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How to apply sunscreen: 10 common mistakes to avoid

Sunscreen Mistakes to avoid


Regular use of sunscreens; is it still a debate? Not for anyone who loves their skin clear and glowing! For the rest, let's make this crystal clear: Sunscreen is the non-negotiable hero of your daily skincare routine – no exceptions.

However, it is crucial that you understand how to use spf on the face correctly. You could be making some mistakes while applying sunscreens that can impact its effectiveness.

Here are 10 common mistakes that people commit while applying sunscreen that you need to be wary of. 

Common sunscreen mistakes to avoid

1. Not applying the adequate amount

If you believe a few dots of the sun cream on your skin will serve the purpose, that’s not how it works. To ensure that your skin gets complete protection against sun damage and tan, It's essential to apply a generous amount of sunscreen on exposed skin, including the neck area.

Wondering how to apply sunscreen on your face in the right manner?

Here is the thumb rule:

  • You must apply sunscreens at least 15 - 20 minutes before stepping out in the sun.
  • Dispense at least two finger lengths of the product, apply evenly on the face and neck and gently massage it in an upward motion until it is completely absorbed. 
  • Use it as the final step of your skincare regimen after moisturizing.
  • Reapply every 2-3 hours, or more if you go swimming or sweat.

2. Applying just before stepping out

Sunscreen needs enough time to be absorbed in your skin completely. This is why, applying sunscreen right before stepping out will not be effective enough to provide adequate protection to your skin against the harmful UVA and UVB rays.

Experts suggest applying sunscreen at least 15-30 minutes before you are exposed to the sun. Moreover, you must reapply it every 3-4 hours or more if you tend to sweat excessively or are going swimming.

3. Not using the right product

Just like you consider your skin type and concern while using other products, it is important to choose sunscreens based on your skin's needs. Sunscreens are available in various consistencies, forms, and filters. While picking the best sunscreen for your face, you must check its ingredients and the benefits it offers.

For best results, ensure that your sunscreen has an SPF of 50 or a minimum of SPF 35 with effective UV filters and is also coupled with skin-loving ingredients like hyaluronic acid, cica, squalane, etc.

4. Applying only during summers

The harmful sun rays are always lurking around, even during cloudy days and winters. Unbeknownst to many, UV rays can penetrate through glass windows and even snow, making your skin more vulnerable to sunburn. That is why applying sunscreen only during summer is not enough. You must use sunscreen throughout the year, whatever the season.

5. Not reapplying

When to apply sunscreen is a common question people ask. However, not many consider its reapplication.

Sunscreen effectiveness diminishes over time. Therefore, applying sunscreen once a day is not enough, especially if you are outdoors or are exposed to sun rays through windows and glasses. For complete protection against sun damage, reapply sunscreen every three hours. 

6. Not applying on the body

The skin on the other parts of the body is equally vulnerable to sun damage. Therefore, it is crucial to apply a generous amount of sunscreen to your ears, neck, and back of the neck too. Similarly, if you are outdoors, you must apply it all over your exposed areas, including your arms, legs, and back.

You can opt for a body sunscreen to protect your body against the harmful UV rays. Though you can even use a face sunscreen, ensure that you apply the adequate quantity to avoid getting sunburns and tan

7. Only considering the SPF

SPF or the sun protection factor might be the most crucial factor for sunscreens, but it's not the sole indicator of effectiveness. SPF primarily measures protection against UVB rays, which cause sunburn. However, you need protection against UV rays as well.

Ensure your sunscreen is labeled as "broad spectrum" for protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Moreover, ensure that your sunscreen contains PA. PA stands for the protection grade of UVA. Therefore, the higher the PA, the better the protection against UVA rays. So while choosing sunscreens, don't just stop at SPF, consider other factors too.

8. Not considering the filters

Not understanding the contents of your sunscreen could reduce the sun protection you are looking for. Let us help you. There are three types of sunscreens: Chemical, physical (mineral), and hybrid. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays, while physical sunscreens create a barrier by reflecting them. Similarly, hybrid sunscreens have the benefit of both.

Apart from these three, you can also explore additional filters like blue light protection (one that deflects blue light emitting from phone and laptop screens) and new-gen filters to choose from. New Gen filters are known to be the safest sun filters. They remain stable when exposed to sunlight and are less likely to cause skin irritation. 

Read the labels carefully and choose the one that suits your skin and preference.

9. Relying only on sunscreens for sun protection

The UV rays can be more harmful than we think. While sunscreen considerably helps protect the skin against it, it is not enough. You need to ensure that you do not expose your skin to the harsh sun rays for a longer time.

Avoid prolonged sun exposure and stepping out in direct sunlight during the peak hours between 10am to 4pm. Seek shade when outdoors, and wear protective clothing, like full-sleeved clothes, sunglasses, hats, and gloves.

10. Using an expired product

Like all other products, sunscreens have a shelf life too. You can use sunscreens either for three years or up to their expiration date.

Using a sunscreen that is past its expiration date can reduce its effectiveness and potency, leaving your skin vulnerable to sun damage. Whenever you buy sunscreen, check its expiration date. In case it's not present on the label, write the purchase date on the tube.

Best sunscreens worth trying

Following are some of the best sunscreens without white cast. These are non-greasy and lightweight, and are enriched with the goodness of skin-loving ingredients like cica, squalene, niacinamide, rice water, vitamin E, hyaluronic acid, etc. 

To sum up

Only knowing how to apply sunscreen on the face is not enough. You need to ensure that you are using it in the right way. Avoid committing these common sunscreen mistakes to ensure you're getting the most out of your sun protection. Your skin will thank you for it!


1. How much sunscreen to apply on the face?

Instead of slathering two finger lengths of the sunscreen at one go, try using smaller increments, about 1-2 fingertip units at a time. Dot and spread it thinly, allowing absorption, then repeat the process 2-3 times, if required. Your skin tends to absorb sunscreen more effectively when applied in smaller batches rather than all at once. Don’t forget to apply it to your neck and ears for complete protection.

2. How to apply sunscreen with makeup

Start with a broad spectrum sunscreen as your base. After letting it set for a minute, proceed with your makeup application. If using a liquid or cream sunscreen, apply it before the foundation. To reapply, lightly pat the sunscreen on top of your makeup using a sponge until it's absorbed. Also, ensure every area is covered for comprehensive protection. You can look for makeup products with SPF for an added layer of protection.

3. When to apply sunscreen after or before moisturizer

Apply sunscreen after moisturizer. Nourish your skin with your regular moisturizer, allowing it to fully absorb into your skin. Once it's fully absorbed, apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

4. What are new-gen UV filters in sunscreen? Are they safe?

Latest new-generation UV filters (Uvinal & Tinosorb) are the safest known sun filters. They remain stable when exposed to sunlight and are less likely to cause skin irritation.



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