Sunscreen: What Kind? How Much? How Often?

girl putting on sunscreen

When you’re spending time outdoors in the summer – or winter – the sun’s UV rays can be harmful, so using sunscreen is a must. Regardless of what you may have heard about the dangers of sunscreen, the real danger lies in choosing not to use it! There is a lot of different information about sunscreen and it can be confusing to know how to use it properly. Here we help clear up a few misconceptions about sunscreen and clarify how best to use it.

The Most Common Ingredients In Sunscreen

about sunscreen infographic

For over 40 years, oxybenzone has been the primary active ingredient used in many sunscreens because of its effective UV protection. It’s important to note that sunscreen contains a very small amount of this chemical and studies have not indicated any harmful endocrine or hormone disruptions in humans at this level. While individuals with sensitive skin may react to oxybenzone, it is not harmful. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “Despite recent claims about sunscreen safety, consumers should rest assured that sunscreen products, and specifically the ingredients oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, are safe and effective when used as directed.”

What Type Of Sunscreen Should You Use?

To get the best sun protection, you’ll want to apply a sunscreen containing Titanium and Zinc oxide, which offer the best broad-spectrum protection. We recommend EltaMD sunscreen because their products offer broad-spectrum protection and are lightweight and noncomedogenic.

How Much Sunscreen And How Often?

You should be applying approximately 1 oz. – the equivalent of 1 shot glass – of sunscreen every two hours and at least 20 minutes before going outdoors.

What About SPF Numbers?

There is about a 2% difference in UV protection between SPF 30 and SPF 50, but if you’re not applying enough sunscreen, you’ll want to opt for a higher SPF value.

Here’s a simple explanation from the Skin Cancer Foundation, “Another way to look at it is in terms of percentages: SPF 15 filters out approximately 93 percent of all incoming UVB rays. SPF 30 keeps out 97 percent and SPF 50 keeps out 98 percent. They may seem like negligible differences, but if you are light sensitive, or have a history of skin cancer, those extra percentages will make a difference. And as you can see, no sunscreen can block all UV rays.”

If you have questions about sun protection and skin care, feel free to reach out to me or the Dermatology specialists at Advanced Specialty Care. In addition to cosmetic dermatology as well as anti-aging aesthetics, including injectables and laser skin treatments, I am passionate about practicing preventative skin care with people of all ages, with an emphasis on early detection of skin cancer and patient education.

– Jessica Mangiaracina, PA-C


Topics: Blog, Dermatology, Jessica Mangiaracina, PA-C , Skincare & Laser