You’re Using Sunscreen Wrong: 10 Mistakes You Need to Stop Making

You always know when warm weather has officially arrived: by that telltale sight of skin that’s pink from too much UV exposure. “People always come in in April with the first sunburn of the season,” says Toronto dermatologist Dr. Sonya Cook. Everyone is just so damn excited to finally see single digit temperatures vaporize that they get out there to soak up that glorious sunshine, without heeding too much attention to protecting themselves. And even if they are, most people are still using it incorrectly. Like, super incorrectly. Here’s a refresher on what you need to know.

1. You’re not using enough
Don’t assume that because it’s a higher SPF that you’re better protected. It all comes down to applying the right amount. “We say a teaspoon for the face, a teaspoon for the arms, two teaspoons for each leg, a teaspoon for your front and a teaspoon for your back,” says Dr. Cook.

2. You’re not using the right kind
Make sure you’re using one that says broad spectrum. The SPF rating only relates to UVB, which causes burns, is stronger in the summer and between the hours of 10 to 4. But you also need protection from UVA, the sneakier of the two; it can’t be felt, and it gets into the deeper layers of your skin, and is present all year round.

3. You only wear it when the sun’s out
And speaking of UVA, just because it’s cloudy doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. “UVA comes through the clouds very effectively,” says Dr. Cook. Which is why you need to wear sunscreen DAILY. Don’t also assume that because you’re in the shade, you’re protected. “You’re getting a lot of UV from scatter,” says Dr. Cook.

4. It’s freaking expired (SMH)
Your sunscreen should be fresh, so pay attention to the expiry date. And if it hasn’t exceeded it, if it’s been sitting in the car all year, chances are it’s no longer effective.

5. You only use spray-on sunscreen
Apply your base layer with lotion first. Sprays are better for touch ups. “I usually recommend to my patients that they put on a lotion because you get better coverage,” says Dr. Cook. “No one is putting enough of a spray on to get two milligrams per centimeter squared.” Use sprays for touch ups instead.

6. You only use makeup with SPF
Don’t rely on SPF-spiked makeup or even moisturizer to protect your face. “The problem is they’re not regulated,” says Dr. Cook.  Not only do they not have to offer broad spectrum protection, but you’re less likely to apply the amount needed for proper protection anyway.

7. You don’t give it time to start working

If you’re using chemical sunscreen, it’s recommended to wait 20-30 minutes before exposure so that the volatile components can evaporate and the sunscreen can form an even film. If you’re using mineral (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide), you’re good to go.

8. You’re missing spots (so many spots)
Pay attention to the areas that often get forgotten, such as ears, back of the neck, and decollete. You’ll appreciate your smooth, line-free upper chest years from now, trust.

9. You’re still suntanning…
Don’t use sunscreen as a license to bake; it actually increases your UV exposure. “It makes me crazy when people ask what SPF they should wear when lying in the sun!,” says Dr. Cook. “It’s for going swimming, playing golf and enjoying your day during the peak hours.” And because they’re intended to prevent you from UVB, you’re probably getting more UVA than you should.

10. And of course, you’re not reapplying
Don’t forget to re-apply, after every two hours of exposure. And if you’re if you’re swimming or exercising, make it every hour.

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