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UV Safety Month: How Does Sunscreen Work & How Often Should You Reapply?

Posted by Nion Beauty on
UV Safety Month: How Does Sunscreen Work & How Often Should You Reapply?

July is UV Safety Month, so it’s time to get serious about your skin's BFF—sunscreen! Skipping it risks sunburn, early wrinkles, and even skin cancer. Think of sun protection as your daily shield, keeping your skin healthy and glowing no matter the weather, sunshine or not.

Many folks think sunscreen's just for sunny beach days. Nope! UV rays sneak through clouds and hit hard on gloomy days too.

Another common misconception about sunscreen is that it involves greasy formulas that clog pores. But modern sunscreens? They’re lightweight and non-comedogenic, so they won't wreck havoc with your skin.

Pro tip: Higher SPF doesn’t mean you can skip reapplying. Always slather on more every two hours, especially if you're swimming or sweating. Stay safe and shine bright.

Now that you know why sunscreen is a must, let’s break down how it actually shields your skin.

How Does Sunscreen Work?

To understand how sunscreen works, you first need to know what it protects you from—UV rays.

UV rays (ultra violet) are like invisible villains sneaking through the atmosphere to damage your skin. 

UV radiation can penetrate deep into your skin, causing DNA damage that leads to sunburns, premature aging, and even skin cancer. Sunscreen acts as your shield, using either chemical or physical blockers to protect your skin.

Your skin's reaction to UV rays depends on factors like age, location, climate, and skin tone. 

Younger skin is often more resilient, while mature skin is more vulnerable to damage. Living near the equator or at high altitudes means higher UV exposure. Darker skin tones have more melanin (a substance in your body responsible for providing pigment), which offers some natural protection, but everyone needs sunscreen for full defense. 

So, apply that SPF generously and stay protected, no matter where you are.

How Long Does Sunscreen Last on Skin? And How Often Should I Re-apply?

Sunscreen isn't a one-and-done deal. One application provides about 2 hours of protection, but to keep that shield strong, you need to reapply every 30 minutes to 2 hours. This is because factors like sweating, swimming, and even rubbing your skin can reduce its effectiveness much sooner. Here are some factors that affect sunscreen effectiveness after application:

  • Water Exposure: Swimming and sweating can wash away sunscreen, leaving your skin exposed. Even with water-resistant sunscreen, you need to reapply every 40 to 80 minutes if you're in the water. Keep a bottle handy and reapply regularly to stay protected!
  • Physical Activity: High activity levels can make sunscreen wear off faster because of sweating. Make sure to reapply often to keep your skin safe.

What about Tanning with Sunscreen?

Good question — especially during UV Safety Month!

Many fairer skinned people love how the sun deepens their skin and evens out the overall tone. The good news is for people with lighter skin tones, wearing sunscreen doesn’t completely block your ability to tan. It does slow down the process but it protects your skin by filtering out a significant portion of UV rays, which means you’ll tan more gradually. This gradual tanning is actually healthier for your skin.

But remember, tanning, even with sunscreen, can still cause long-term skin damage, increase the risk of skin cancer, and accelerate aging. A tan is your skin's response to UV injury. Always prioritize your skin health by using sunscreen and limiting sun exposure.

How many types of sunscreen are there?

There are two different types of sunscreens: mineral and chemical.

Mineral Sunscreen

Mineral sunscreens use inorganic UV blockers like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These create a physical barrier on your skin, reflecting UV rays away from the surface of the sky. They start working immediately upon application and are less likely to irritate sensitive skin. 

Because they sit on top of your skin, they can leave a white cast, but newer formulations minimize this issue. Plus, they are often considered more environmentally friendly since they don’t harm coral reefs.

Chemical Sunscreen

Chemical sunscreens use organic UV absorbers like avobenzone and oxybenzone. These ingredients absorb UV radiation and then release it as heat. They tend to be lighter and easier to blend into the skin, making them ideal for daily wear and under makeup. However, they need to be applied 15-20 minutes before sun exposure to be effective and may irritate sensitive skin.

What about Clean Sunscreen? 

Clean sunscreens are the eco-warriors of skincare. Both mineral and chemical sunscreens can be clean sunscreens. Clean sunscreens skip harmful chemicals like oxybenzone, parabens, and synthetic fragrances. Instead, they use non-toxic, biodegradable ingredients that are gentle on your skin and friendly to the environment. As we talk about how to protect our skin during UV Safety Month, it's also important to think about how to take good care of our planet. As many clean sunscreens are also reef-safe, meaning they won't harm marine life, we recommend checking clean sunscreens out!

What Are the Different SPF Levels: SPF 30 vs 50

SPF (Sun Protection Factor) measures how well a sunscreen protects against UVB rays. The main difference between SPF vs 50 is that SPF 30 blocks about 97% of UVB rays, while SPF 50 blocks approximately 98%. Although the difference seems small, those with sensitive skin or prone to sunburn can benefit significantly from the extra protection. Most dermatologists recommend a broad spectrum (meaning it blocks both UVA and UVB rays) SPF of 30.

Regardless of whether the sunscreen you choose is SPF 30 or 50, reapplying every two hours is essential to maintain protection.

What is PA++ and Does it Matter? 

PA stands for “Protection Grade UVA” and measures protection against UVA rays, which penetrate deeper and cause aging. A rating of PA++ indicates moderate UVA protection, while PA+++ or PA++++ offers higher levels. This rating system was developed in Japan and is widely used in Asia, but becoming more popular in the U.S. UVA protection is crucial for preventing long-term skin damage and keeping your skin healthy. Read more about PA ratings if you’re interested in how it works.

What Are UV Protection Lens Filters?

Some sunscreens include UV protection lens filters, enhancing their ability to block a broader spectrum of UV rays. These UV protection lens filters can be particularly beneficial for sensitive or photo-reactive skin, providing comprehensive coverage against both UVA and UVB rays.

How to Apply Sunscreen with Makeup?

Applying sunscreen with makeup can be tricky because it often causes smudging or an uneven finish. But with the right products and techniques, you can keep your skin protected without messing up your glam. There are also an increasing number of companies introducing superbly formulated tinted moisturizers and foundations that contain SPF. Here are some of our favorite SPF-infused foundations: Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream from Bareminerals, Hydra Vizor Huez Tinted Moisturizer by Fenty Beauty, and SunnyDays SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen Foundation by Tower 28 Beauty.

Here are some best practices for applying sunscreen with makeup: 

  1. Use a Sunscreen Primer: Look for sunscreens that double as primers to create a smooth base for makeup.
  2. Powder Sunscreen: Use a powder sunscreen on top of makeup for touch-ups throughout the day without disrupting your look.
  3. Spray Sunscreen: Opt for a sunscreen spray mist to reapply over makeup without smudging.

It's important to make sure you clean, prep, and protect your skin in the right order, so we made a neat little graph for you here:

How to reapply sunscreen with makeup, you might ask. If you're out and about, you can use a powdered sunscreen, SPF setting spray, powder compacts with SPF, or blot your regular sunscreen using a sponge. If you're worried this would ruin your gorgeous makeup, you can always throw on a chic hat with broad brims for the ultimate protection! 

Places We Often Overlook When Applying Sunscreen

Covering every inch of your body is crucial when applying sunscreen. Missing spots can lead to unwanted sunburns or, worse, long-term damage. So let's make sure you're fully protected.

Here are some areas we commonly miss when applying sunscreen:

  • Ears: Our ears soak up a lot of sun and often get forgotten. Don't skip them!
  • Scalp: If you’ve got thin hair or a wide part, your scalp is vulnerable. Spraying sunscreen or wearing a hat works wonders here.
  • Eyelids: These delicate areas get lots of sun. Use sunscreen for sensitive skin around your eyes or rock some UV-protective shades.
  • Lips: Burnt lips? No thanks! Keep an SPF lip balm handy to keep them protected and moisturized.
  • Neck and Décolletage: These spots are sun magnets and can show aging signs quickly. Slather on the sunscreen to keep them safe.
  • Hands and Feet: Your hands and feet get plenty of UV exposure, especially when driving or walking. Keep these areas covered to avoid sunspots and aging.
  • Behind the Knees: Often overlooked but very exposed. Make sure to get the back of your knees to dodge painful sunburns.

How to Really Clean Sunscreen from Your Skin?

Removing sunscreen properly prevents clogged pores, skin irritation, and potential breakouts. Residual sunscreen can mix with sweat and dirt, exacerbating skin issues. Mineral sunscreen can be particularly difficult to remove since it acts as a physical barrier on skin, so let’s dive into how you can clean sunscreen off from your skin properly!

Step 1: Initial Rinse

Rinse with lukewarm water to remove the surface layer of sunscreen and impurities. Warm water helps to open up pores, making it easier to cleanse the skin.

Step 2: Gentle Cleanser

Use an oil-based cleanser or micellar water to break down the sunscreen’s water-resistant ingredients. Oil-based cleansers bind to the sunscreen and impurities, effectively lifting them from the skin. Micellar water contains micelles that attract and lift away dirt and oil without harsh rubbing. 

Using a gentle facial cleansing tool like Opus Luxe can enhance the cleaning process, effectively and gently removing sunscreen and impurities.

Step 3: Double Cleanse (Depends On Your Skin!)

If your skin is particularly oily, follow with a water-based cleanser to remove any remaining residue and thoroughly cleanse the skin. Double cleansing ensures all traces of sunscreen, makeup, and impurities are gone. This step is not necessary for everyone. 

Step 4: Exfoliation

Using a gentle brush like Luxe Plus for physical exfoliation is fantastic. It sweeps away dead skin cells, leaving your skin smooth and ready to absorb your skincare products better. Think of it as giving your face a fresh start. 

Chemical exfoliation is another effective choice. AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) and BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids) dissolve dead skin cells and unclog pores. AHAs, like glycolic and lactic acids, are perfect for dry or sun-damaged skin. BHAs, such as salicylic acid, dive deep into pores and are usually ideal for oily or acne-prone skin. Note: Do not use these acids to sunburned skin.  if you over exposed your skin or didn’t apply your sunblock often enough and got burned, avoid until your burn heals.  

Want to dive deeper into the types of exfoliators and which are best for your skin type? Check out this guide on skin care tips in the summer.

Step 5: Moisturize

After cleansing, give your skin some love with a soothing moisturizer to rehydrate and lock in that moisture. Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and ceramides to keep your skin bouncy and smooth.

Wanna level up your skincare game? Try hydrating devices like NION's Luxe Plus to help your products dive deeper into the skin. Your skin will glow from the deeper and penetrating hydration. 

Salt and Chlorine Are Canceled! (from Your Skin and Scalp)

Just hit the beach or pool? Rinse off with freshwater ASAP to wash away salt and chlorine. These culprits can dry out and irritate your skin and scalp. Use a gentle shampoo and conditioner for a thorough cleanse. 

For that next-level clean, we stan tools like Purity Head & Body for a deep body and scalp cleanse. Then, lock in that moisture with a hydrating body balm and scalp serum. You'll be radiating all day long.


UV Safety Month is a perfect reminder to prioritize sun care and sunscreen in your daily routine. Skipping it risks sunburn, early wrinkles, and skin cancer. Think of sunscreen as your daily shield, ensuring your skin stays healthy and radiant regardless of the weather. Regular use prevents wrinkles and dark spots, keeping your skin youthful and vibrant.

And hey, it’s not just for sunny days — UV rays can sneak through clouds and winter gloom too. Modern sunscreens are lightweight and won’t clog your pores. Remember, reapply every thirty minutes to two hours, especially if you’re swimming or sweating. Stay safe and keep glowing!


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