Girl with sunscreen in face

How much sunscreen to use – Optimal sun protection for your face and body

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While most people know they should apply sun cream before spending time in the sun, not everyone knows how much of it to use. A lot of us don't apply enough sunscreen, which leads to painful and noticeable sunburns.

There is still some confusion about how much sun cream to use in which body areas, and how often you should reapply. We explain the optimal amount, which products you should use, and explore areas of the body that are typically missed.

Why sun protection is important

Though the sun brightens our mood and promotes our sense of well-being, there are also some downsides. Enjoying the sun is always exciting but too much exposure can lead to sunburn, sun allergies, hyperpigmentation and even skin cancer.


These are some of the reasons why wearing a face sunscreen is a must. Using a face sunscreen protects your skin from the sun’s damaging UVA rays which is also critical to prevent premature ageing.

UVA rays are 95% of the UV radiation that reaches the earth. These rays can enter the middle layers of your skin, called derming, damaging it. We are exposed to UVA rays whether we’re in the shade of a tree, by the window inside, or on the beach. Learn more in Skin and the sun.

 

Do you need a SPF 50 sunscreen for your face?

This depends on how protected you want to be from the sun, as well as how exposed you will be. You should always choose a face sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher which protects you from the 97% of UVA/UVB rays.


The best sunscreen for your face will be one with SPF 50+, like the 50 SPF that blocks 98% of the radiation, keeping you safe from ageing and damaging rays.

SPF is a measure of how much solar energy is required to burn protected skin, relative to the amount of solar energy that is needed to burn unprotected skin. Learn more in What does SPF mean?.

 

A superior facial sunscreen for oily and acne prone skin with an 8h anti-shine effect

What is mineral sunscreen for the face?

Mineral sunscreens for the face also protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays, but their difference is that they use fewer ingredients. This makes them more suitable in terms of skincare, especially for people with sensitive skin.

This type of sunscreen not only protects your skin, but also keeps coral reefs and wildlife safe. They use what is called “reef-friendly” zinc oxide and titanium oxide filters. These filters sit on the surface of your skin and block the sun rays, reflecting them instead of absorbing them.

How much sunscreen to use on your face and body

Graphic showing optimal amount of sunscreen for adults
How much sunscreen to use on each area of the body for adults

To achieve the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) reflected on your sun cream, use approximately two milligrams per square centimetre of skin. In practice though, it's difficult to work out how much sun cream to use using this measurement. Instead, you can use your palm to measure how much product to use:

Adult's lotion, fluid or cream: On each region of the body, apply a thick line of sunscreen stretching from the tip of your middle finger down to your wrist.

Adult's spray: Spray 15 times on each area of the body. Shake well before using and apply generously until an even sheen appears on the skin.

Sun cream use for children

Graphic showing optimal amount of sunscreen for children
How much sunscreen to use on each area of the body for children aged 6-10

Children aged 3-6 lotion: On each region, apply a thick line of sunscreen the length of your middle finger and half the length of your index finger. For the head and neck, apply double the amount.

Children aged 6-10 lotion: On each region, apply a thick line of sunscreen the length of your middle and index finger. For children older than 10 follow the instructions for adults above.

Children's spray: 5 sprays on each region for children aged 3-6, 7-10 sprays for children aged 6-10, 10-15 sprays for children older than 10.

Eucerin Sun products are suitable for children from three years and above.

Body areas not covered with sunscreen

Illustration showing which body parts are missed with sunscreen
Body areas typically not protected with sun cream (indicated in red)

Ensure you apply sunscreen thoroughly and do not forget often neglected body areas. Our study found that men leave 13% of the body’s surface uncovered, while women don't apply sun cream to 9% of their body*. 

Some body parts are easy to miss, but while a small patch of exposed skin might seem harmless, thorough application is the best way we can minimise sun damage to our skin. Don't forget to apply sun cream to your eyelids, hairline or parting, soles of your feet and lips.

*Sunscreen application studies with 52 test persons (29 women, 23 men), EADV 2017
**Sunscreen application study with 17 children (4 years old on average), EADV 2018

When should you apply sunscreen?

Apply sun cream 30 minutes before you go outside, and allow the ingredients to fully bind to the skin before you get dressed. Getting dressed immediately after can mean the product rubs off on your clothing.

Sun cream should be used daily to help reduce the risk of skin cancer, prevent sunburn and decrease the likelihood of early skin ageing. Learn more here

How often should you reapply sunscreen?

Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, or more frequently after swimming, towelling off or heavy perspiration to maintain the original protection. Keep in mind that the SPF of the sunscreen has nothing to do with the frequency you need to apply the sunscreen.

Remember that if you applied sun cream an hour before going out, you should reapply after being outside for an hour. Reducing the quantity of sun cream will significantly lower the level of protection.

Do I need different sunscreen for the face and body?

As with moisturisers, sunscreen for the face is made differently to sunscreens for the body. Your face is exposed to the sun more often than your body and some of the most sensitive skin areas are part of the face, like the area under your eyes. That’s why the facial sunscreens are designed to be absorbed more easily and feel lighter.

Scientists suggest that should avoid using the standard body sunscreen on your face if you have acne-prone skin. Otherwise, using a body sunscreen on the face, and vice versa, will not do any harm. However we recommend using a specific facial sunscreen for your face.

Choose the right sunscreen product for your skin

Eucerin Sun goes beyond UV protection and is tailored to individual skin needs. The Eucerin sun protection range includes a comprehensive selection of products that offer high levels of sun protection.

Whichever product you choose, ensure it contains UVA and UVB, commonly called a broad-spectrum sunscreen. UVA protects against the ageing rays, while UVB protects against the burning rays.

Eucerin Oil Control Sun Gel-Cream Dry Touch SPF50+
A superior facial sunscreen for oily and acne prone skin with an 8h anti-shine effect

Sunscreen products for your face

Sunscreen products for your body and face

Learn more about sun protection on our website, including How to use SPF protection to prevent skin cancer.

Can you tan with sunscreen?

Sunscreen does prevent tanning to some degree. As mentioned above, a sunscreen of SPF 30+ protects you from 97% of the UVA radiation, while SPF 50+ from 98%.

As a result, 2% or 3% will reach your skin and this is how you can still tan while you use sunscreen.

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We work together with leading dermatologist and pharmacist partners around the world to create innovative and effective skincare products they can trust and recommend.

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For over 100 years, we have dedicated ourselves to researching and innovating in the field of skin science. We believe in creating active ingredients and soothing formulas with high tolerability that work to help you live your life better each day.

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