We are going to discuss the 10 major sunscreen mistakes to avoid and how much sunscreen to apply. You probably already know that sunscreen is the most important skincare product in your routine. But you may be making some sunscreen mistakes that are getting in the way of your best possible sun protection.
I’m Dr. Sam Drill, and I’m an internationally certified medical and cosmetic dermatologist in Northern California. I’m here to help you understand your skin and find products that work for you. I love that over the past few years, the idea of wearing sunscreen and the value that it holds have become much more popular. and people understand that wearing sunscreen regularly is important not only for skin health but Sunscreen Mistakes to Avoid also for the appearance of your skin. but I do see some common mistakes that I want to address.
I sort of feel like getting into the habit of wearing sunscreen is sort of like getting into the habit of exercising. It’s always going to be beneficial to have that as part of your regular or daily routine. But once you’ve made that habit there are little tweaks that you can make to your exercise regimen or your sunscreen regimen. That makes it even more effective and optimized.
I also want to mention that how diligent and meticulous you are with your sunscreen application has to do with your personal skin goals. As a dermatologist, I never want you to be stressed out by skincare. I want it to be fun. I want it to become a good, healthy habit. But ultimately, if you find out that you’ve been making a sunscreen mistake, it’s okay. You’re learning that we get better at things as we go through life, and sunscreen application can be one of them. And on that note, let’s get into the sunscreen mistakes and how to correct them.
Not Applying Enough Sunscreen common sunscreen mistakes
Mistake number one, which is incredibly common, is not applying enough sunscreen. And this is just my personal opinion; their preclinical studies show that the average person applies somewhere between 25 and 75 percent of the recommended amount. Sunscreen mistakes to avoid now, the reason it’s so important to apply the correct amount of sunscreen is that the sun protection factor, or SPF, of sunscreen, is calculated based on applying a certain amount of sunscreen.
If you underapply, then you don’t get the stated SPF that’s on your sunscreen mistakes to avoid. For example, if you’re using an SPF 30 sunscreen but only applying half of the recommended amount, the maximum sun protection that you’re getting from that sunscreen is SPF 15 sunscreen mistakes to avoid.
So how much sunscreen should you be using? You want to use the amount of sunscreen that’s used when these sunscreens are tested for their sun protection factor. and that amounts to two milligrams per centimeter squared sunscreen mistakes to avoid. Now, I don’t know about you, but if someone says to use two milligrams per square centimeter of sunscreen, it’s pretty hard to figure out what that is.
But luckily, scientists have done the heavy lifting for us and calculated that that amounts to about a quarter teaspoon of sunscreen for the face and about 1.5 ounces, or a shot glass worth, of sunscreen for the entire body. Now obviously, everyone’s face and everyone’s body surface area are not the same sizes, so these are just estimates. Another way to estimate how much sunscreen to use for your face is the two-finger method. Sunscreen Avoid Ingredients
This involves measuring the amount of sunscreen on your index and middle fingers. You essentially apply that sunscreen from the base of your fingertip to the tip, and you do that on both fingers. That’s how much to use for your face. Again, this is an estimate, but you could imagine that if you have a thick, creamy sunscreen, that’s going to be a lot more productive than if you have a thin, runny sunscreen mistakes to avoid. So I use four fingers for really thin, runny sunscreens and two fingers for thicker, more lotion- or cream-like sunscreens.
The last thing you can do is take the sunscreen that you use daily and put it into a quarter-teaspoon measure. Then scoop that out and get a sense of how much that is, and then you can replicate that every day with your sunscreen application. I also think this touches on the importance of finding sunscreen mistakes to avoid that you enjoy using and that are within your budget.
Because you don want to skimp on sunscreen because it’s too expensive to apply the correct amount. you also don’t want to be applying the incorrect amount of sunscreen just because as you apply more of that sunscreen it starts to develop a white cast or starts to feel thick or heavy on the skin. So finding a nice sunscreen that you enjoy using and when you use the correct amount, still feels good on your skin, is important.
Not Re-applying Sunscreen mistakes to avoid
that includes not reapplying your sunscreen. The general rule for sunscreen reapplication is every two hours, and that’s because after two hours your sunscreen begins to break down. I don’t mean that the UV filters are breaking down and becoming less effective. However, when you apply sunscreen, it forms a very even film on the surface of your skin, and as the day progresses, that film begins to break apart and become patchy.
I think one of the easiest ways to visualize this is to imagine what someone’s makeup or foundation looks like at the beginning of the day versus the end of the day. At the end of the day, it begins to break apart; it starts to clump up, and that’s exactly what happens to your sunscreen too. Also, if you’re not wearing a water-resistant sunscreen, if you are exposed to moisture, whether that’s sweating or pool water or the ocean, that’s going to disrupt that sunscreen film on your skin and therefore disrupt the UV protection that it’s affording you. Follow every instruction hope you enjoy it about sunscreen, common mistakes to avoid, and how to apply it.
The other thing to keep in mind is that sunscreen is pretty susceptible to frictional forces. So if you get out of the pool and towel to dry yourself, even if you’re using a water-resistant sunscreen, the act of rubbing your skin with the towel disrupts the efficacy of your sunscreen. sunscreen. Now, this doesn’t mean that after two hours, after sweating, after pool exposure, or after being rubbed with a towel, the efficacy of your sunscreen goes from SPF 50 to SPF zero; it just means that the sun protection factor is decreased to some degree.
This is really where how serious you want to be about your sunscreen reapplication really depends on your ultimate skin goals and your sun protection goals, and it also really depends on how much UV exposure you’re getting. for example, I use sunscreen for skin cancer prevention as well as prevention of premature signs of skin aging I am diligent about reapplying my sunscreen every two hours when I’m outside.
I probably do it closer to every hour if I’m sweating or participating in any type of activity where I’m worried that I’m rubbing sunscreen off. Now, if I had a highly sun-sensitive condition, I might think differently about that and want to reapply every two hours even when I’m in the shade, but for me and my skin goals, that’s not necessary. So I would say the biggest mistake that I see when it comes to sunscreen reapplication or lack of sunscreen reapplication is when there are people who are exposed to a lot of UV radiation.
So it’s a very sunny day, you’re spending a prolonged amount of time outdoors, and you’re not reapplying either after two hours or after a lot of water exposure or after towel rubbing or disrupting your sunscreen barrier in some way sunscreen mistakes to avoid sunscreen avoid Ingredients.
Relying on Sunscreen In makeup
Let’s move on to the unscreened sunscreen mistakes to avoid that I often see. which is relying on the sunscreen that’s in your makeup. I know this is a common mistake because, as part of seeing patients in my clinic, I will ask them to tell me about their sun protection habits. and what kind of sunscreen they use. A lot of patients say, “I don’t use sunscreen, but I have sunscreen on my makeup, and I apply that every day.”sunscreen mistakes to avoid
Now, remember at the beginning of the blog when I talked about how to get the sun protection factor that’s stated on a sunscreen product, you need to apply about a quarter teaspoon to your face. That’s one of the sunscreen mistakes to avoid applying. Now how many people are applying a quarter teaspoon of foundation to their face every day? Hopefully not many, and therefore they are not getting the full sun protection factor that their makeup says they should be getting, so even if they’re using SPF 20 in their tinted moisturizer, they may be only getting SPF 5 or SPF 10. sunscreen mistakes to avoid
Now that is still something, and I will take some sun protection over no sun protection, but it’s a mistake to rely on that as your sole way of protecting your skin from the sun with your daily skincare and makeup routine. Don’t get me wrong. I have plenty of foundations that have UV filters in them and offer some amount of sun protection. sunscreen mistakes to avoid
But I don’t use them for sun protection at all. If I’m going to be wearing that foundation, I still apply my sunscreen as though I was not going to be applying anything else that had sun protection in it for that day, and I’m really just using my foundation as makeup, and it’s just sort of a bonus or an add-on that it has any type of SPF sunscreen mistakes to avoid applying. sunscreen mistakes to avoid
Mixing Sunscreen Sunscreen Mistakes to Avoid
Another mistake I see regarding makeup and sunscreen is that. Sometimes I will see people mixing their foundation with their sunscreen do not do. Do not mix your sunscreen with any type of skincare or makeup product. Do not mix it with moisturizer. Do not mix it with your vitamin C serum; do not mix it with anything. This includes mixing two or more sunscreens, which is not okay. There are a few brands that explicitly say that some of their sunscreens can be combined; for example, Color Science does that.
But unless you have explicit brand permission and they have told you that it’s okay to combine their sunscreens. and they’ve tested them for efficacy, and doing that doesn’t do it. Here’s why, contrary to popular belief, the efficacy of your sunscreen is not exclusively based on the UV filters that it has but rather on the entire formulation of your sunscreen. Based on the data that we have now it does seem that it’s okay to layer two sunscreens on top of one another. so say you have an untinted sunscreen that’s SPF 30 you could put that down and let it dry down and then. Just use a little bit of tinted sunscreen on top of that but don’t mix them before applying.
Layering Moisturizer On Top of Sunscreen
On the topic of layering products, that brings me to my next mistake. I see people putting their moisturizer on top of their sunscreen instead of underneath it. I like people to think of sunscreen as the final step of their skincare routine. So they wash their faces and apply their serums, their eye creams, and their moisturizers. and the final step in that skincare routine is sunscreen.
The other way you can think of sunscreen application is as the first step of your makeup routine. routine, meaning that you put sunscreen on first, and then you can go in with your primer and the rest of your makeup. but your sunscreen should always go on after your moisturizer.
I tend to see this mistake occur more often in older generations, and I think it’s because there used to be this idea that sunscreen needed to go on the skin and then absorb for 15 minutes into your skin before it became effective. and so you didn’t want to put that on top of your moisturizer.
Because your moisturizer might block the ability of the sunscreen to absorb. But that’s not how sunscreen works; it doesn’t absorb into your skin, and that’s not the way it exerts the majority of its efficacy. it works by forming a nice even film on the top layer of your skin. and so you want to apply it on top of your moisturizer as that final protective barrier.
Skipping the Rest of Your Body
another common sunscreen mistake I see is only applying sunscreen to the face and skipping the application of sunscreen on other parts of the body that are chronically exposed to the sun like the ears neck chest forearms and hands. if you wear Rings or a watch daily a quick way to check if you are making this mistake do you have a watch tan or if you have Tan Lines around your rings. If so, you may want to up your sun protection game in those areas. for those with fairer skin.
These are very common areas where I see skin cancers develop in the back of the hand forearms neck and ears which is why I mentioned this is for skin cancer prevention. But also if you are trying to prevent any signs of premature skin aging covering those areas or keeping them more well-protected from the sun will help. speaking of sun protection.
Relying On Sunscreen Too Much
Another common sunscreen mistake I see is relying too much on sunscreen and not using other forms of sun protection. Of course, the best way to do this is to avoid the mid-day sun, but that’s not always feasible in our everyday lives depending on what activities we like to do. So other things you can use to protect your skin from the sun besides sunscreen Include wide-brimmed hats and sun-protective clothing. You also don’t necessarily have to buy clothing that is specifically made for sun protection or has an Ultra Violet protection factor or UPF rating.
If you hold a piece of clothing up to the light and you can’t see any light passing through it, that’s sort of a quick way to tell if it’s going to be UV protective for you. The advantage of clothing with a high UPF rating is that it tends to be designed in a way that can help keep you cool or tends to be a little bit more lightweight, so I do recommend UPF clothing for my athletes or for people who are doing a lot of activity outdoors.
If you can, I like to hike, so I spend a ton of time outdoors, and I generally like to rely on my clothing to give me the most amount of sun protection. and then the areas that continue to be exposed, like my face and neck, my hands, and my ankles.
Skipping Sunscreen On Cloudy Days
That’s what I’ll cover with sunscreen, which brings me to my next sunscreen mistake: skipping sunscreen on a cloudy day. Clouds are quite good at blocking invisible light from the sun. which is why it tends to look dark outside when it’s cloudy. but they are much less good at blocking UV radiation. That’s why you can still get sunburned after spending time outside on a cloudy day.
I put sunscreen on every morning just out of habit but if you are one of those people who wants to figure it out well. what are the days I can kind of skip my sunscreen because I don’t want to have to put it on every day? I would say check the UV index where you live you can find that within the weather app on your phone or the Internet and if it’s two or below you can probably get away without your sunscreen. okay, I’m almost done going through all of my sunscreen mistakes.
Using Expired Sunscreen
My next sunscreen mistake is using expired sunscreen. You can always check the expiration date of your sunscreen on the bottle, the tube, or the jar; it should be there, and if it’s past the expiration date, it’s time to toss it. Could that sunscreen still be perfectly effective? It’s possible. but you just don’t know,
So why risk it? The other thing you’ll see on your sunscreen container is a “period after opening” or “Pao” symbol, and this symbol indicates how long your product is useful after it’s been opened. The Pao symbol typically looks like a little jar that’s partially opened and then it’ll say something like 6m or 12 within the jar meaning that that product has proven stability for six months or 12 months after opening. But beyond that, the manufacturer can’t guarantee that the product is safe and effective for you.
So let’s say your sunscreen container says that it expires in June 2025. But you opened it seven months ago, and the PAO is 12 months, which means five months from now after 12 months have passed since your sunscreen has been opened, it’s probably time to get rid of it. even though you haven’t reached the expiration date of that sunscreen. I would say if you have an open bottle of sunscreen that you haven’t finished in six or 12 months, you probably don’t love that sunscreen. anyway, it’s time to move on and find something better. Okay,
we’ve arrived at my final sunscreen mistake, at least for this video, and that is leaving your sunscreen in a hot car. I have so many patients who say Dr. would be so proud of me. I have sunscreen that I exclusively keep in my car or my trunk so that I’m never caught away from home without sun protection. But the problem with that is that sunscreen is quite susceptible to breakdown when exposed to extremely cold or extremely hot temperature temperatures.
So the car is not an ideal place to store it. I know it’s much less convenient, but I would much prefer you to carry your sunscreen in your purse or your bag—something that’s not getting left in the car—just to ensure that your sunscreen is always as effective as possible. Okay, those are my sunscreen mistakes. Were you guilty of making any of them? Don’t forget to put your current favorite sunscreen in the comments below. Thank you so much. See “Upcoming Important HealthCarmina Topics.”
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