We all know that we should use sunscreen to protect our skin when we go out in the sun, but do you know the right way to apply it? If you are not using it properly, sunscreen will not protect you from the harmful effects of the sun to nearly the degree that you expect.

First thing of all, make sure that you have enough sunscreen, and it has not expired. Check the expiration date printed on the bottle and if it is too old, throw it away. There is no telling how effective expired sunscreen is, and if it is old enough it might be harboring a population of nasty bacteria as well. See how much you have; count on needing one ounce per adult to be sunscreened, and slightly less for kids depending on their size.

Give It Time

Most sunscreens need to be on your skin for at least 30 minutes before they reach their full effectiveness. It is a common mistake for people to go out in the sun before their sunscreen has had the time to be properly absorbed and activated by their skin, which causes people to become sunburned and wonder if their sunscreen is working. Don’t go out and get burned before your sunscreen kicks in.

Use Enough

You need about an ounce of sunscreen to protect your whole body. Be generous with it! Keep rubbing sunscreen into your skin until it won’t absorb any longer, or pour out about a shot glass’ worth into a convenient container so you know how much you should end up using. Get another person to help you reach any hard-to-reach spots, and make sure that you check the little spots you are most likely to miss, like the backs of your knees, nape of your neck, and behind your ears.

Keep It Up

Reapply sunscreen frequently. Most manufacturers have a recommendation printed on the bottle; if in doubt, reapply after an hour, and any time you have been swimming. Even if you are using water-resistant or waterproof sunscreen, some will have washed off; waterproof is an FDA term that means the sunscreen maintains its SPF after 80 minutes of water exposure – slightly more than an hour, and sweating is a form of water exposure, so don’t delay in reapplying just because you haven’t actually gotten into the water yet. Especially if you have towel-dried yourself at any time, you should reapply before you expect the first application to stop working.

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