How Often Should You Reapply Sunscreen?

Typically, it’s recommended that you reapply sunscreen every two hours if you are in direct sun for a majority of that time. If not in direct sunlight, then every 4-6 hours may be more appropriate. …

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Typically, it’s recommended that you reapply sunscreen every two hours if you are in direct sun for a majority of that time.

If not in direct sunlight, then every 4-6 hours may be more appropriate.

Ideally, simply follow the application instructions on the bottle of sunscreen you are using. While these instructions commonly will suggest reapplying every two hours, some may call for more frequent re-applications depending on the type of sunscreen.

It’s often recommended that you reapply sunscreen after swimming or sweating extensively as well.

Why Do You Need to Reapply Sunscreen?

Sunscreen is designed to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. However, its ability to protect will degrade over time, even when your skin is not being exposed to sunlight.

Many sunscreens will have reduced efficacy after you go swimming or sweat a lot.

For these reasons, reapplying sunscreen is essential to ensure that you have maximum protection against sunburn.

What Other Factors Effect When You Need to Reapply Sunscreen?

In addition to the standard two-hour rule, there are a number of other considerations to keep in mind when calculating how often you’ll need to reapply.

Some of the factors that affect how often you need to reapply sunscreen include:

  • How much direct sunlight are you in? If you’re going to be in direct sunlight for long periods of time, it’s best to reapply sunscreen every two hours. If you are only outside during the day for short periods (like for running errands), then once every four or six hours should be sufficient.   
  • How much sweat are you producing? If you’re in direct sunlight and producing a lot of sweat (i.e. hiking, biking), then you’ll probably want to reapply sunscreen more often.
  • What type of sunscreen are you using? Sunscreens degrade differently depending on the ingredients they contain. For example, when comparing chemical vs mineral suncreens, chemical sunscreens tend to hold up better during sport and water activities, whereas physical, mineral sunscreens have more potential to be wiped off.
  • Did you go swimming? If you spend any time in the water, your sunscreen will degrade significantly. You should make sure to always reapply sunscreen after swimming. If you’re at the beach and getting splashed just a bit with some ocean spray instead of actually going in the water, then it’s unlikely that you’ll need to worry about re-applying more than what’s generally suggested on the. bottle.
  • What time of day is it? Your skin is much more vulnerable during peak sunlight hours – usually around 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun is highest in the sky. Reapplying more frequently at these times will help you maximize your protection from UV rays. If you’re scheduled to reapply your sunscreen at 6 or 7pm, when the sun is weakening and starting to go down, you may be fine skipping. Use a UV sun-checking app that can tell you what the current UV levels are at any given time to confirm whether it’s safe to skip reapplying or not.
  • Are you covering up with clothes? If you’re done splashing in the water or sitting with bare skin in the sun and have since covered up with appropriate UV clothing, you’ll naturally only need to reapply sunscreen to areas of skin that are still exposed.
  • Is your skin wet or dry when re-applying? Re-applying sunscreen on dry skin is easier and often much more effective than applying when your skin is wet. If you’ve just exited the water or have a lot of sweat on your skin, dry off before reapplying to ensure you’re getting the full efficacy of protection provided by the sunscreen!
  • How old is your sunscreen? Sunscreen is good for for up to three years before it expires. If you’re using sunscreen that’s older than that, you may need to reapply more frequently to prevent burning.

A Higher SPF Does Not Change Your Need to Reapply!

Many individuals make the mistake of falsely assuming that if they are using a higher SPF sunscreen, they don’t need to reapply the sunscreen as often. This is absolutely false!

 Higher SPFs may block out more UV rays than a lower SPF sunblock, but they will deteriorate at the same rate.

It’s a common phenomenon that many people create false confidence with higher SPF sunscreens, believing that the higher SPF means they don’t need to worry as much about reapplying. In fact, many experts recommend opting for an SPF 30 sunscreen over an SPF 50 or 70, as users tend to be more aware of their skin and are more consistent about reapplying with SPF 30 sunscreens since there is less false confidence involved.

How Do I Know When It’s Time to Reapply Sunscreen?

There are a few different ways you can remember when it’s time to reapply sunscreen:

  • Set an Alarm. Read the details on your bottle of sunscreen and set a phone alarm for the recommended reapplication period. This way you won’t forget to reapply sunscreen when required!
  • Try UV Stickers. UV sun stickers are small circular stickers you can place on your skin. When you cover your skin (and the sticker) with sunscreen, it will turn clear to show that you are protected. When the sticker turns purple, it means it’s time to reapply!

How Much Sunscreen Do I Need For a Second Application?

When you are re-applying sunscreen, it’s important to use just as much as you did with the initial application.

Whether you are using a teaspoon of sunscreen because just your face is exposed, or an entire shot glass’s worth of sunscreen (which is the amount of sunscreen you should apply to cover your whole body), don’t be shy about dumping on the lotion when re-applying.

Which Type of Sunscreen is Easiest to Reapply?

Since the goal of reapplying sunscreen is to maximize your protection against harmful UV rays, it’s important that you aren’t applying sunblock in a manner that will be inconvenient for you or time-consuming, as this may make you less likely to stick to your reapplication schedule.

The matter of which sunscreen is easiest to apply depends on your individual preferences. Many folks find spray sunscreen the easiest to reapply. However, others prefer lotion since it’s a bit easier with lotion to confirm that you haven’t missed a spot.


Are you good about reapplying your sunscreen consistently? Do you have a method to help stay on track of when you need to reapply? Let us know in the comments!-

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