How Often You Should Really Be Applying Sunscreen While Outside

Sunscreen is one of the absolute best things you can do for your skin. A sunburn is unpleasant, but it's far from the only risk from sun exposure. It can increase wrinkles, age spots, and hyperpigmentation even in small doses, but it can also lead to skin cancer.


It doesn't take long. The sun's UV rays can do real damage to your skin in just 15 minutes, increasing your long-term risk of skin cancer. As noted by the American Academy of Dermatology, one out of every five Americans will get skin cancer. Sunscreen can help protect you. There are many choices, including creams, gels, and sprays, but you should always make sure that it is a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30+.

Before heading out, it's a good idea to apply sunscreen on any exposed skin, including the face, neck, and hands. But how long does it stay effective? When should you reapply?

When to reapply sunscreen

In most cases, you should reapply every two hours. You should apply your first coat of sunscreen to any skin that won't be covered by your clothing, including your lips, around 15 minutes before going outside. Every two hours, you should reapply sunscreen to any part of your skin that will be exposed to the sun. If you're going to be in the water or getting a lot of exercise in the heat causing you to sweat a lot, you may have to reapply sooner. A water-resistant sunscreen may last a little longer, but, as noted by the American Academy of Dermatology, there is no such thing as a truly waterproof or sweatproof sunscreen, and manufacturers are actually banned from claiming that they can make one.


In situations where you will be unable to reapply sunscreen on your entire body every two hours, you should try to avoid direct sun exposure. This can be accomplished by a combination of staying in the shade, wearing long sleeves, a hat, or sunglasses.

Do you always need sunscreen?

No matter who you are, sunscreen is a good idea. Although pale skin may burn faster, people with darker skin are more likely to experience hyperpigmentation from sun exposure. Most importantly, people with any skin tone can develop skin cancer. If you're going to be spending time outside, whether it's on the beach, hiking, or camping, sunscreen is vital. Increasingly, it seems as though sunscreen may even be necessary for those days when you're stuck inside. As noted by a 2010 study in the National Library of Medicine, even the sun coming in the side window of your car may be enough to damage your skin.


If you are concerned about your skin's appearance, you should use sunscreen even when you're indoors. It may not seem like the sun is impacting you through the window of your car or office, but this is because the sunlight that causes sunburn, UVB rays, is blocked by windows. UVA rays, which cause age spots and wrinkles, however, go through glass.