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SPF and how to apply it properly (plus, how to know when it’s expired)

January 1 | 4 minute read

How To Apply Spf Hero 16x9

Words by Cjay Aksoyoglu

Originally published on | January 2

It’s the ultimate skincare product, the key to combating sun damage, and the most likely answer to the question ‘what beauty item would you take to a desert island?’.

We all know about the importance of sunscreen, but this skincare  heavy-hitter can only do the heavy lifting when applied correctly.

Unfortunately, many of us are not applying enough sunscreen to adequately protect against the sun’s damaging UV rays. Plus, reapplying is just as important.

We’re breaking down how best to apply sunscreen, whether you’re bare-faced or sporting a full beat, and giving you the lowdown on exactly how much you should be applying (spoiler alert: it’s more than you think). And if you’ve ever questioned just how long that SPF’s been sitting on your shelf, we find out how to know when your SPF has expired, too.

Here are all your sunscreen questions answered.

What level of SPF should you use?

Say it with us: all SPF products are not created equal. Thanks to strict SPF regulations in Australia, all primary sunscreens sold must be marked with an SPF rating of at least 4, all the way up to the highest rating of 50+. The higher the rating, the better the sun protection.

Given that an SPF of 4 will only block out 75 percent of UV rays, choosing a sunscreen with such a low SPF factor means you’re still exposing your skin to UV damage. Instead, SunSmart recommends using an SPF of at least 30, which blocks out 96.7 percent of UV, or preferably 50+, which blocks out 98 percent.

It’s also important to go for an SPF that’s labelled ‘broad-spectrum,’ since this means it filters out both UVA and UVB rays. While UVB is the wavelength that typically burns skin, UVA is responsible for the appearance of ageing, and they both contribute to skin damage.

How to apply sunscreen

This may seem like a no-brainer, but the most important part of sun protection is doing it right. First, make sure you apply your SPF 20 minutes before going outside or exposing yourself to the sun – this provides enough time for the sunscreen to bind to your skin to be able to start working effectively.

The other important step? Reapplication! You should be reapplying your sunscreen every two hours as well as after swimming, sweating or towelling off. If you’re worried about ruining your makeup, don’t fret – the clever cats at Naked Sundays created the SPF50+ Hydrating Glow Sunscreen Mist, so you can generously spray your face (seven spritzes, to be precise) and reap the benefits of broad spectrum very high protection sunscreen and your perfect base.

Finally, whilst you can of course use fingers to apply your SPF, if you’ve got a thicker sunscreen on hand (like a mineral-based SPF) you may prefer to blend with a flat-top SPF brush. It helps to blend out the sunscreen around the face to ensure an even application, every time.


*ALWAYS READ THE LABEL AND FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS FOR USE. Sunscreen is only one form of sun protection. Avoid prolonged sun exposure and reapply as directed.

How much sunscreen should I apply on my face?

Let’s start with an SPF mantra. Repeat after us: more is more. While you may think a pea-size amount suffices, the reality is that most people don’t apply enough sunscreen. And when you don’t apply enough product, you’re not actually getting the SPF factor you think you are. For example, if you only apply half the recommended amount of an SPF 30 sunscreen, in reality you won’t be getting an SPF 30 level of protection. So be generous with that product – sunscreen should always be applied liberally to keep you protected from the harmful effects of the sun.

According to experts, a good rule of thumb is to use at least one teaspoon of sunscreen per body part; the face (including the neck and ears!) constitutes one body part. It doesn’t sound like much, but pour out a full teaspoon of sunscreen and apply it to your face, and we have a good inkling it’s more than you’ve been using.

As for the rest? The same rule applies – one teaspoon for each arm and leg, and then for each of the front and back of your body.

Does sunscreen go before or after moisturiser?

Ah, the ‘chicken or the egg?’ of SPF. The answer is after! It’s always best to apply sunscreen as the final step in your skincare routine, after cleansing and applying your skincare (including serum and moisturiser). If you have oily skin or don’t like too much product on your face, go for a lighter moisturiser than you normally would, so that when you layer your SPF over the top you still get a lightweight feeling.

Worried about how your makeup will sit on top? Don’t be. MECCA COSMETICA’s To Save Face SPF50+ Superscreen provides broad spectrum very high protection sunscreen and was designed with makeup wearers in mind; it’s a non-greasy, lightweight formula. And, for top ups later in the day without ruining your makeup, opt for an SPF spray. Another hack? Give your sunscreen a few minutes to sink in before you try to apply your foundation or base. This means there’s less chance of your makeup sliding off your face.


*ALWAYS READ THE LABEL AND FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS FOR USE. Sunscreen is only one form of sun protection. Avoid prolonged sun exposure and reapply as directed.

How to know when sunscreen has expired:

A good starting point is the bottle itself – all sunscreens sold in Australia are required to have the expiration date on the bottle. That aside, storage matters too! You should always keep your SPF in a cool, dry place – that is, below 30C and out of direct sunlight. We always recommend taking your SPF with you if you’re going to be outdoors (say, at the beach or by the pool), so if you do, try and keep it in the shade or in a cooler bag.

If you notice your sunscreen start to change in consistency (look out for changes in texture, such as clumping) or smell a little funky, it’s likely that it has expired. Get yourself a brand-new bottle, stat!

Always remember: follow directions for use. Reapply as directed. Avoid prolonged sun exposure. And, SPF is only one form of sun protection – use it in conjunction with protective clothing, hat and (cute) eyewear.

Related topics and brand tags

Skin careSunscreenMoisturiserNaked SundaysMECCA COSMETICA

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