Suncare products: how to use them, how much and how often?

A healthy, beautiful tan: it’s possible, if you use sunscreen and sunbathe in the right way.

Using suncare products correctly is just as important as the choice of product itself. In fact, you must take care to apply them frequently and in the right quantity.
You should apply the same minimum quantity used during the test to
determine the SPF value, i.e. 2 mg/cm2.

To find out more, read: Suncare products: how to choose them 

How much sunscreen should I apply?

Given the average surface area of an adult’s body, you should use about 30-35 grammes of the product, which is a quantity more or less the size of a golf ball, every time you apply it. This may seem like a lot, but it’s important to remember that if you reduce the quantity you apply, you also reduce your level of protection.

Remember also that you must apply the sunscreen to dry skin, preferably before it is exposed to the sun and before you put on your bathing costume so that you don’t forget any areas of your body like those at the edges of your costume.  

Do the same suncare products work for the whole body?

Because everybody’s phototype is the same all over their body, the same suncare products are generally fine for every part of it exposed to the sun. However, it should be remembered that some parts of the body are not usually exposed to the sun, or are more delicate for various reasons. Therefore, it is advisable to use a sunscreen with a higher SPF for the nose, lips and ears, for example, all the better if it comes in a stick for convenience and is — of course — water-resistant. 

For the rest of the body, it is easier to use liquid, milk or milk spray formulations, or liquid formats with a 360° dispensing system so that you can apply the product even with the aerosol held upside down.

For your face, you might find a creamy texture or perhaps a tinted sunscreen more pleasant, particularly if you wish to minimise imperfections and skin blemishes

If you spend a lot of time in the sun, you ought to apply the product frequently as the effectiveness of the protection is diminished by sweat as well as contact with beach towels, sand and water.

How often should I apply suncare products?

It is not possible to determine precisely when suncare products begin to lose effectiveness after application. As a rough guide, however, two hours is considered a reasonable interval between applications. If you swim frequently or for an extended period of time, it is recommended that you re-apply products afterwards, even if they are water-resistant.

The description "water resistant" does not mean that the product is entirely waterproof!
It simply certifies that the product has been tested and found to resist water, i.e. it partly maintains its protective properties (at least 50% of its SPF value) even after a 40-minute immersion in water.

However, frequent applications of suncare products does not mean you can spend excessive lengths of time exposed to the sun: it’s just a way to keep protecting your skin. This “rule” is as important as any other for stress-free sunbathing.

Stress-free sunbathing

Sunbathing while protecting your skin’s well-being is possible, provided you follow a few vital guidelines:

  • let your skin get used to the sun gradually, avoiding exposure during the hottest hours of the day (between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.), and in any case never staying in the sun too long;
  • bear your location in mind: the sun is not the same at the tropics as it is on the Riviera;
  • always protect the skin of your face and body with a product that has a suitable SPF value, and observe the correct quantities and frequency when using it;
  • apply protection even if you are not directly exposed to the sun, as sunlight and ultraviolet rays can reach the skin even through clouds or parasols, as well as being reflected from water, sand and snow;
  • use protection even when your skin is already tanned;
  • you can get extra protection from your clothes, and by wearing a hat and sunglasses;
  • after exposure to the sun, apply after-sun products to soothe and hydrate the skin.

And finally…
can I still use the sunscreen I bought last year?
To answer this, you need to check the PAO, which is a piece of information provided on the packaging of
cosmetic products, indicated by the open pot symbol.

PAO stands for Period After Opening, and indicates the number of months for which the product remains safe and functional after being opened. In general, sunscreen in the form of a milk or cream has a PAO of 12 months; so, if you bought it at the beginning of summer and for some reason didn’t finish it all, it is best to use it up during short periods of exposure to the sun early in the following year, i.e. within the 12 months of the PAO.

If it is a sunscreen with a very high level of protection (SPF 50+), perhaps for use by somebody with very pale colouring, it is best to simply open a new packet.

Remember that if you purchase a spray-type sunscreen in an aerosol, there will be no PAO because this type of container is never really “opened”. 

To find out more, read our articles:
Sun protection: learn about the effects of the sun to protect your skin
Hypersensitive or acne-prone skin in the sun
Sun protection for children