Woman at the beach

Using sunscreen properly: how, when & how much to apply

Stay protected from UV rays by learning how much sunscreen to use, when/how to apply it, whether to apply it before or after moisturiser & more.


When applying sunscreen the most important thing to consider is skin coverage. You want to ensure that any exposed skin has a sufficient layer of sunscreen applied. Unprotected skin will be exposed to UV radiation, which can lead to sun induced damage and further complications.

So, how do you get the maximum protection from your sunscreen? Let’s begin with four steps on how to properly apply sunscreen.


Woman applying Nivea sun protection

1. First things first, you’ll want to thoroughly shake your sunscreen bottle before using it. This will help to break up any clumping that may occur when the sunscreen is stored for longer periods of time.

2. Fully cover all areas of exposed skin and don’t forget the ears, neck, or the back of hands - often these are missed. Rather than squirting the sunscreen into your hand in one go, apply smaller, evenly-sized dots to ensure it spreads thoroughly and effectively.

3. When applying to the face, gently tap the sunscreen rather than rubbing it since this will help to avoid irritation and ensure a more even application.

3. Take extra care when applying around the eyes. In fact, if you can, opt for a stick sunscreen as this will allow you to apply a thin layer and minimise the risk of any eye irritation.

3. When applying sunscreen to your face, opt for a face sunscreen as these are formulated to avoid irritation and are typically lighter, which minimise their appearance.


It’s recommended that you use at least around 30ml worth - just slightly more than a shot glass.

You may also be wondering how much sunscreen to use on your face. A good rule of thumb is to use a squirt of sunscreen around the size of a 1 inch circle and, as mentioned, tap it in instead of spreading it. 

Now you know how much sunscreen to apply, you may be wondering when and how often you should apply it.
Ginger hair woman applying Nivea sun protection


At the very least you’ll want to apply sunscreen daily - even if it’s cloudy. This is why it’s good to include SPF in your daily skincare routine in the form of a moisturiser with SPF. By incorporating this, you will habitually apply a layer of protection every day.

With that said, one application at the start of the day isn’t enough - so how often should you reapply sunscreen?

Aim to reapply at least every two hours, as well as immediately after swimming or after breaking a sweat, since both will break down any sunscreen applied beforehand.

It’s important to remember that, although we may be good at applying sunscreen before heading out, most sun damage occurs later on in the day once the first application weakens - so be sure to continuously apply sunscreen all day.


Again, every day that you expose your skin to sunlight - so, essentially, before setting foot outside. 

As you may already know by now, the sun’s harmful UV rays are always present. To minimise the risk of skin damage, always apply sunscreen to any exposed areas of the body.

Although your skin will absorb the sunscreen in approximately 15 minutes, it’s best to allow 30 minutes to pass before setting foot outside. This will ensure that your sunscreen is fully absorbed, especially in areas where more has been applied.


Since makeup forms a barrier on the skin, a sunscreen may struggle to absorb thoroughly enough to be effective. For the same reason that you’d apply a moisturiser before makeup, you want the skin nourishing ingredients closer to your face.
Woman with her eyes closed

When applying sunscreen before makeup, be sure to let your skin dry for at least 5 minutes beforehand as this will ensure maximum absorption.

Of course, reapplying sunscreen throughout the day (as you should!) may affect makeup. One way of avoiding this is to dab a makeup sponge in a small pool of sunscreen and dab it over your face.

By dabbing instead of rubbing, you avoid smudging the makeup. Additionally, using a lighter sunscreen will also help to avoid smudging, but as always, it’s best to opt for the sunscreen that will afford you the most protection.


Can you use sunscreen as a moisturiser?

Yes, although it’s best not to use it as a substitute. Moisturisers are purpose made for hydrating skin, whereas this is an additional but not primary feature of sunscreen, so your skin may not receive the hydration it requires. 

It also depends on whether or not your sunscreen is formulated for a specific skin type. For example, a sunscreen formulated for oily skin will be lighter, and so you should use a moisturiser too otherwise your skin may not be sufficiently hydrated.


The easiest answer here is to have someone else apply it for you - but, we know this isn’t always possible. So, what do you do in this situation?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to do this yourself with a traditional sunscreen, but here are two potential solutions:

Using a flannel or cloth, wrap it around a long spoon (or if you’re at the beach, a small shovel!), dab the sunscreen on the fabric and then rub the sunscreen over your back. Of course, if you don’t happen to have a long spoon or small shovel, there’s another way…

Pull out a metre or so of cling film and apply five or more dollops of sunscreen in the middle. Lift the cling film and apply it to your back as if you’re drying yourself with a towel, making sure to rub the film where possible to ensure even coverage.

Now, we’re under no illusion that you’ll have a long spoon or cling film to hand, especially if you’re at the beach. So there has to be an easier solution, right?

Well, NIVEA offer a range of mist spray sunscreens that are designed with ease in mind. Unlike traditional sun creams, these mist sprays don’t require rubbing since the spray is fine enough to absorb by itself, so all you really need is a reflective surface to judge your coverage.

The NIVEA SUN Protect & Dry Touch Refreshing Mist SPF 50 is an ideal choice since it’s 100% transparent, refreshing, and water resistant. Although we’d recommend that you apply it again after getting wet, just to be safe.

Man applying Nivea Sun Protect & Dry Touch Refreshing Mist

Be sure to spray liberally, especially if you can’t inspect your work on a reflective surface! If you’re unsure what’s meant by “apply liberally”, try to imagine the absolute minimum required to cover all areas of exposed skin with a visible layer of sunscreen, and you should have your answer.


Since we often expose our skin for hours each day, your skin may be damaged by this exposure to UV radiation - and this can appear in the form of premature ageing, such as dark spots, fine lines and wrinkles.

The NIVEA SUN UV Face Specialist Triple Protect Sun Fluid SPF 50+ is an ideal choice. It not only provides SPF 50 protection, but the ultra-light formula with Hyaluron absorbs immediately. This is ideal for wearing under make-up, too, since it’s seat resistant to maintain a smooth and visibly healthy-looking complexion.

Still unsure? Discover the NIVEA SUN range to find the right protection for you.