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More SPF Talk: How Often Should I Apply Sunscreen to Mah Face?

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

So here’s a dumb one: When using sunscreen daily, how often do you apply it? Do you just put it on in the morning and wear it all day, or do you have to reapply every hour? Or is there some entirely different schedule of reapplication? Reading today’s Smackdown made me realize that I mostly don’t use SPF stuff as often as I should because I feel like a dolt for not knowing when to (re)apply.

Thanks — I love the Smackdown, and your site, and Zero to Forty. And Mamapop. And, uh, I swear I’m not a stalker; I just have a lot of time on my hands.

— S

Oh heavens, once a day. Right after washing your face, right when you put on moisturizer and any other assorted creams, and right before applying any makeup. And that’s it, unless your average day involves frequent dips in the pool, or your office cubicle is located on the beach. Or on the equator.

Most suncreens are nice and long-wearing, and will provide all-day protection, provided you don’t wash your face again until night time. The only times I will re-apply during the day is when I’m spending an extended amount of time outside — like a trip to the zoo or some outdoor festival, for example. I burn verrrry easily and will generally start getting a little pink-cheeked after four or five hours in the sun if I don’t reapply sunblock to my face.
(One other note, though — UV rays are just as dangerous on cloudy days, so if you’re spending tons of time outside on a hazy day, try to remember to give yourself an extra smear, even if you don’t “feel” like you’re burning.)

BUT for a lot of us, the average day is spent mostly inside. You want to protect your skin from the exposure it gets during the drive to work, or the wait at the bus stop, or the afternoon sun that hits your desk, or the hour and a half you spend with your kids at the playground. If this is the kind of sun exposure your skin gets, then you are just fine with a liberal application in the morning followed by your foundation or powder. It’s not a high-maintenance ritual by any means, so FOR GOD’S SAKE JUST WEAR YOUR SUNSCREEN ALREADY.

*topples off of soapbox into an exhausted heap on the floor*

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • JP

    April 21, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    So, wait. I should wear sunscreen? 🙂

  • jodifur

    April 21, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    I wear foundation w/ SPF. Do I need a separate product?

  • Lauren

    April 21, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Do you like the alba sunscreen? I noticed a while back you said you were no longer so happy with the Neutrogena. I’m in need of something new (and if it helped with, or at least didn’t exacerbate the pimples, all the better).

  • the ass editor

    April 22, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Just yesterday I happened to read an article in Allure that said that to get the necessary amount of SPF protection from a foundation or powder, women would have to wear something like 40 times the amount of those products that they would normally apply. So it sounds like unless you want to be a cake-face, a separate product is the way to go =)
    I’ve always used a moisturizer with SPF but am on the Sephora website right now looking to up the ante with a mid to high end SPF 30 moisturizer. Anyone have a recommendation? My last moisturizer was the Aveeno Positively Ageless SPF 30, which I actually love, but Amy’s brilliant comment about spending money on your face vs. on shirts that you’ll wear for a year or two in the last entry really got to me and now I want something fancier.
    I also just bought the new Neutrogena SPF 70 Age Shield for Face, but I think it’s too heavy to wear under makeup on the average day and will save it for outdoor activities.

  • Rebecca

    April 22, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    I was curious too as to which product works best to wear under a liquid foundation!! I can’t imagine Water Babies would be the recommendation.

  • boofyq

    April 25, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Ok, so here’s another question… today, for the very first time EVER, I put my sunscreen on today just to go out of the house to work! I bought the Neutrogena sensitive skin SPF 30.
    Now, this is the kind that has zinc oxide in it — vs all the -enzone and -enzene active ingredients. I got this variety because I’ve read that zinc oxide & titanium dioxide sunscreens are safer for babies (and I have two), so if it’s good for them it must be good for me.
    For adult skin, does it matter if we get the “other” variety, that always smells icky to me and feels a little sting-y on my skin — or is this kind ok? I’m so proud of myself for having put it on at all — I hope it’s equally effective for daily protection.

  • Suzy Q

    April 25, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    ass editor: Why go fancier if you like the Aveeno? I’ve been using Olay Complete Defense SPF 30 for awhile now, and I like it just fine. Yes, I’ve tried other, more expensive ones I didn’t like as much. So, I’m stickin’ with it. (Also, I use it under makeup, if anyone cares.)

  • Eryhn

    February 5, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Does it matter the SPF to use on your face? Is say 15 or 20 ok? is 45 too heavy for daily use? I use my sunblock as a mosturizer underneath my makeup.