Applying Sunscreen: 14 Steps (with Pictures)

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Applying Sunscreen: 14 Steps (with Pictures)
Applying Sunscreen: 14 Steps (with Pictures)

You probably know that you should put on sunscreen when you go to the beach. However, dermatologists recommend that you always apply sunscreen if you go outside for more than 20 minutes, even in winter. You should also use sunscreen if it is cloudy or if you stay in the shade. The UV rays (ultraviolet) from the sun cause damage to your skin after just 15 minutes! This damage can even cause skin cancer.


Part 1 of 3: Choosing sunscreen

Apply Sunscreen Step 1

Step 1. Look at the number behind SPF

'SPF' stands for 'sun protection factor', which means how effectively the product blocks UVB rays. The SPF factor represents the time it takes for you to burn if you have applied, as opposed to when you have not applied.

  • Factor SPF30, for example, means that you can stay in the sun 30 times longer than if you hadn't applied before you burn. So if you normally get sunburnt after 5 minutes in the sun, you can now stay outside for 150 minutes (30 x 5) before you burn. But your unique skin, your activities and the power of the sun all determine how effective the sunscreen is, so you may need to apply more often than other people.
  • The SPF factor can be a bit misleading as the protection does not increase proportionally. So SPF60 is not twice as good as SPF30. SPF15 blocks about 94% of all UVB rays, SPF30 blocks about 97% and SPF45 blocks about 98%. There is no sunscreen that blocks 100% of UVB rays.
  • Dermatologists recommend using sunscreen with SPF30 or higher. The difference between the extremely high factor products is usually negligible, so they are not worth the extra money.
Apply Sunscreen Step 2

Step 2. Choose a 'broad spectrum' sunscreen

SPF only stands for its ability to block UVB rays, which cause sunburn. But the sun also gives off UVA rays. UVA rays cause damage to the skin, such as skin aging, wrinkles and dark or light spots. Both types of rays increase the risk of skin cancer. A broad spectrum sunscreen protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays.

  • Some sunscreens do not state on the packaging that they protect against broad spectrum. However, it should always state whether it protects against UVB and UVA rays.
  • Most broad spectrum sunscreens contain both organic ingredients such as titanium dioxide or zinc, as well as non-organic ingredients such as avobenzone, cinoxate, oxybenzone or octyl methoxycinnamate.
Apply Sunscreen Step 3

Step 3. Choose a water-resistant sunscreen

Since your body excretes moisture in the form of sweat, it is better to use a water-resistant sunscreen. This is especially important if you are very active, such as walking or going for a swim.

  • No sunscreen is completely waterproof or 'sweatproof'. This should therefore not be stated on the packaging.
  • Even water-resistant sunscreen should be reapplied every 40 to 80 minutes, or according to package directions.
Apply Sunscreen Step 4

Step 4. Think about what you want

Some people like a sunscreen in the form of a spray, while others prefer a thick cream or gel. Whatever you choose, make sure to apply it thickly and evenly. The application is just as important as the SPF factor and other factors: if you don't apply it properly, the sunscreen won't work.

  • A spray is especially good for hairy parts of the body, while a cream is usually best for dry skin. Sunscreen with alcohol and gels are good for oily skin.
  • You can also buy sunscreen in the form of a stick, which are nice to use around the eyes. This is often the right choice for children, as it prevents the sunscreen from getting into the eyes. Another advantage is that it cannot drain (in your bag for example) and that you can apply it without getting lotion on your hands.
  • Water-resistant "sports" sunscreen tends to be sticky, so it won't work well under your makeup.
  • If you suffer from acne, you should pay close attention to which sunscreen you choose. Get one specifically for the face that won't clog pores. Usually these products have a higher factor (higher than SPF15) and do not cause pimples.

    • In people with acne, sunscreen with zinc oxide in it seems to work best.
    • Look for a product that says it won't clog pores, that it's for sensitive skin, or those with acne.
Apply Sunscreen Step 5

Step 5. Go home and apply a small amount on your wrist

If you find yourself having an allergic reaction to the product, buy a different sunscreen. Repeat the process until you find the right sunscreen, or ask your doctor about a good product if you have sensitive or allergic skin.

Itching, redness, a burning sensation or blisters are all signs of an allergic reaction. Titanium oxide and zinc oxide are less likely to cause an allergic reaction

Part 2 of 3: Applying sunscreen

Apply Sunscreen Step 6

Step 1. Look at the expiration date

Sunscreen stays good for up to three years from the date of manufacture. However, always check the expiration date. When it has expired, throw away the bottle and buy new sunscreen.

  • If there is no expiration date on your product, once you purchase it, write the date on the bottle with a permanent marker. Then you at least know how long you have had the product.
  • Significant changes in the product, such as color change, separation or other consistency, are signs that the sunscreen is no longer good.
Apply Sunscreen Step 7

Step 2. Apply it before going out

The substances in the sunscreen have to take effect for a while before they protect your skin. Therefore, apply the sunscreen before you go out.

  • Lubricate your skin 30 minutes before going out into the sun. Sunscreen for the lips should be applied 45-60 minutes beforehand.
  • The sunscreen must be completely withdrawn to be effective. This is especially important with a water resistant product. If you put on sunscreen and jump right into the pool, most of the protection will be lost.
  • This is also very important if you are taking care of a child. Children tend to be wobbly and impatient, and often worse when they feel like going on an outing; who can stand still when the sea is so close? Therefore, put the sunscreen on at home, in the parking lot or at the bus stop.
Apply Sunscreen Step 8

Step 3. Use enough

One of the biggest mistakes when using sunscreen is not using enough. Adults need about 30 ml -- a full palm -- to cover the entire body.

  • Squeeze a generous amount of sunscreen into your palm. Spread it over all skin exposed to the sun. Rub the sunscreen well into the skin until it is no longer white.
  • To apply a spray, hold the bottle upright and go back and forth over your skin. Apply an even, thick layer. Make sure the spray is not blown away by the wind before it hits your skin. Do not inhale the sunscreen. Be careful with a spray on the face, especially on children.
Apply Sunscreen Step 9

Step 4. Apply sunscreen to all skin

Don't forget your ears, neck, insteps and hands, and also think about the parting in your hair. All skin exposed to the sun should be covered with sunscreen.

  • It can be difficult to rub hard-to-reach areas like your back. Ask someone else to rub those spots.
  • Thin clothing often does not offer enough protection against the sun. For example, a white T-shirt only has an SPF factor of 7. Wear clothes that are made to block UV rays, or also apply sunscreen under your clothes.
Apply Sunscreen Step 10

Step 5. Don't forget your face

Your face needs even more protection than the rest of your body, because skin cancer is most common on the face, especially on or around the nose. Some cosmetics or face creams contain sunscreen. But if you go outside for more than 20 minutes, you should use a special sunscreen for the face.

  • Many sunscreens for the face are in the form of a cream or lotion. If you're using a spray, spray it into your hands first, then apply it to your face. Do not spray the sunscreen directly on the face.
  • On the website of Dr. Jetske Ultee lists recommended sunscreens for the face.
  • Use a lip balm with at least SPF 15.
  • If you are bald or have thin hair, put sunscreen on your head as well. You can also wear a cap or hat to prevent burning.
Apply Sunscreen Step 11

Step 6. Reapply the sunscreen after 15 to 30 minutes

Research shows that your skin is better protected if you reapply after 15-30 minutes than if you wait 2 hours.

After reapplying the first time, reapply the sunscreen every 2 hours, or as directed on the label

Part 3 of 3: Safe in the sun

Apply Sunscreen Step 12

Step 1. Stay in the shade

Even if you have sunscreen on, you are exposed to the powerful rays of the sun. Staying in the shade or sitting under an umbrella will protect you from sun damage.

Avoid the 'peak hours'. The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Then stay out of the sun if you can. While you are outside, try to stay in the shade

Apply Sunscreen Step 13

Step 2. Wear protective clothing

Not all clothing is the same. A long-sleeved shirt and long pants protect your skin from the sun. Wear a hat or cap to shade your face and protect your scalp.

  • Choose tightly woven fabrics and dark colors, which offer the most protection. People who spend a lot of time outdoors can buy special clothing with built-in sun protection at outdoor sports stores or on the Internet.
  • Don't forget your sunglasses! The sun's UV rays can cause cataracts, so buy sunglasses that block UVB and UVA rays.
Apply Sunscreen Step 14

Step 3. Keep young children out of the sun

Exposure to the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., is especially harmful to young children. Buy a sunscreen that is especially suitable for young children and babies. Consult your doctor to find out what is best for your child.

  • Babies 6 months and younger should not be put on sunscreen yet, and should not be exposed to direct sunlight. The skin of young babies is not yet strong enough and can absorb too much of the chemicals from the sunscreen. If you do go outside with a young baby, keep him in the shade.
  • If your baby is over 6 months old, use a broad spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF30. Be careful when applying the sunscreen around the eyes.
  • Put on protective clothing for young children, such as a hat, long-sleeved shirt and thin long pants.
  • Give your child sunglasses with UV protection.


  • Buy special sunscreen for your face. If you have oily skin or break out easily, look for a product that is oil-free and won't clog pores. There are also special products for sensitive skin.
  • Do not stay in the sun for too long, even if you have applied yourself.
  • Reapply the sunscreen if you get wet, every 2 hours, or as stated on the package. You are not done with sunscreen in one go.

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