Correct Way To Apply Sunblock!

How to apply sunscreen

We all know the importance of applying sun block lotion before we step out. The cosmetic market is flooded with myriad no. of companies that manufacture various types of sunscreen lotions. Sunscreen is one of the most important things for skin health because almost 90% of the symptoms of skins like premature skin aging, wrinkles and even skin cancer are caused by exposure to ultraviolet light emitted from the sun. The rays can now easily reach the earth because of the holes in ozone layer caused due to pollution. These rays are the primary cause of skin diseases and fatal skin cancers. Long term exposure to UV rays can cause severe skin diseases whereas short term exposure may cause skin aging, dryness etc. Many people often have the misconception that sunscreen should only be used while stepping out on a sunny day. It is a myth. On darker winter days and on rainy days as well sunscreen is imperative. As the temperature is lower on such days the rays prove to be even more harmful on such days.  While exposure to sunlight for a smaller duration might not cause skin cancer, it can increase the production of melanin which can cause skin tanning.

Sunscreen is such a commonplace thing these days that we all think we know how to use it. But there are certain things to be kept in mind while using a sunscreen that will ensure that it is completely effective. The sunscreen should be effective for a broad range of spectrum. Also, the frequency and the amount of sunscreen applied should be carefully considered.

The UV rays are categorized into three categories i.e. UV-A, UV-B and UV- C. The UVC rays are not harmful as they do not reach the earth. UVB rays cannot penetrate the glass but they cause sunburns. UVA rays are more constant in their penetration and go deeper in to the skin. Their intensity does not vary and is consistent.

Best Sunscreen Lotion

Two photographs showing the effect of applying sunscreen in visible light and in UVA. The photograph on the right was taken using ultraviolet photography shortly after application of sunscreen to half of the face.

The sunscreen should be chosen based on the ingredients and the Sun Protection Factor it provides. The ingredients in a sunscreen can be of two types, one which absorb radiation and one which block radiation. Ingredient like zinc oxide are more opaque  while micronium titanium oxide is less opaque but still provides wide protection.

The correct method of applying sunscreen is to apply it half an hour before stepping out in the sun. It should be applied liberally on all exposed body parts. A very important point to remember is to apply sunscreen on top of other makeup products.  The sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours in the sun. Sunscreen should also be applied after exercising, swimming etc. Sunscreen should be applied daily and regularly.

A lesser commonly known fact is about the use of sunscreen and insect repellants together. Insect repellants decrease the potency of sunscreens and while using them together a higher SPF sunscreen should be used.

So, to summarize a few points to be kept in mind, to ensure full effectiveness of sunscreen are:-

  • Sunscreen should be used daily and not intermittently.
  • Use a sunscreen with a SPF of minimum 30 or higher.
  • Use sunscreen liberally and should cover all body parts exposed to sun.
  • It should be replied every two hours to ensure maximum protection.
  • For those who have jobs that involve more exposure to the sun, such as pilots, frequent fliers, sales agents etc. sunscreen should be used strictly and not intermittently.
  • A sunscreen with a broader range of spectrum that provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays.

18 thoughts on “Correct Way To Apply Sunblock!

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  12. Hello Doctor,

    After our meeting today afternoon – i went thru you blog on use of sun screen. Very useful inofmation on the use of sun screen. I never knew that even while you are inside your house it is advisable to put a sunscreen.

    I have tried several sun screens & have found it to be greasy & oily. My problems get compounded with my oily screen & i discontinue the use. Could you please help me by suggesting any product that does not look greasy on the face.

    Thank you very much


  13. Hey, I wanna thank you for writing this awesome blog. Your tips on sunscreen use are helping me a lot!! I’m now in India where it’s HOT HOT HOT! Earlier when I used to go out in the sun without wearing sunscreen, I found myself always red on arms and face. I won’t lie, using sunscreen was one of the things I used to struggle with, despite the fact that I have been bitten so many times by NOT using it….found it too goopy for day to day use. But after reading your blog, I realized its benefits. And now it has become my skin care routine. 🙂 I put sunscreen on every time I go out and I can feel teh real difference. In fact, I’ve become a sunscreen freak and always keep a bottle in my car. Gonna share this out with everybody who is skeptical of its benefits.


    And yeah, hope I don’t sound silly but is there any difference between sunscreen n sunblock or is it just an advertising gimmick?

  14. Thanks Dr Raj for answering all my concerns in such a beautiful way and in such great detail. what you said made a lot of sense and the links you provided were very helpful.

  15. Hi Dr Raj, I’ve a few questions here.
    -is it wise to rely on potentially carcinogenic compounds like Avobenzone, PABA, ZnO etc (ingredients of sunscreen that has also shown to lower our immunity as well as causing reproductive toxicity) to protect ourselves against less serious forms of diseases. Even observational case–control studies have also demonstrated no association between sunscreen use and the development of malignant melanoma.

    -UV rays, as we know, are necessary for our body to produce vitamin D, a substance that helps strengthen bones and safeguards against diseases such as Rickets and also lowers the risk of getting some kinds of internal cancer, like colon cancer etc. Are people not at risk of developing Osteoporosis and other diseases because of usage of sunscreens.
    -and habitual sunscreen users tend to lack tans, which is the body’s natural protection against both UV-A and UV-B. Doesn’t this allow even more UV-A to penetrate the skin?

    • Hi Vijeta,
      First of all, thanks for writing in.

      What you have touched on is a matter of great debate and an extremely important descriptive point! I did not include this in the original write up as essentially I did not want the write-up to become too technical and also because I felt that most folks may not be bothered about the intricacies.

      You raise many pertinent points. I will answer your queries in two parts which I believe are worthy of two separate answers:

      First of all, I believe that we can only debate on most aspects of science – Frankly, the truth is known to only one – God! What I mean by that is that honestly, it is almost impossible to have long-standing Randomized controlled trials to determine the truth one way or the other, definitively!

      The primary point that I would raise with respect to your query on the use of potentially toxic substances in sunscreens is the difference between drug and poison. Every single substance known to mankind has the potential to be a drug at lower doses and toxic at higher doses. Zinc oxide and avobenzone are no different from this conundrum. The question is at the concentrations used in sunscreens (typically less than 5%), can these sunstances be harmful?

      The answer to this query is fairly straightforward – MOST likely NOT!
      I encourage you to read this recent peer-reviewed article published in a top Pharmacology journal:

      If penetration does not occur significantly, I would think toxicity would not occur significantly!

      Please also read this article below:

      A beautiful article with lots of detail and citations to boot.

      In conclusion, I am not convinced by research that the current sunscreens are harmful for their use.

      Do they obstruct skin cancer devlopment due to UV damage – Definitely, in races with less melanin!

      In pigmented races, they probably work at lowering tanning and blotchy pigmentation and skin aging. Skin cancers are in any case rare because of the melanin the ‘colored races’ naturally possess.

      Take care and warm regards,

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