I Applied My SPF Incorrectly—Until a Dermatologist Told Me This
Photographed by Hunter Abrams

I Applied My SPF Incorrectly—Until a Dermatologist Told Me This

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The importance of wearing SPF is well documented. It’s the non-negotiable product that all experts agree should be worn every day, rain or shine, to protect the skin against UVA and UVB rays. In turn, it helps reduce the risk of skin cancer and slow down the signs of aging. “We can prevent up to 80 percent of skin aging by using daily sunscreen correctly, all year round,” says Dr Sam Bunting. “That’s a lot to play for.”

But are you wearing it correctly? Many dermatologists say we are missing the mark when it comes to proper application. Even as a beauty editor, I spent many years of my life smearing just one pump of SPF onto my face and rarely applied it beneath the jawline. That is until I learned a clever method for foolproof application.

“You need a quarter of a teaspoon (or 1.25ml) of sunscreen for the face and the same again for the neck,” Dr Bunting explains. “Or, you can use the two-finger—your index and middle fingers— rule for ease. I recommend people use the 13 dot technique to ensure you cover the skin evenly, without missing bits out. Just like painting a wall, you want (and need) an even layer.” This technique couldn’t be easier: simply dot 13 fingerprints of SPF across the face, then rub in.

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It’s a great way to feel confident that you are fully protected from the sun, and not under-doing it on the good stuff. It’s also worth noting that the dose you must use to get the protection promised on the packaging is the same for all sunscreens, so even if you’re wearing a higher factor, it doesn’t mean you should reduce the amount you’re applying—stick to the same technique.

According to Dr. Bunting, another common mistake is missing key areas, such as the hairline, eyelids, and ears. Not to mention neglecting to reapply. “No sunscreen provides reliable protection after two hours, so you do need to reapply regularly—I recommend using tinted sunscreen in summer, which does double duty as your base, making it easier to reapply throughout the day since you won’t disturb a layer of foundation.”

EltaMD UV Broad Spectrum SPF Sunscreen

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 PA+++

SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50

SkinMedica Total Defense + Repair SPF 34

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Sunscreen Milk SPF 100

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunscreen Lotion SPF 55