Back in July, a picture of Mark Zuckerberg’s “sea mime” face of sunscreen surfaced and made its rounds on social media, sparking a wave of memes. He was even likened to the Joker and No-Face from Spirited Away. Jokes aside, we commend him for his liberal use of mineral sunscreen as it’s clearly paying off. The porcelain-skinned Facebook founder may just have the last laugh here.
However, there’s one question that’s been stuck in our heads ever since: how much sunscreen should we actually be using? To help us set the record straight and debunk some of the most common sunscreen myths, we reached out to Holly Thaggard, founder of suncare brand Supergoop!. Keep reading to see what she had to say about sunscreen and how to use it during these unique times.
Debunking common sunscreen myths
Myth #1: Apply the same amount of sunscreen as you would your regular moisturiser
How much you apply is one of the most important factors in using sunscreen, and unfortunately, most people do not apply enough. To achieve the sun protection factor (SPF) that’s reflected on a bottle of sunscreen, you should use approximately two milligrams of sunscreen per square centimetre of skin. That’s much larger than a 50-cent dollop to the face.
“I say this to my kids every single day: apply it until you can see it on the skin and then apply it again. The key here is to apply it twice,” Holly advises. Needless to say, Mark Zuckerberg’s caked-on SPF technique has Holly’s seal of approval.
If you’re looking for an easy hack, beauty blogger Jude Chao (@fiddysnails) recommends dispensing sunscreen on the lengths of your fingers first before applying it on your face. Her personal rule of thumb is three finger lengths for the face, and three for the neck and upper chest. You can’t go wrong with this simple trick.
Myth #2: Physical sunscreens are better suited for those with sensitive skin
Physical sunscreens are formulated with mineral sun blockers such as zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. These ingredients sit on top of your skin to physically block the sun’s UV rays. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, use chemical sun blockers like oxybenzone and octinoxate. These sink into your skin to absorb UV rays – a process that may cause redness and irritation.
That being said, mineral sunscreens aren’t always better suited for those with sensitive skin. “It’s more of a trial and error when it comes to finding the right formula that works with your skin type, colour, and tone,” Holly says. “For so many people with sensitive skin, mineral formulas are more conducive for them. But I’ve also had so many people with sensitive skin saying that Unseen Sunscreen is the most complimentary formula ever.”
Supergoop!’s Unseen Sunscreen achieves its SPF 40 with chemical filters like avobenzone and homosalate, but it’s also gentle on sensitive skin. It has a unique oil-free formula that preps your skin for makeup and protects from blue light too.
Myth #3: There’s no need to apply sunscreen on the lower half of your face when you wear a mask
Since masks shield the lower half of our faces, some of us may think it’s okay to forgo the SPF. However, Holly says it all boils down to the material of your mask.
“If you’re wearing a white mask with a loose weave, you’re going to allow more UV rays to come in through your mask than if you’re wearing a tightly-woven, black mask. The darker the fabric, the more protective it is,” Holly shares. “It’s way more important to have the first coat of broad-spectrum UV protection on.”
Dr Mark Tang, a senior consultant dermatologist at The Skin Specialists & Laser Clinic, also weighed in. “Most masks are not made with proper UV filtering material and do not provide adequate UV protection,” he shares. “So, if the UV exposure is expected to be intense, for instance, a prolonged outdoor activity in the mid-day sun, I would still recommend using a broad-spectrum sunscreen on the entire face. But more importantly, wear a wide brim hat or carry an umbrella!”
Myth #4: Makeup with SPF is enough to protect your skin
If you’ve been relying on your tinted moisturiser with SPF 30 for sun protection, we’ve got bad news. It’s one of the most common sunscreen myths, and it definitely doesn’t protect your skin from UV rays. “It’s not that makeup with SPF isn’t enough. If you applied it super generously, it would be enough. But no one wants to cake on their makeup,” Holly explains.
In one of his YouTube videos, professional makeup artist Wayne Goss spoke about how you shouldn’t rely on the SPF in your foundation. He even caked on the foundation to demonstrate how much you’ll need to get sufficient sun protection, and the end result is hilarious. “You are just gonna look absolutely mental because it’s way too much product,” he exclaims.
“When we’re thinking about CC cream, tinted moisturiser, or foundation, we want to apply it as sparingly as possible to cover up the imperfections on our skin,” Holly says. With sunscreen, you want to make sure you apply it generously to shield your skin from UV damage. Instead of relying on one makeup product, she suggests building a wardrobe of SPF.
“If you start with Superscreen, my favourite hydrating base product, and you layer Unseen Sunscreen, which acts as a beautiful makeup-gripping primer, followed by CC Screen, which delivers a bit of a tint and evens out our skin tone, you have the perfect one-two-three punch of SPF protection,” Holly suggests.
Myth #5: Applying sunscreen only once in the morning is enough
There’s a reason why sunscreen labels tell you to reapply after two hours or after water exposure and/or sweating. Think of your sun protection as a film over your face. This film would slowly break down over the course of the day as you sweat and produce oils.
On dry skin, sunscreen can last for about two hours, but it can only last from 40 to 80 minutes on wet skin. If you’re spending the morning or afternoon outdoors, you must reapply sunscreen at least every two hours. A convenient way to reapply sunscreen without messing up your makeup is to use a sunscreen mist or powder.
“Our Invincible Setting Powder lets you reapply sunscreen right over your makeup as it absorbs oil,” Holly recommends. “In Singapore, so many people have oily skin and they’re looking for a way to absorb oil midday and reapply their SPF at the same time.”
Myth #6: Waterproof sunscreen will protect your skin all day
If you pick up a tube of sunscreen and it’s labelled as “waterproof”, it’s an overstatement of what it can do. “There is no sunscreen that’s waterproof. You would need to put a wetsuit on,” Holly says.
“But from a product perspective, there are two ratings for water resistance and that’s 40 minutes or 80 minutes,” she continues. “To achieve that full 40-minute or 80-minute resistance, it has to be applied generously.”
If you’re looking for an effective sunscreen that lasts, try the Supergoop! PLAY 100% Mineral Lotion. “All of our PLAY products provide 80 minutes of water resistance, which is the highest rating to last the longest. If you’re out in the sun or swimming in the ocean, you should reapply sunscreen every hour,” Holly shares.
Myth #7: People with darker skin don’t need to use sunscreen
One of the most harmful sunscreen myths that’s been around for ages is that those with darker complexions don’t need to wear daily sun protection. Our natural skin pigment, melanin, may be magical, but it isn’t sun-resistant.
“Those with darker skin tones have a natural, built-in SPF 4 or 5. It is not enough. What is most important is that we have the full, broad-spectrum SPF of 30 at a minimum,” Holly explains. While people with darker skin are little more protected from the sun, they should still use sunscreen. UVA damage is not blocked by our melanin and can lead to premature skin ageing and wrinkles.
Another common misconception is that people who burn are not vulnerable to sun damage or skin cancer. “It’s not just about the sunburn. It’s about any change in the colour of your skin, which results in sun damage,” Holly adds.
Sunscreens for darker skin tones can be tricky to get right, however, Supergoop! offers a clear sunscreen that’s been a cult-favourite for years: the Unseen Sunscreen. It’s an antioxidant-rich SPF primer that also provides SPF 40 and protection from blue light. It glides onto the skin and leaves a velvety, matte finish that controls shine throughout the day too.
“For those who need a more protective sunscreen for sports, PLAY Everyday Lotion is great for all skin types and tones,” Holly says. “It doesn’t leave a white cast on the skin. It’s one of those formulas that won’t burn your eyes or irritate your skin.” The PLAY Everyday Lotion comes in four different sizes: 30ml, 71ml, 162ml, and 532ml, so you can have travel-sized tubes or jumbo bottles around your house, in your car, or at your work desk.
To find your ideal sunscreen, you can also use the Product Finder on Supergoop.com, a new feature that helps you discover your new favourite SPF in under three minutes.
Myth #8: Sunscreens with ultra-high SPF are better at protecting your skin
In theory, sunscreens with super-high SPF like 70 or 100 should give you the best protection against damaging UV radiation. In practice, however, it doesn’t really work that way. At best, high-SPF sunscreens give you only slightly better protection than a sunscreen with SPF 50. At worst, they could give you a false sense of security and make you spend more time in the sun without reapplications, upping your risk for burns and skin cancer.
“You have to reapply your sunscreen every 80 minutes when exposed to direct sunlight, whether you have an SPF 40 or 80,” Holly says. “To expose your skin to the ingredients that are necessary to get that SPF to a high 80 or 100 is completely unnecessary. Even if you’re using an SPF 40 sunscreen, you still have to reapply it. It’s an antiquated idea that exists out there. A maximum of SPF 50 is what we advocate for.”