Sunscreen Basics: How to Apply & Reapply to Your Face

Sunscreen Basics: How to Apply & Reapply to Your Face

In Part 1 of this sunscreen series, I went over some basics of sunscreen. Basic knowledge is important in skincare, but it doesn’t do much good if we don’t apply it to our routines. We know sunscreen is safe and does a lot for us in terms of aesthetics and health. What seems to continue to be shrouded in mystery is how to apply sunscreen “properly.” In my experience, there isn’t one universal method.

In an ideal world, we would all wear sunscreen every day applied in the proper amounts and reapplied at the exact right time, but let’s be honest. We have other places to put our focus and we are not robots that can be programmed to live for perfect sunscreen usage. Finding your own rhythm is vital, so here’s what I do to keep my face protected without being overly focused on my sun protection.


What Kind of Sunscreen I Apply

My drug of choice, quite literally (sunscreen is regulated as a drug by the FDA), is chemical/organic sunscreen for my face. I started out with physical/inorganic sunscreen, but that era didn’t last long. I thought inorganic sunscreens would be a good fit due to people often saying they’re great for oily skin. Zinc oxide is an astringent, so it has the ability to manage oil production. The problem for me was that it worked too well. I ended up seriously drying my skin out with repeated use.

The white cast was also a major issue. Even sunscreens claiming to be sheer were definitely not on my face. I consider myself in the light-medium category (NC20-25 for my M.A.C people), and I struggled to find an inorganic sunscreen that didn’t leave me looking washed out and/or pink. Ironically, I ended up looking sunburnt.

Inorganic sunscreens just take the cake for me in terms of cosmetic elegance. I know there’s concerns about how often they contain high levels of alcohol, but the skincare I wear under my sunscreen protects my skin from any dryness. As I mentioned above, filters in organic sunscreens dry my skin out more than any inorganic sunscreen ever has.


When I Apply

I don’t apply sunscreen on days I don’t leave the house. This is under the caveat that I work from home and do not have any direct sunlight on me the large majority of the day. If you work from home like me and shy away from sunlight, I’d say it’s fine to skip the sunscreen on stay-home days. If you drive to work daily or go on walks with a pet daily, I’d say sunscreen should be on your face.

beauty controversy
I also choose to drive to the gym (when I used to go four to fives times a week pre-COVID) without sunscreen because sweating profusely with sunscreen and then reapplying on top of said sweat for the drive home feels horrible. I tried it for a week and all it did was break me out and make my skin feel absolutely disgusting. If you’ve figured out a way to do this successfully, just know you’re a superhero and live your best life.


How I Apply

I tend to slap my skincare layers on right after one another, but when I finish with a moisturizer, I do wait a few minutes before sunscreen. I want everything to be fully absorbed and also to be changed out of my PJs before I apply sun protection. The last thing I want is my sunscreen slipping around on my moisturizer or getting disturbed by changing clothes.

apply sunscreen

As for my application “technique,” I take a few sizable blobs and dot them around my face before spreading it out evenly and then letting it dry down. I’m sure we’ve all seen the 1/4-teaspoon requirement for your face, but I’m not busting out measuring spoons every time I use sunscreen. I’ll measure it once when I get new sunscreen for a general idea of what 1/4 teaspoon of that sunscreen looks like. After that, I do not measure the amount anymore.

If you’ve never measured out 1/4 teaspoon of your sunscreen, I’d do a few times to see what that looks like. I know I found that I was drastically underapplying when I first did this. Everyone’s face is a different size and therefore requires a different amount of sunscreen, but having a general idea is better than nothing in my book.


How (and When) I Reapply

Here’s the portion of the program where I urge you to do as I say and not as I do. I very rarely reapply my sunscreen. I know I should, but I honestly just can’t be bothered to do so. I do my activity in spurts, so it’s very rare I’m leaving my house multiple times a day and/or am outdoors for multiple hours. This is where I again bring up the fact that it’s over 100F/38C daily for almost half the year where I live. I don’t go outside if I can help it.

Here’s the portion of the program where I urge you to do as I say and not as I do. I very rarely reapply my sunscreen. I know I should, but I honestly just can’t be bothered.

When I did try to maintain a “reapply every two hours or else” type of policy, it really just ended being a source of stress and worry. When I switched to my current routine, I didn’t see any adverse effects in my skin in terms of burning or sun sensitivity. Sure, any additional damage occurring may not turn up for a decade, but I’ll deal with that then. I’m happy with how things are now, and my skin seems to be happy as well.

The times I do reapply are the uncommon, prolonged periods of sun exposure. On days I’m at a theme park, the zoo, or a beach, I will always bring sunscreen with me. I dip into the bathroom, wash my hands, and give my face and neck another coat. Does it make me shiny? Of course. Does my face feel fresh after applying layers of sunscreen all day? Of course not. But if I’m at Disneyland, I could not care less if I’m shinier than normal or feeling like I need a shower. That would happen regardless of whether I reapply sunscreen or not, so I might as well.

The fact that I have this much to say about the basics of my face sunscreen routine astounds even myself. I hope y’all have taken a few tips away from this that can help keep you extra safe and sound throughout the summer (and the rest of the year!). I’ll do a rundown of my body sunscreen routine as well (who’s surprised I have a separate routine for that LOL), but in the meantime, I’m wishing all of you a great week.


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