain ingredients that do not harm marine ecosystems.

6. Children Under Six (6) Months Typically Should Not Wear Sunscreen

You should never use sunscreen on INFANTS under six months of age. Their delicate skin is more sensitive and can absorb the chemicals in sunscreen more easily. 

You should keep infants out of direct sunlight, use protective clothing, hats, and shade to shield their skin from harmful UV rays.

7. No Sunscreen is 100% Waterproof or Sweat Proof

Although some sunscreens claims to be “waterproof” or “sweat proof,” you should note that no sunscreen is entirely resistant to water or sweat. 

Extended exposure to water or excessive sweating can diminish the effectiveness of sunscreen. It is crucial to reapply sunscreen after swimming, sweating, or towel drying.

8. Spray-On Sunscreens Are Convenient, But Not Always Effective

Spray-on sunscreens offer convenience and easy application. However, these sunscreens may not provide the same level of protection as traditional lotions or creams. 

Spray-on sunscreen is easy to miss areas or apply an insufficient amount with sprays. Additionally, inhalation of spray particles can be a concern, so caution should be exercised during application.

Sunscreen ingredients and their effectiveness

Sunscreen ingredients play a crucial role in determining the effectiveness of a sunscreen product. Here are some key ingredients and their effectiveness:

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide: These mineral-based ingredients are known as physical or mineral sunscreens. 

They work by sitting on top of the skin and reflecting or scattering UV rays. They provide broad-spectrum protection and are generally considered safe and effective.

Avobenzone and Mexoryl SX: These are organic or chemical filters that absorb UV rays and convert them into less harmful energy – heat. 

They are commonly used in sunscreens to provide ultraviolet-A protection. However, Avobenzone can degrade quickly when exposed to sunlight, so it is often combined with other ingredients to stabilize its effectiveness.

Octinoxate and Octisalate: These organic filters primarily protect against ultraviolet-B rays. They are commonly used in sunscreens for their ability to absorb UVB radiation. 

Oxybenzone and Homosalate: These ingredients provide both UVA and UVB protection. 

Tinosorb S and Tinosorb M: These are newer-generation organic filters that offer broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. They are known for their photo-stability, meaning they do not degrade easily when exposed to sunlight, providing longer-lasting protection.

How much sunscreen should you apply for adequate protection?

To ensure proper protection, you should apply an adequate amount of sunscreen. A general rule of thumb is to use about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of sunscreen for the face and neck and about 1 ounce (a shot glass full) to cover the exposed areas of the body.

You can also employ the technique of the “two or three finger measurement” when applying sunscreen. Extend two fingers and gauge the amount needed by tracing from the top to the end of each finger.

Applying too little sunscreen can result in insufficient protection, so it’s important to be generous with the amount.

How often should you reapply sunscreen?

Sunscreen needs to be reapplied regularly to maintain its effectiveness. As a general guideline, you should reapply sunscreen every two hour or more frequently if you are swimming, sweating heavily, or towel drying.

This is because sunscreen can wear off or become less effective over time, especially with exposure to water or physical activities.

Can you still get a tan if you’re wearing sunscreen?

While sunscreen helps to protect the skin from harmful UV rays, it does not completely block all UV radiation. Therefore, it is still possible to get a tan while wearing sunscreen.

However, the level of tanning can be reduced compared to unprotected sun exposure. You should note that a tan is a sign of skin damage, and excessive exposure to UV radiation can increase the risk of skin cancer.

Thus, it’s advisable to use sunscreen alongside other sun protection measures to minimize sun damage.

Is sunscreen safe for sensitive skin?

Yes, there are sunscreens available that are specifically formulated for sensitive skin. These sunscreens are usually labeled as “hypoallergenic” or “for sensitive skin.”

They are designed to minimize the risk of irritation or allergic reactions. Look for sunscreens that are fragrance-free and free of potential irritants such as parabens, oxybenzone, or alcohol.

would sunscreen brighten or darken your skin?

Sunscreen does not directly brighten or darken the skin. Its primary function is to protect against the sun’s rays, preventing sunburns and reducing the risk of skin damage and discoloration.


Sunscreen is vital for protecting the skin from UV radiation, preventing sunburn, premature aging, and reducing the risk of skin cancer.  

Remember to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and reapply it every two hours and also opt for safe options rather than expensive ones.

Prioritize your skin health and make sunscreen an essential step in your skincare routine. 

In conclusion, we value your opinion and would love to hear your thoughts on sunscreen and your expectations from this article. 

Share your experiences, questions, or concerns regarding sunscreen usage, and let us know what you learn from this piece. 

Your feedback helps us provide valuable information tailored to your needs, ensuring we address all aspects of sunscreen and sun protection in future articles.

guide to sunscreen application



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