How Much Sunscreen Should You Use?

Did you know that most people only use half or even a quarter of the amount of sunscreen that’s necessary to protect their skin from the harmful sun’s rays?

There are several reasons for this. Some sunscreens can be too thick or leave a white cast on the skin, making it difficult to apply the recommended amount; some people just want to make their sunscreen last as long as possible (after all, it’s not easy to find a good one, is it?); others simply don’t know how much they should actually use. Labels usually say to apply sunscreen liberally, but how much is that exactly?

Well, to test sunscreen and determine its SPF, scientists apply 2mg of it per cm2 of skin, so if you’re using less than that your skin is not adequately protected. In practice, this means that you should use 1/4 teaspoon of sunscreen for your whole face, and 1/2 teaspoon for your face and neck. Your arms need 1 teaspoon each, while your entire body needs an ounce (the amount of a shot glass). If you use a spray sunscreen, then apply it until an even sheen appears on the skin (usually it takes about 6 sprays on the desired area).

That is a lot of sunscreen and, if you go to the beach regularly, you could run out of a bottle within a week! In addition, applying that much sunscreen is not that easy, and I often struggle with it too. It can be tempting to apply less, but that will greatly reduce the SPF you’re getting. In fact, if you apply half the amount, you get the protection of only the square root of the SPF. So, for instance, a SPF 70 becomes a SPF 8.4!

So remember to pile up on the sunscreen, especially in the hot summer months. When it comes to protecting your skin, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Do you apply enough sunscreen?

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    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Xin, I agree. It’s always ok to apply more when it comes to sunscreen, but very dangerous to apply less.

  1. says

    I guess (and hope!) I’m applying enough sunscreen. I think that people would be more prone to use the right amount of sunscreen if this was less thick and fragrance-free. The one I’m using for the body (Bottega Verde Sol SPF 50) has a strong chocolate-like scent; most of the times that I use it, I hear somebody saying “What’s this smell?”. It’s so embarrassing!

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      La Bisbetica, I agree. I wish scientists would create a sunscreen that offers adequate protection even if you apply only a small amount.. I don’t mind scents too much in cosmetics, as long as they’re not too strong. That’s really offputting.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Ana, it’s a shame that you have to apply so much isn’t it? Applying less is dangerous but if you use the right amount, you often run out of it in no time. I try to wear protective clothes as much as possible, but that’s not always possible especially in the summer.

  2. says

    I definitely use enough sunscreen on my face, but I don’t know about the rest of my body. I definitely apply enough so that I have to spend some time working it in, but a shot glass? Probably not. I’ve always known about that rule, but urghhh I don’t want to rebuy sunscreen every two weeks! I agree with all that was said up there, it would be great if someone could develop a sunscreen that needs less product for the same amount of sun protection.
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    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Makeup Morsels, a shot glass is a lot, isn’t it? If you abide by that rule, you’ll gonna finish the bottle in no time! But not applying enough is never a good idea either. I try to wear pants and long-sleeved tops whenever I can to save on the sunscreen, but that’s not something you can do when it’s really hot unfortunately.

  3. says

    You’re doing it right as I attended a “sunscreen” workshop or talk and it’s basically teaspoons they use, I don’t even get to apply half as much, I’m just too scared of the icky feeling! But yeah, I NEED to follow directions or I’m just wasting products!

    Thanks for this.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Nikki, you’re welcome. Yes, some sunscreens are so thick that feel really icky on the skin. Just experiment until you find out that doesn’t. Wearing the right amount of sunscreen is too important. :)

      • Phylisteen says

        I work for Kiehl’s and am in love with our Super Fluid SPF 50. It’s featherlight in a vitamin E base and absorbs to a weightless matte finish. I use exactly 1/4 teaspoon and it feels smooth and like I don’t have another layer on. Formulation really matters in how comfortable a product feels.

        • Gio says

          Phylisteen, I’m glad you’ve found something that works so well for you. Formulation is very important indeed, and this one sounds great.

  4. Fane Davis says

    i was like “oh?is it?” when i read this one. I didn’t know there is right way and amount of applying sunscreen.I usually apply it just like the moisturizer,with a small amount to avoid the greasy and shining face.In hope that a bottle of sunscreen will last me longer time.Now that i know i did not applied enough.:(
    Thanks for the info…i will (hopefully) apply right/enough amount this time around.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Fane Davis, you’re welcome. Unfortunately, that’s what most people think, and what I used to do when I first started using sunscreen. Sadly, applying so little will give you little protection and still leave skin exposed to sunburn and premature aging. :(

  5. Janessa says

    I’m pretty sure I do! I use a plentiful amount and I don’t skimp on it because it’s precious. I feel like it’s worth it :]. Both chemical and physical sunscreens need 1/4 tsp?
    I am so tired! :[

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Janessa, according to Dr Schultz, if you use a chemical-free sunscreen, you can apply a bit less. You can find the full explanation here: However, it’s not easy to find a sunscreen with only physical sunscreen ingredients. Most are a combination of both chemical and physical ones so I say pile it on. It’s always best to apply more than less in this case.

  6. says

    How do people use that little on their skin? >D My skin practically absorbs all moisture the second it hits, so I can use nearly a shotglass of sunscreen on just my arms and they’ll be dry in seconds. x.x I keep a separate sunscreen for my face, and I don’t need much there, but the rest of my body? O.o So I tend to wear covering clothing as often as possible, and apply on any exposed skin.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Thurisaz, lucky you! My skin would be all greasy if I used a shotglass only on my arm! lol

      I tend to wear covering clothes as much possible too so that I can wear less sunscreen. :)

  7. Elizabeth says

    When I apply my sunscreen it goes on white then it clears up after a few minutes. Do I need to rub in the sunscreen until all the whiteness goes away or should I just slather on sunscreen making like a smooth white layer and then let it dry clear?? I usually rub it in a few times but I’m afraid if I rub it in too much then I’ll affect the protection I need and if I don’t rub it in enough it won’t absorb properly…

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Elizabeth, does your sunscreen contain Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Dioxide? These ingredients are white minerals so it’s normal for them to leave a white cast on the skin. As long as you slather the appropriate amount on all areas covered, the protection shouldn’t be affected.

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