Bright Advice: Practical tips on how to apply Sunscreen

Bright Advice: Practical tips on how to apply Sunscreen

Sunscreen: Every. Single. Day.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." --Benjamin Franklin

This well-recognized quote couldn't be truer when it comes to skin health and sunscreen application. 90% of skin damage is directly related to ultraviolet (UV) exposure, and sunscreen is the first line of defense in protecting our skin from the damaging rays of the sun. 

The simple habit of applying sunscreen every day will support and protect your skin. UV damage takes approximately 20 years to fully manifest...the sun damage that you see today is rooted in sun exposure during your younger years. The accumulation of sun damage over time leads to skin laxity, skin discoloration, and skin cancers.

As a skin cancer expert, I see thousands of patients each year who failed to use sunscreen in their childhood and teenage years; and now, they are in my operating room, having surgery to remove their skin cancers surgically. Every day, I hear from patients "I wish I had known" as it relates to sun protection during their youth.

I recommend an SPF of at least 30 for my patients. And for those with very fair skin, I typically recommend an SPF 44 or higher. It's also important that sunscreens provide broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection.

How Much Sunscreen to Apply

Most individuals don't apply the amount of sunscreen needed to achieve the SPF rating on the sunscreen products. In fact, studies show that in general, most of us apply enough to achieve only half of the SPF rating on a sunscreen product. So that SPF 30 that you're wearing is likely closer to an SPF 15. The recommended amount of sunscreen is 2mg per square  centimeter of skin. A full shot glass (1 fl oz) is generally enough to cover full face and body of the average adult. A quarter teaspoon is typically adequate for the face and neck.

When to Reapply your Sunscreen

Sunscreen reapplication is recommended at intervals of every 2 hours. This guideline is based on several factors. First of all, many of us sweat or are doing water sports when we are wearing sunscreen and this can cause the sunscreen to run off of our skin. Secondly, many sunscreen ingredients are not photo-stable, meaning that they start to break down when they are exposed to sunlight; as the active sunscreen ingredients start to break down, they are less effective in protecting your skin against UV damage. For my patients that are outdoors, at sporting events, picnics, the pool, etc, I really stress the importance of reapplication every 2 hours. However, if you are working indoors most of the day and then run out at noon for a quick errand, the sunscreen that you applied that morning is probably still doing its job since you haven't exposed your skin to sunlight in the interim.

Choosing your Sunscreen

  • Make sunscreen access a priority: if it's not in our car or purse or backpack, we're not going to use reapply it. 
  • Make sure that your sunscreen has UVA and UVB, broad-spectrum protection.
  • We created our Bright Girl sunscreens with a tinted and an sheer option so that you can choose the ideal formulation for your skincare needs.
  • Water-resistant formulations are ideal for active lifestyles: sports, swimming, outdoor activities, etc.
  • Choose an SPF 30 or higher.
  • Mineral actives, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are ideal and avoid any of the chemical sunscreen actives that can be irritating to the skin and eyes.

As a dermatologist, I wish I could go back and have a re-do of my tween and teen years. My skin went through so much damage because I didn't use the right sun protection. Your generation has a chance to do better, and prevent the majority of the skin damage that your parents' generation sustained.

Smart Skin Starts Now.


--Dr. Angela