how much sunscreen is enough?

How much sunscreen should I put on?

Written by: Ayesha Khan, MBBS

In a Nutshell

  • Most people apply only 25-50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen
  • Recommended amount is 1 oz for the body to cover all exposed areas of skin
  • Besides sunscreen, also make sure to limit sun exposure with protective clothing, avoiding sun between 10 am to 2pm

How much is enough?

It is estimated that 20% of all Americans (1 in 5) develops skin cancer during their lifetime. Experts suggests that everyone is at risk of developing skin cancer regardless of their age, gender, and race. Therefore, adequate caution must be maintained by limiting intense sun exposure. In addition, it is advised to wear protective clothing and use of sunscreen to block harmful UV rays from causing any skin damage. It is also recommended to avoid going outdoors between 10 am to 2 pm as sun rays are strongest during these hours.

Experts recommend regular sunscreen use every day. It is a common misconception that sunscreen should only be used when sun is intense, which is not true. Even on cloudy days, 80% of the harmful UV rays from sun can penetrate your skin and cause skin damage.

Verdict- How much sunscreen should I put on?

Data indicates that only 30% women and less than 15% men use sunscreen regularly. However, it has been observed that even regular users apply only 25-50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen. According to the recommendations of American Academy of Dermatology:

- An average adult needs about 1 ounce of sunscreen to apply a thin film all over their body (this is almost equivalent to a shot glass)

- Besides applying sunscreen on your face, make sure to also apply sunscreen on your neck, top of head, front of feet and behind the ears.

- Sunscreen should ideally be applied on clean, dry skin – at least 15 minutes before going outdoors.

- While protecting face and exposed skin, caution must also be maintained to unconventional areas of the body such as lips. Make sure to apply a lip balm or lipstick that has SPF-30 sunscreen as an ingredient.

- When outdoors, reapply sunscreen after every 2 hours or after sweating, swimming, or engaging any activity that may remove sunscreen from your skin.

Nuances/ Safety

There are a lot of options and choices when it comes to the type of sunscreens. You can choose from creams, ointments, lotions, wax sticks, gels, and sprays based on your personal preference and area of application. For example:

- Sunscreen creams are the most suitable options for face or dry skin

- Gel options are most suitable for hairy skin areas such as head, male chest

- Use stick sunscreens to ensure protection against delicate areas such as eyes

- Sprays are more suitable for use on children

You can also find sunscreens in the markets that are designed for children or for people with sensitive skin.

Strength of Evidence: A
The recommendations made in this article are based of data and best practices suggested by American Academy of Dermatology and various large-scaled clinical trials.

Our Ruling

It is very important to know when, how and how much sunscreen one should use to reduce their risk of developing skin cancer and other cosmetic issues associated with intense sun exposure such as premature aging, wrinkling, dehydration of skin etc. Experts recommend 1 oz of sunscreen is sufficient to cover the entire body. In addition, make sure to reapply when you are outdoors to ensure consistent protection.

Our Sources:

  1. AAD - Sunscreen tips
  2. Skin Cancer - How much sunscreen to use
  3. Wall St. Journal - Burning question, how much sunscreen
  4. Johns Hopkins - Sunscreen routine
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