How Much Sunscreen Do You Need?

With summer on the horizon, I want to revisit an important topic, sunscreen. I write about it often because it’s serious business. A case of melanoma (mine) tends to make one hyper-vigilant but we should all be diligent. So how much sunscreen do you need? I know that layering a 50 SPF on top of a 30 SPF doesn’t add up to 80 SPF protection but it can’t hurt in assisting with coverage issues, so let’s get into it.

The cancer foundation recommends you apply a shot glass full of sunscreen to cover your body and half a teaspoon just for your face. That may not sound like much but if you measure it you’re likely to find you don’t apply anywhere near that much.

Since I only use physical sunscreens I would look like a pasty mess if I applied 1/2 a teaspoon at one time. Layering allows me to apply smaller amounts and let it dry before adding another layer. I apply half the required amount, let it soak in, then apply the other half.

Facial sunscreens

I start with this Josie Maran Moisturizer with 47 SPF. It’s very creamy and usually enough moisture for my aging skin.  I let that soak in while I dry my hair then I apply this brightening primer.  It has an SPF of 20, dries immediately, and really smoothes out the look of my complexion.

Then depending on how my skin feels, I apply either this tinted Australian Gold SPF 50 sunscreen or this tinted SPF 41 moisturizer by Elta MD, in place of a foundation. The Australian gold comes in 2 shades, I use the fair to light. The Elta MD is quite emollient on its own, so I choose based on the day.

My neck, chest, arms, and back of my hands get covered with either this untinted Australian Gold SPF 50 or this La Roche Posay Athelios SPF 50 sunscreen.

On days I know I will be out in the sun more than usual I add this translucent  Jane Iredale 30 SPF powder to my neck and chest for additional coverage.


I keep this stick sunscreen in the ashtray of my car…best use for an ashtray I know of:) I apply a layer to the backs of my hands and fingers whenever I get in the car because they’re in direct sunlight on the steering wheel and I don’t want more spots.


Not all the sunscreens I try are a success. I read glowing reviews for this HydroPeptide sunscreen so ordered the tinted and untinted version.


The untinted version felt creamy but left a dry, white film that felt tacky. The tinted version has very little color and left a dry cakey finish. I had to wash everything off and start over with my regular sunscreen so I can’t recommend these.

My face looks surprisingly natural with all these layers on and I haven’t had a sunburn or new damage for many years. So while layering takes a bit more time, all the products work well together and give me solid mineral protection without looking like a mask.

Do you have a favorite sunscreen to share?



  1. Avon has a wonderful facial moisturizer with an SPF 50. Works great, not greasy!

    1. Great to know, thank you!

  2. Have you used The Ordinary skin serums?
    If yes what do you think?
    Im using them they & they seem fine but my skin feels sticky after several layers.

    1. I’ve tried quite a few and found the same problem. Many of them also ‘pill’ and roll on my skin.

  3. Unfortunatetly I cannot wear sunscreen in the car with my husband. He is allergic to chemicals and scents. I tried to wear an organic sunscreen a few years ago in the car and he got heart palpitations! Which of the above listed sunscreens are non scented?? I usually use Neutrogenia 70 spf unscented and it seems to work well.

    1. I also have some long-sleeved cardigans and neck scarves with sun protection built right into the fabric. Coolibar makes them

  4. Heidi Baggett says:

    Thanks so much for another great post! Presently, I use the Josie Maran sunblock and love it. I’ve used Clinique SPF products and recently bought Elta, MD, which is very nice. I want to, more than ever, steer away from products that are tested on animals, so I’ll definitely keep Josie Maran in my arsenal, but have decide against the other products. I want to try Jane Iredale makeup and I use several products by Paula’s Choice.

    It’s funny because as I’m reading your post and comments, my lips began to feel dry…and I reached for tinted lip balm, which prompted my reply because it’s SPF Coola. I loved Fresh, but it’s animal tested, so I switched to Coola. Have you tried SPF products for the lips, and if so, what are your thoughts?

    Different topic (though related to animal free testing): A while back you posted you were trying the Tatcha line and I wonder what your thoughts were on this line?

    Thanks so much for your invaluable information and great posts!

    1. I’ve not tried the Cools line but will check into it, thanks! I love the Water Cream and plan to try their face primer. I switched away from the wash because I was having a problem with break outs. They weren’t related to the wash (stress) but I needed to use a salicylic wash, which has helped.

  5. Thank you SO much! I bought Australian Gold on your recommendarion and love it! I also use a stick to carry wirh me. I will check out the rest. This will save me a lot of time and money – and hopefully my skin! Pinning!

    1. I love that Australian Gold and it’s so affordable!! It’s a win all the way around.

  6. Julie Anne says:

    Elizabeth Arden City Smart tinted SPF 50 on Face
    City Smart moisturizer SPF 30 on neck, it’s a neutral colour
    Shiseido UV protection on nose
    Athelios on my body. I may go back to the tinted version for my face & neck. I believe it is the top rated brand.
    Neutrogena stick is kept in the car.

    I found the Australian Gold left a stain on my collar. It’s a toss between that or white residue.

    1. I use the untinted on my neck and chest because I didn’t want stains on my collar. I guess I’m lucky enough to be so fair the slight white tint blends right in. I tried the Athelious tinted but it was too dark for me. The Elta is perfect.

  7. Yvonne Weimer says:

    Do you reapply during the day? I understand that sunscreen lasts about 80 minutes. Re-application is the challenge I run into. I use all these products except the first 2. Please send ideas!

    I love your site. My morning is not complete until I have read it! ????

    1. I reapply the stick sunscreen to the back of my hands many times throughout the day. Unless I am at a beach or walking outside for hours, I do not reapply liquid sunscreen. I carry and dust myself with the Colorscience powder. I wear sunprotective clothing, large hats or carry a parasol. I know they suggest we reapply sunscreen after 80 minutes but I’m seldom in the sun for that long.

  8. I started using the Australian Gold this year because you suggested it in a previous post. I love it. Everyday I lather up on face and body. I am going to try the tinted as I think that would look better on my neck area.

  9. linda allen says:

    Interesting. I’m not sure I have the patience for this many layers and worry about allergies everytime I try something new, especially perfues. I’ve used Colorescience for about 25 years, just brush on the powder and go.

    1. I use the colorscience to touch up during the day. It’s great

  10. Jan Berryhill says:

    I am also one that uses sunscreen 365 days a year. I love Rodan & Fields’ 2 step hand treatment which includes (1) Brightening Hand Treatment & (2) Age Shield Hand Balm. Both have SPF 30. Their Lip Shield SPF 25 is wonderful for lips! Love your blog & have used many of your ideas & recommendations.

    1. Lips need that protection too but few lipsticks have spf. Do you apply the lip shield over lipstick?

  11. I layer my sunblock, too. Anthelios is one of my weapons. Thank you. I’m saving this post.

  12. I’m curious if you apply makeup after this regimen of sun protection, ie, tinted foundation, blush, powder?

    1. I would love to know that too!

    2. The tinted sunscreen doubles as foundation for me. I seldom add foundation over it but always wear blush

  13. I keep sunscreen in my car too! I have that pale, freckle prone Irish-Scottish skin and burn like a lobster. When I hop on my trusty riding mower, I’m coated in sunscreen, long sleeved Coolibar shirt, long pants, and a giant sun hat…a far cry from my youth when I mowed in a bikini! The best treat I gave myself was to have the backs of my hands lasered about 5 years ago. It took 20 years off the appearance of my hands!

    1. Those lasers work miracles! I love those coolibar tops. I have 3 long sleeve cardigans that get a lot of wear.

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