Exactly How Much Sunscreen Should You Use on Your Face?

There’s a reason sunburns make more sense as a makeup trend: the real kind are burns.

That means they’re painful, not to mention dangerous.

For some people, sunburns might even make them self-conscious about their appearance.

That’s where sunscreen comes in. But how much should you use to get optimum protection? Experts weigh in below on just how much SPF to apply to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.

Whether it’s a tried-and-true skin care regimen, how often you wash your hair, or the cosmetics you’re curious about, beauty is personal.

That’s why we rely on a diverse group of writers, educators, and other experts to share their tips on everything from the way product application varies to the best sheet mask for your individual needs.

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How much sunscreen is enough?

Slathering on sunscreen is just a good idea.

2016 studyTrusted Source linked a history of severe sunburn to a greater chance of developing skin cancer later.

One of the most effective ways to protect your skin is by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation.

“We can protect things from building up that can increase premature aging and the risk of skin cancer,” says Erum N. Ilyas, MD, MBE, FAAD, a board certified dermatologist and the CEO and founder of sun-safe clothing brand AmberNoon.

But Ilyas says using the right amount of sunscreen is an important step in reducing your risk of sun damage.

So how much does she recommend?

Put one ounce of sunscreen on your entire body, or enough to fill one shot glass. And don’t forget your face.

Your head and neck make up 4 percent of your surface area, according to Cynthia Bailey, MD, a board certified dermatologist and the founder of Dr. Bailey Skin Care.

Do the math, and that’s about .04 ounces of sunscreen that you’ll need to put on your face.


For most people, experts suggest putting one ounce of sunscreen on your entire body, or enough to fill one shot glass.

Then, add .04 ounces of sunscreen on your face, or enough to fill just the bottom of a shot glass.

How to measure it

Admittedly, .04 ounces can be hard to visualize when you’re sitting on a beach chair with your toes in the sand.

It turns out: You can use everyday items to measure how much sunscreen to put on your face.

How much is enough?

Need a quick conversion or a handy visual for how much sunscreen to put on your face? Try these on for size when slathering on the ‘screen.

  • .04 oz.
  • 1/3 of a teaspoon
  • 1–2 milliliters
  • 1–2 grams
  • a finger (from tip to first finger crease)
  • enough to fill just the bottom of a shot glass
  • a nickel-sized dollop

By teaspoon

Measuring spoons aren’t just for cooking. You can also use them to ensure you’re slathering on the optimal amount of sunscreen.

Ilyas and Bailey both say measuring sunscreen with a teaspoon may be the easiest way to do it.

“​​We tend to recommend 1/4 teaspoon or 1/3 teaspoon on the face,” Ilyas says.

Ilyas suggests opting for 1/3 teaspoon for extra protection if you’ll be in a sunny area, or if you’re generally prone to sunburns.

By milliliters

If part of your job requires measuring things with beakers or syringes, you may find it helpful to think in terms of milliliters.

Additionally, if you have a syringe or measuring pitcher at home, they may come in handy when it’s time to put on sunscreen.

“It usually rounds up to 1 to 2 milliliters,” Ilyas says.

By grams

Some people feel more comfortable assessing something by weight.

Ilyas says that grams-to-milliliters are a one-to-one conversion, so you’ll want to apply 1 to 2 grams of sunscreen to your face.

That said, she says using this method can be a little tricky.

“You’re basing [it] on the weight of the product you’re using, whether it’s liquid, spray-on, or a lotion or cream, and they can have different weights,” she says.

By fingers

You might not carry a syringe or measuring spoon in your beach bag, but you can gauge the amount of sunscreen you’re applying to your face by using your hands.

“The fingertip unit is the unit we use as our unit of measurement,” Ilyas explains. “That’s when you look at the first crease in your fingertip right down to the fingertip. That’s generally two pea-size amounts and… the amount of product you need for your face.”

By shot glass

A shot glass is a great tool for measuring sunscreen for your whole body.

When it comes time to apply to the face, you won’t need as much. For your face, Ilyas says you’ll want to use enough sunscreen to fill the bottom of your shot glass.

By coins

Put your loose change to good use.

“A nickel is a better unit of measurement than a quarter,” Ilyas says. “Put a nickel-size dollop on your face.”

By SPF rating

Bailey suggests choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30.

“With less than that, in an SPF 15, you’re blocking about 93 percent of the UVB,” she says. “At SPF 30, you’re blocking 97 percent, and at SPF 50, you’re blocking 98 percent. When you get up to 30, you’re pretty much there.”

But can you layer on double the amount of SPF 15 and call it an SPF 30? It’s a question Ilyas has gotten more than once.

“We can’t really judge it like that,” she says. “You might not apply one as evenly. You can’t guarantee the coverage [adds up to SPF 30].”

She says your best bet is to stick with at least an SPF 30 sunscreen and apply the .04 ounces to your face using whatever tool or visualization works for you.

Consider anything else, like SPF makeup or tinted moisturizer, a bonus.

How to apply sunscreen to your face

The way you apply sunscreen can ensure you receive maximum coverage. Bailey and Ilyas agree this is the best way to put sunscreen on your face:

  1. Apply your skin care products.
  2. Apply your sunscreen.
  3. Apply your makeup, if desired.

Run through your skin care routine

Though applying sunscreen to your face is an essential part of your skin care routine, there are a few other products you’ll want to put on first.

“It always goes on after all of your other products, like acne medicine and moisturizers, except makeup,” Bailey says.

“All the other things have to get through your skin. The sunscreen really needs to get on the very outside of your skin. You don’t want the sun to get past that.”

Then, dip-dot-smear

This method is Ilyas’s preferred method of sunscreen application.

“I favor this method because I think it gives nice, even coverage throughout,” she says.

To apply, it’s exactly what it sounds like.

“You take the sunscreen and pour it on the palm of your hand,” Ilyas says. “You take the other fingertip and dip and dot it onto your face, onto your cheeks, forehead and chin and rub it in.”

Don’t forget these areas

According to Ilyas, there are some areas people often forget, and they can become susceptible to sunspots and cancerous cells. Don’t forget your:

  • hairline
  • temples
  • area behind your ears

Finally, apply makeup

Bailey says it’s best to apply any makeup last to avoid smearing, which can make people hesitant to wear sunscreen. She says many mineral makeup products have SPF that can help fight sun damage.

“You can’t quantify it, but the mineral particles bounce off UV rays,” Bailey says.

Try the Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50EltaMD UV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41 Facial Sunscreen, or bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream SPF 30.

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