How often should you reapply sunscreen?

In recent years we’ve all become much more conscious of the importance of using good quality sun protection lotions and oils  in order to defend our skin against the harmful effects of excessive sun exposure. But people still often aren’t sure how much sunscreen they need, and how often they should reapply it for maximum protection. 

How often should you reapply your sunscreen? 

The commonly known and accepted advice is that it’s best to reapply your sunscreen completely after 1 and a half to 2 hours. However, you can’t really have too much sun protection, so particularly if you are spending lots of time in very direct, bright and midday sunl, there’s no harm in topping up as much as possible.

Why is reapplying sunscreen important?

There are two main reasons to regularly reapply your sunscreen; to protect you from surface level burning (UVB rays) and to protect you from damaging aging at a deeper level (UVA rays). Sunburn is often a result of inadequate and infrequent application, rather than using a substandard product; a fairly basic sun cream can give you excellent protection if you use it correctly. Ensuring you have the right sun protection is especially important if you are more vulnerable to sun damage. Those more susceptible to sunburn and in some cases, skin cancer, are those who have:

  • Very pale complexion
  • Red hair and/or lots of freckles
  • Lots of moles
  • Ongoing medical conditions which affect the skin
  • A family history of skin cancer

For those, we recommend using a high SPF sun protection that is Dermatologically approved like the Hawaiian Tropic Mineral Milks range.

Does a higher SPF make a difference? 

The SPF factor of the sun protection product you’re using makes a huge difference to how often you will need to reapply it. Sun creams with high SPF factors generally provide you with protection against sun damage for longer. An SPF 15 sun cream will not provide effective protection for as long as one with SPF 30, so you should choose a product which suits the level of sun exposure you’re experiencing. We recommend using SPF daily, particularly SPF 30 for your face, even on a cloudy day as the UVA & UVB rays can penetrate through clouds. 

How long does sunscreen actually last on your skin? 

How long your sun protection lasts will depend on what you’re up to. If you’re going for a swim, you aren’t going to be protected for long as your sunscreen is likely to either wash off or be towel dried off. How long your sunscreen lasts will also depend on its SPF factor. Generally, If you’re wearing sun cream with SPF 50, you can expect to be protected from the sun for 50 times longer than if you weren’t using any sunscreen. The form the sun cream comes in won't impact how well it protects your skin however, so whether it’s an oil, lotion or spray, they all do the same job.

When should I reapply sunscreen more frequently? 

If you’re spending lots of time in direct sunlight, rather than inside or in the shade, and if your clothes aren’t giving you much coverage, making sure that you’re reapplying your sun cream frequently, every 90 minutes to 2 hours is especially important. If you’re exercising a lot, sweating can dilute sun cream and cause it to run, so you’ll need to reapply it more often if you’re playing sports or working out in hot weather or direct sunshine. If you’re sweating a lot or going swimming, you should opt for a specialist active or water resistant sun cream, however you should still reapply this regularly.

What are the risks of not reapplying sunscreen?

Not reapplying sunscreen regularly and properly can leave you exposed to UVA & UVB rays from the sun and therefore more prone to sun damage. This can manifest as sunburn, which causes painful, hot and red skin which is likely to flake, and can even cause heatstroke, where you become dizzy and nauseous. In the worst cases, excessive sun exposure can be a cause of skin cancers. If you do spend a lot of time in the sun, as well as reapplying your sun cream regularly, you should check any moles and blemishes you may have for sudden changes or abnormalities. Lots of information about the risks of sun exposure and sun damage, and advice on how to keep yourself safe in the sun can be found on the NHS website.