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How to apply sunscreen

How To Apply Sunscreen & Have Healthy, Fabulous Skin Forever


Knowing how to apply sunscreen is important to maintaining healthy skin. It is one of the most important simple tips to have healthy skin forever. It's not an impossible goal.

Sun protection is the single biggest fountain of youth for your skin.

Sun causes skin thinning, wrinkles, age spots, and 'broken capillaries,' not to mention skin cancers. It can trigger rosacea and lead to pigment problems. No matter how old or young you are, sun protection from this day forward will help you 'stop the clock' on skin aging and prevent some of the most common skin problems.

Sunscreen is one of your main tools to sun protect your skin. Starting with the right sunscreen product is the first step, knowing how to use it is step two. Here's how I personally use sunscreen and what I tell my patients:

Dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey's tips to have healthy skin forever start with using sunscreen correctly!

First tip to have healthy skin forever is to know when to apply sunscreen. 

how to apply sunscreen to prevent sun damage skinSunscreen should be applied 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure. Be sure to let the product sit on your skin for the full 30 minutes if you'll be swimming or sweating. Use a 'very water resistant' sunscreen if you plan to be in water. 'Very water resistant' means the product should protect you for up to 80 minutes in the water. If you or the water will be moving around (i.e. swimming, being in a Jacuzzi or the ocean) that time will be shorter.

Second tip for protecting your skin is to know where you need to apply sunscreen.

Every inch of your skin that isn't covered by clothing needs sunscreen. That means ears, lips, back of your hands, back of your neck, top of your feet, top of your head, etc. You don't need sunscreen under your hat or under sun protective clothing, but you need it everywhere that isn't covered.

Third tip for having healthy skin forever is to be certain you know how much sunscreen you need to apply.

The amount of sunscreen you apply is important but confusing and there isn't a short answer. The average-sized adult should use 1 ounce (which is equal to 1 shot glass or equal to 2 tablespoons) to cover their entire body - but body sizes vary and you don't need to apply sunscreen under your clothes. So how much you subtract from this amount depends on your body size and how much of you is covered by clothing.

Facial application amount is also confusing because the 1 teaspoon rule from years ago was meant for the entire head and neck, including the scalp. Again, you need to figure out how big your exposed face, ears and neck is relative to a teaspoon, and whether you're bald or have hair on your scalp.

For me, it takes about 1/3 teaspoon of sunscreen to really protect my face, ears, the front and back of my neck and behind my ears. I'm more careful to apply this generous amount if I'm going to be in the sun all day, even with a hat. If I'm indoors a good part of the day, I may use as little as ¼ teaspoon on my face and neck. I put sunscreen on every morning before I start my day and I recommend that you do the same. Be prepared, not surprised when you're unexpectedly caught outside.

Fourth tip to have fabulous skin forever is to reapply sunscreen when you are depending on it for sun protecting your skin.

Don't forget, you always need to reapply sunscreen after being in the water or sweating heavily.

how to apply sunscreen and have healthy skin forever Sunscreen also needs to be reapplied after two hours of sun exposure just to be safe. That's because you'll undoubtedly rub some of the product off your skin. Plus, sunlight gradually breaks down the active ingredients when the UV rays hit them on your skin, so you need to add more.

At a minimum I recommend you reapply mid-day. When I'm out gardening, I put on sunscreen and wear a broad-brimmed hat. At noon, when I break for lunch, I reapply my sunscreen. I always use a sunscreen that contains at least 5% zinc oxide because over the years I've found that this ingredient lasts longer in the sun than other sunscreen ingredients.

Fifth tip for having fabulous skin is to apply your makeup on top of your sunscreen and don't depend on makeup with sunscreen for your sun protection. 

There are 2 reasons for this:

  1. Most makeup doesn't have 5% or more zinc oxide and, in my opinion, this ingredient provides the protection you need.
  2. Even if your makeup has 5% or more zinc oxide in it, you're probably not going to put that ¼ teaspoon that I recommend on your face and neck because the makeup color would look too heavy. Instead put your sunscreen on first and then add the makeup on top for color and appearance. If your makeup provides additional sun protection then that's terrific and you've got really great anti-aging skin care to keep your skin young for years.

Sixth tip for having fabulous skin is that you never rely entirely on sun screen for your skin's sun protection!

Yes, I mean that. Sunscreen isn't perfect and you're not going to be perfect at applying it. In my tips to have healthy skin forever I want you to think beyond sunscreen for sun protection.

dermatologist's tips to have healthy skin foreverI created an infographic to help you understand the best sun protection for your skin. (Click here to see the larger sun protection infographic version.) First and foremost, keep the sun's UV rays off your skin with clothing and a full, broad-brimmed hat. Try to be in the shade and try not to be out in direct sunlight between 10 am and 4pm. This means -- seek the shade, wear sun protective clothing and a hat AND apply sunscreen to the parts of your skin not covered by clothing or directly under the hat.

Remember, good sun protection is the most important tip to have healthy skin forever - it's your skin's fountain of youth. You can have soft, even-colored skin with hardly any wrinkles all the way through your life. I see it in my office every day.


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