Sunscreen Crash Course: Do’s and Don’ts (with video)

Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a small commission for purchases made via affiliate links.

This video is sponsored by Adore Beauty.

Sunscreen is one of the most essential products in any skincare routine, but also one of the most confusing! Here’s a quick guide to the Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to wearing sunscreen – there are also some sunscreen recommendations from Adore Beauty at the end from me (oily skin) and Jo Fleming (dry skin – you might know her from the Beauty IQ podcast).

For a more in-depth guide, check out The Lab Muffin Guide to Basic Skincare (part of the sunscreen chapter is available as a free download).

The video is here on YouTube.

Do: Wear Sunscreen Daily

Sunscreen isn’t just for the beach! If you’re serious about skincare, you should be wearing sunscreen every day.

There is a bit of wiggle room here – if the UV index is below 3, then according to Australian medical authorities you don’t have to wear sunscreen. But since you’re here watching a skincare video, you probably care about sun damage and you’re probably using some anti-aging ingredients in your skincare. So unless you want to be wasting all of that hard work and money, then you should be probably wearing sunscreen every day.

Some anti-aging ingredients like alpha hydroxy acids also make your skin more sensitive to the sun, which can make wearing daily sunscreen more of a priority.

You might need sunscreen even if you work indoors, such as if you’re near a window. There are longer UV rays (UVA rays) and these still penetrate through glass. Even though they don’t cause burning, they do cause premature aging.

Related post: Should You Wear Sunscreen Indoors? The Science (with video)

Do: Wear Enough Sunscreen

The first rule of sunscreen club is: use enough sunscreen. A little goes a long way is a lie when it comes to sunscreen! The less sunscreen you have on your skin, the less protection you get. You can think of sunscreen like paint: if you don’t have enough on, you’re not hiding your skin well enough from the sun.

The standard recommendation for face sunscreen is a quarter teaspoon or 2 (generous-ish) finger lengths. When in doubt, apply more – you’re going to need more than a thin layer to get enough sun protection.

Related post: How Much Sunscreen Do You Need For Your Face?

Do: Wear sunscreen under makeup

All sunscreens (chemical, physical, combo) go on your skin at the end of your skincare routine. This means it goes over any serums or creams you’re using, and under your makeup (e.g. primer, foundation, concealer, blush).

It’s a myth that you need to apply chemical and physical sunscreens differently. Chemical sunscreens don’t need to react with your skin to activate or anything. But both types of sunscreens need some time to form an even layer on your skin.

Getting this even, smooth layer is how you get even sun protection. It’s a bit like how you need to wait for wall paint to flatten out, and for the brush strokes to disappear. After you’ve applied sunscreen, wait 5-10 minutes for it to settle down and form this even layer. That little wait time means that your sunscreen is less likely to get removed when you start putting on your makeup.

Related post: Video: All Your Sunscreen and Make-up Questions Answered

Do: Reapply Sunscreen

Sunscreen gets less effective over time. Like foundation, sunscreen on your skin starts clumping up as time goes on, so you don’t have that even layer you need. Gaps in your sunscreen layer means that the sun can get through and reach your skin.

Sunscreen can also get wiped off onto anything that it brushes against – your hair, your hands, your clothes. If you put on sunscreen in the morning and you plan to go to the beach in the afternoon, you need to reapply your sunscreen before  going to the beach. if you’re out in the sun for an extended period of time, you should be reapplying your sunscreen about every 2 hours, and after you get wet (e.g. sweating or swimming).

I have another post that goes into detail about different ways of reapplying sunscreen, especially over makeup. My favorite way is using a puff applicator and patting on the sunscreen very gently over my makeup. With the right sunscreen and if I’m really gentle, it mostly doesn’t mess up my makeup.

Related post: How to Reapply Sunscreen Over Makeup (with video)

Don’t: Rely on the sunscreen in your makeup

Remember how you need enough sunscreen for it to be effective? And remember how that means you need a quarter teaspoon or two finger lengths? Well, you’re not going to put on that much makeup. A foundation with SPF isn’t enough, and a powder with SPF definitely isn’t enough – you’re going to need a proper sunscreen.

Don’t: Mix Makeup Into Your Sunscreen

It’s really tempting to mix sunscreen and foundation in your hand to make a DIY tinted sunscreen, so you only have to put on one layer. But this isn’t a good idea! For a sunscreen to work well, it has to form an even continuous layer on your skin. You aren’t going to be able to mix these products as evenly as a machine, so you won’t get even coverage.

You’ll also change how the sunscreen applies and dries on your skin, so the mixture won’t dry the way that the manufacturers intended it to dry. This results in uneven coverage and spots where you don’t have enough protection.

If you do want to just apply everything in one step, look for a proper tinted sunscreen. But remember that you still need to apply enough of it for it to be effective, so look for one that isn’t super pigmented.

Don’t: Use Expired Sunscreen

Sunscreen is one of the few skincare products where you can have really bad consequences if it isn’t working properly anymore… which is what happens when it expires! It’s best to play it safe and buy a new sunscreen if your old sunscreen is past the expiry date.

Don’t: Store your sunscreen in the heat

Sunscreens will break down and separate if it’s exposed to too much heat. That means it won’t spread right on your skin, and won’t give you the even protection that you need with no gaps in your coverage. Places like your car glove box are not a good place to keep your sunscreen. If you do want to have a sunscreen with you, keep it in your handbag. When you’re at the beach, make sure you don’t just leave the sunscreen bottle lying in the sun – cover it up and leave it in the shade.

Do: Pick a sunscreen you enjoy

When you choose a sunscreen, the most important thing is to choose a sunscreen that you’ll actually use. If it just lies around sitting on the shelf after you’ve used it once because you hate it, then there’s no point.

Because everyone’s so much more knowledgeable about sun protection these days, there’s been a lot of really nicely textured sunscreens on the market. So don’t think that all sunscreens are like heavy greasy body sunscreens! There are lots of sunscreens that go on like primer or moisturiser.

In terms of chemical versus physical sunscreens, I’ve done another video on the differences between them, and the pros and cons of each one. In short, there are great sunscreens in both categories – the best sunscreen for you is going to depend on what you want in a sunscreen and what your skin is like. As a very general rule of thumb, if your biggest problem with sunscreen so far is texture I’d recommend trying out a chemical sunscreen first, and if your biggest problem is irritation I’d recommend trying out a physical sunscreen first.

Michelle’s picks

Ultra Violette Supreme Screen SPF 50+

  • Ultra Violette focus on making sunscreens with nice textures that work well under makeup, and still give high UV protection (very important in Australia)
  • Comes in a convenient pump
  • Very lightweight, sinks in quickly
  • Leaves a silky, primer-like finish on skin that makes a good makeup base
  • No balling with makeup
  • Contains some of the newer organic filters (Tinosorb S, Tinosorb M) that give good protection in the UVA range

Aspect Sun Envirostat Face SPF 50

  • Chemical sunscreen, 4 hours water resistant
  • Thicker than the face sunscreens I usually use, but not super thick or greasy – most comfortable water resistant sunscreen I’ve ever used
  • Most water-resistant sunscreens ball up on me, this one pills a little but less than others I’ve used
  • My new go-to when I know I’m going to sweat or if I’m doing water activities
  • Doesn’t have newer UVA filters, but is broad spectrum according to Australian regulations so the UVA protection is pretty decent

SkinCeuticals Ultra Facial Defense SPF 50+

  • Combo sunscreen
  • Has a lot of filters often used for high protection (Tinosorb S, Mexoryl SX & XL, Uvinul A Plus)
  • Has titanium dioxide, which tends to give a white cast on my skin so this one going on has that white cast but it actually fades away pretty quickly after the layer settles down it is a little bit dewy and sticky on my skin especially because we’re going into summer and it’s getting quite humid but it’s very moisturizing and it’s not super greasy

Jo’s picks

Ultra Violette Lean Screen SPF 50+

  • Mineral sunscreen
  • Not as thick as most mineral sunscreens, really pleasant to use
  • Fragrance-free – can be difficult to find with sunscreens
  • Blends into dry skin beautifully (also works for Michelle with no white cast)
  • Can pill if you use the wrong product underneath, if it pills and you have drier skin maybe try using a moisturiser underneath

Alpha-H Protection Plus Daily SPF 50+

  • Chemical sunscreen
  • Jo has used this for about 3 years and still consistently goes back to it
  • Goes on like it’s tinted (even though it’s not), makes your skin just look a little bit more evenly toned
  • Probably a little bit mattifying for very dry skin, but should work well for other skin types
  • Beautiful texture
  • Doesn’t leave a tint for Jo (she’s quite fair skinned)
  • Does kind of smell like hay (meant to be fragrance-free)

Mesoestetic Mesoprotech Light Water AntiAging Veil SPF 50+

  • Probably Jo’s all-time favorite and the most expensive
  • Really beautiful sunscreen especially for drier skin types (wouldn’t suggest for oilier skin, would probably be too dewy)
  • Gives drier skin the most beautiful glow, blends into skin beautifully
  • Glides straight on, even if you’re using a lot
  • Feels amazing on the skin, has a beautiful fragrance
  • Great for more mature skin types as well
  • Also has matte and stick versions

Have you tried any of these sunscreens before? Do you have a really good sunscreen recommendations? In particular, please share if you have a good water resistant sunscreen, these are hard to find!

The video is sponsored by Adore Beauty; however, the content is all based on my independent research and my honest experience. The featured sunscreens were also provided by Adore Beauty – I picked them from Adore Beauty’s extensive product range to try. For more information, see Disclosure Policy.

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7 thoughts on “Sunscreen Crash Course: Do’s and Don’ts (with video)”

  1. Michelle,

    What are your thoughts on SPF boosting techniques that don’t actually provide sun protection but simply lessen erythema to obtain the higher rating?

    I’ve read from Dr. Dudley that mineral sunscreens must be 20% zinc oxide if used alone, or 15%/5% zinc oxide and titanium dioxide combo to achieve SPF 30. Yet I consistently see mineral sunscreen with only 5% percent of these actives claiming SPF 30 or above.

    Are they fooling us with filler ingredients that aren’t actually preventing damage? Does Dr. Dudley have a point?

    Reply
  2. The information about the sunscreen crash course that you have shared with us will really be helpful for us about how to use the sunscreen perfectly. The video makes it more better to understand about the sunscreen do’s and dont’s. Thank you for listing it together and sharing the information with us through this article.

    Reply
  3. Hi Michelle
    How many times do you reapply sunblock if you are spending all day indoors? Does it still clump up after 2h even if staying inside?

    Thnx

    Reply
    • The film does slowly degrade, although if you’re indoors and inactive it’ll almost certainly degrade slower. I think most people won’t need to reapply indoors unless they’re exposed to direct sun, or right before they go outdoors – see my post on indoor sunscreen for the relative amounts of UV you get.

      Reply

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