Skin Deep

Your most burning sunscreen questions answered

You are probably reading a lot about skin cancer risks and prevention tips for Skin Cancer Awareness month in May, which is great. However, many people still have questions about how and when to use sunscreen, despite the increased awareness of the dangers of UV rays on your skin. As a board-certified dermatologist, I get asked tons of questions about sunscreen. Here are some of the most misunderstood:

Q: How much sunscreen should I apply?

A: You should apply ½ teaspoon of sunscreen to your face and one ounce (a shot glass worth) to the exposed areas of your body. If you do not apply enough sunscreen, you will not get the SPF protection you think you have and can therefore be susceptible to sunburn and UV damage.

Dr. Leslie Baumann.jpg
Dr. Leslie Baumann

Q: When In my skincare routine should I apply sunscreen?

A: Apply sunscreen as the last product in your daily skincare regimen. If you layer other skincare and cosmetics on top of it, you can reduce its effectiveness. You should be wearing at least SPF 15 every day, even if you are not planning on spending much time outside. For days when you’ll be outside in the sun for more than 30 minutes, use a higher SPF.

Q: What if sunscreen makes me break out?

A: If sunscreen is contributing to breakouts, try switching to a physical SPF that contains zinc oxide. Chemical sunscreens can cause breakouts, and some people are allergic to oxybenzone and octinoxate, two ingredients commonly found in chemical sunscreens.

In my Miami practice, many patients with acne-prone skin love EltaMD Physical sunscreen.

Q: How often should I reapply SPF?

A: Aim for reapplying your sunscreen at least every 90 minutes while outdoors, or after getting wet or excessively sweating, such as after playing a sport or jogging. You should avoid towel drying if you can help it, because this can wipe away the sunscreen from your skin. Instead, pat dry after swimming or sweating.

Q: Does it matter if i use a spray-on or lotion SPF?

A: The SPF application type that you choose depends on your personal preferences and the activity that you’ll be doing. For example, if you’re playing golf, using a spray for your body can be a quick and easy way to reapply sunscreen on the ninth hole. However, since spray can get into your eyes, you may want to bring along a stick or lotion for your face. Also, make sure when you apply the spray that you completely cover your skin.

Q: Do retinoids make my skin more sun-sensitive?

A: No, this is a very common myth. The reason you should always apply retinoids in the evening is because the sun can break them down and render them ineffective.

Bottom line

Wearing sunscreen is one of the most important steps in your skincare routine, but it you’re not applying enough of it or are applying it incorrectly, your skin could be left unprotected. Keep the above tips in mind this season for healthy, beautiful skin!