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How Often Should You Reapply Sunscreen?


Many diligently purchase the sunscreen, tote it to the beach, cover all exposed skin before relaxing, tout the product and its benefits to all those sitting by mercilessly getting slathered by said sunscreen purchaser, then sit for the day without another thought about it.

Sunscreen’s effectiveness, even water resistant sunscreen, has an ephemeral “skin-life”. You will only receive the full protection advertised on the bottle if you apply it as often as needed. According the Skin Cancer Foundation that amount is equal to about a shot glass full every two hours. This equates to one quarter to a half of an eight bottle during a day at the beach. The US government agency the National Institute for Health (NIH) recommends nine half teaspoons to be dispersed as follows:

  • Face and neck: 1 half-teaspoon portion
  • Arms and shoulders: 1 half-teaspoon portion to each arm
  • Torso: 1 half-teaspoon portion each to front and back
  • Legs and top of feet: 2 half-teaspoon portions to each leg

Obviously common sense rules. Here are a few general guidelines that should help you on your way to adequate sun protection.

Choose water-resistant brands. Even if you don’t plan on swimming, if you are planning to enjoy activities in the sun, it is likely you are going to sweat.

Choose a minimum SPF value of 15. If you burn easily or are going to experience harsh sun conditions such as a day basking beside reflective water, sun exposure between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM, or reflective snow conditions you will want to choose a higher SPF value.

Look for a sunscreen not tanning oil. Tanning oils work to increase exposure to the sun not block the harmful rays.

Reapply sunscreen as a matter of point every two hours. Apply more often if you have participated in any strenuous activities, gone swimming, or toweled off frequently.

Wear protective clothing such as a hat, sunglasses and outer garments, especially during peak sun exposure hours, will go a long way in protecting the skin from the harmful effects of the sun.

Choose sunscreens that are labeled as broad-spectrum as these will protect you to some extent from both UVB and UVA rays.



“Which Sunscreens Are Safest?.” <em>Environmental Working Group.</em> N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2009. < >.

“Best Low SPF Sunscreen.” <em>Environmental Working Group.</em> N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2009. < >.

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