Ace SPF Application: How to Apply Sunscreen Like a Pro

5 min
by Ben Gentzler
September 07, 2022

Now that fall is approaching, you may be packing away your bikinis and beach towels, but one summertime standby that needs to transition into your autumn beauty arsenal is sunscreen. Yes, dermatologists harp on the importance of SPF application 365 days a year. That’s because estimates show one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

Even if you think you’ll get lucky and be among the other four, the sun and its UV rays are still responsible for up to 90 percent of visible skin aging, as per the United States Environmental Protection Agency. So if you’re going to do it (and you have no reason not to), do it right. Here’s how to make certain you’re getting the most out of your daily dose of SPF:


Find your sunscreen formula:

The AAD recommends a broad-spectrum block (meaning it thwarts both UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF of at least 30. These days, there are so many types of sunscreen catering to so many different skin conditions (dry, oily, acne-prone, sensitive, and so on) that there’s no excuse for skipping out. Sun protection comes two ways: physical or chemical.

Physical sunscreen blocks are made with minerals (zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide) that sit on the skin’s surface and deflect rays. Chemical screens (look for oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, or octinoxate on the label) absorb and neutralize UV. The choice is personal (and some brands cover their bases by combing both types in one formula), but physical blocks are generally recommended for those with sensitive skin.


How much sunscreen to apply:

To cover your head, neck, and face fully, you need an amount of sunscreen equivalent to the lengths of your index and middle fingers. (This “two-finger approach” was written about in the British Medical Journal.) That may seem like a lot, but you want to ensure that no patch of skin goes uncovered—an area that includes your eyelids, ears, back of neck, and up into your hairline (a common place, along with the ears, that skin cancer crops up!). This is probably a good time to answer the question: Does it count if my makeup contains SPF? The answer is yes, but only if you’re willing to apply two fingers’ worth of foundation to all the locations listed above. For those using base to achieve a “natural” look, a thick layer of foundation is likely going to be a hard no. If that’s the case for you, you’re going to need to prime with a layer of SPF 30 first.

Don’t forget your lips! They need sun protection, too. Look for a balm that’s at least SPF 30 as well. 


Face & Body Sunscreens:

When purchasing and applying sunscreen you may want to pay attention to where on your face and/or body you’re looking to cover. A general rule of thumb would be to apply sunscreen anywhere that is not protected by clothes or another type of garment. Some sunscreens are suitable for use on both face and body but often times like we do with face cream vs body lotion, we look for special ingredients and formulas to cater to different areas of our skin. 


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Written By

Ben Gentzler

Ben is an Education professional with 16 years of experience in prestige/professional skincare and beauty. Brand, retail, and professional/spa education & training.

Read More from Ben Gentzler

Written By

Ben Gentzler

Ben is an Education professional with 16 years of experience in prestige/professional skincare and beauty. Brand, retail, and professional/spa education & training.

Read More from Ben Gentzler