Applying Mineral Sunscreen: How Much is Enough to Not Get Burned?

Have you ever been sunburned even though you put on sunscreen? I certainly have. What’s the deal? Even with the safest mineral sunscreen, it’s important to apply enough and to reapply often. But what exactly is “enough” sunscreen? And what’s the best way to apply mineral sunscreen to get full coverage? We’ve broken these questions down to ensure you enjoy safe outdoor adventures year round!

1. How much is “enough?”

First off, there is no exact measurement for all of us to go by. So a general rule of thumb is to apply sunscreen liberally and often. What does “apply liberally” mean? If you’re anything like me in that you need more details, keep reading.

All sunscreens are tested according to FDA requirements, using an application rate of 2 milligrams of sunscreen per square centimeter of skin. That’s pretty technical and most of us are not going to stop and calculate those measurements every time we head out into the sun. Those measurements also don’t take into account the difference in texture and consistency of a heavier cream versus a fluid lotion. Not to worry! We’ve calculated it for you. Below are general amounts of sunscreen needed for different parts of the body.

Note: We calculated these amounts based on a person who is approximately 155 pounds, so depending on your size, you might need to experiment and apply more or less accordingly.

Applying Mineral Sunscreen

You’re probably thinking, “That’s a lot of sunscreen!” Well, you’re right. This amount is based on the FDA recommendations and is the amount used by third party labs to test the SPF values of all sunscreens on the market. While we encourage you to seek maximum sun protection, we also realize that applying this much sunscreen may not always be that easy.

2. How do I apply “enough” mineral sunscreen?

So let’s be practical for a moment. Given that no one is the same shape and size, and we probably won’t be carrying around a set of teaspoons, measuring the right amount of sunscreen is not always going to be an exact science. Here are 5 practical tips for applying sunscreen and staying mindful when out in the sun:

Tip #1: Apply a thick coat that covers all of your skin.
I like to squeeze out pea-sized amounts of sunscreen onto my skin, rub them in, and then apply more as needed. I continue this process until I’ve completely covered my skin. Because mineral sunscreen is a physical sunscreen, which means it sits on top of the skin, you will continue to see sunscreen even after all of it has been rubbed in. I like to spend a little time massaging the sunscreen into my skin to ensure that I have a protective coating on all exposed areas. Once I’m done, all that should remain is a thin, evenly spread but still visible coating of sunscreen. Finally, I like to give the sunscreen time to dry a little to help it to stay in place. If you’d like to minimize that whitening effect, be sure to check out our new Tinted Sunscreen!

Photos left to right: (first) applying one of my favorite sunscreen creams, Badger Kids SPF 30, to my left arm; (second) initial stages of rubbing in the sunscreen; (third) all finished!; (fourth) I did the same process with the SPF 30 Sheer Tint Sunscreen Cream on my right arm. Can you see the difference?
Photos left to right: (first) applying one of my favorite sunscreen creams, Badger Kids SPF 30, to my left arm; (second) initial stages of rubbing in the sunscreen; (third) all finished!; (fourth) I did the same process with the SPF 30 Sheer Tint Sunscreen Cream on my right arm. Can you see the difference?

Tip #2: Less is NOT more.
When in doubt about how much sunscreen to apply, remember that there is no such thing as too much sunscreen. If you think you’re not applying enough, you’re probably right! It never hurts to take a few extra minutes to ensure sure that you’re sun safe and remain burn-free for the days and years to come.

Tip #3: If need be, apply sunscreen in layers.
Want to be sure that you’re applying the maximum amount of sunscreen? We suggest putting a layer of sunscreen on your skin and letting it dry for at least 15 minutes (I recommend a good 30 minutes when using this technique). Then, apply another layer all over, or just on the parts of your body that tend to burn the most (in my case, those areas are face, shoulders, chest, and knees).

Tip #4: If you wait until you start to burn, it’s too late!
Putting on sunscreen after your skin has started to turn pink will not stop the burning process. That’s why we recommend putting on sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside.

Tip #5: Take extra steps to stay safe.
Even if you apply enough sunscreen, you still need to take extra precautions to stay protected from the sun. When going outside, I love to cover up by wearing a lightweight long-sleeved shirt, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses. I also try to seek shade during the peak sun hours of 10am-4pm. This sometimes means limiting my time spent outside and in the sun to less than 2 hours a day.

3.How often should I reapply mineral sunscreen?

My favorite tip for knowing how to apply enough sunscreen is in the art of reapplication. I learned this the hard way from spending long days outside during high school marching band practices. I would lather up first thing in the morning and then maybe again in the afternoon, but still managed to get burned. By my senior year, I learned to put on sunscreen every chance I got.

So when is it that you should be reapplying? And how often is enough?

When to reapply mineral sunscreen:

  • At least every 2 hours. The FDA suggests that you reapply at least every 2 hours and at Badger we say just remember to be mindful of your body and of your circumstances. Use your best judgement and reapply often when the sun is strong and your skin is exposed, even if you haven’t reached the 2-hour mark yet. This is especially important for those who tend to burn easily (like myself!) and/or are outside during the peak sun hours of the day (10am-4pm).
  • Every 40-80 minutes if sweating or swimming. This only applies if you are using a water resistant sunscreen. Be sure to check for how long your sunscreen is water resistant. Most will be either 40 minutes or 80 minutes. If you’re not using a water resistant sunscreen, check out these different options here and here before you take your next dive in the pool!
  • After drying off. Since mineral sunscreen is designed to sit on top of the skin, the minute you wipe off sweat or water, you’ve just wiped off sunscreen! So, if you intend to stay outside after drying off, be sure to get in the habit of putting sunscreen back on.
  • If you brush up against anything. If you’re putting on clothes after applying mineral sunscreen, then you’re probably noticing white marks on your clothes. Believe it or not, you’ve just removed some sunscreen. Be sure to check where you may have inadvertently rubbed off any sunscreen and reapply for full coverage. If you’re worried about sunscreen stains on your clothes, Badger Emmi says just give it a good scrub before washing and the sunscreen will lift right out!
  • You’re at the beach and need help remembering when to reapply. Set a timer on your phone or try out this free app called SunMinder (iOS).

When it comes to applying sunscreen, less is not more!

While choosing the right mineral sunscreen is important, applying and reapplying enough sunscreen is equally, if not more, important for staying safe in the sun. So, be sure to take a little extra time this summer to thoroughly apply that sunscreen and get the full coverage it can offer—and avoid the burn.

Have fun in the sun!

Mineral Sunscreen Application

Caity Stuart

Caity Stuart has been Badger’s Educator for over two years. She came to Badger after earning a Master’s degree in Environmental Education and having worked for the National Park Service. As the Badger Educator, Caity gets to share the glories of all things Badger with stores, customers, and local communities across the country. When not at Badger, Caity loves practicing hand-lettering, sipping on a good beer, and exploring the numerous trails throughout New Hampshire.

Caity’s favorite Badger products: Badger Balm for Hardworking Hands, Seabuckthorn Face Cleansing Oil, and Tea Tree and Lemon Balm Cocoa Butter Lip Balm.

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