Are you applying your sunscreen all wrong?

HOUSTON – Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital Dr. Shannan McCann teaches patients that applying sunscreen can be fun by making it a game.

“Simon says to apply it to your right hand,” she instructed a little girl named Emma to apply sunscreen while playing “Simon says.”

Emma took the bait and caked it on. McCann also suggested to encourage kids to race while applying the sunscreen, see who can do it fastest, and parents make sure to double check that they’re covered.

McCann had the sunscreen almost overflowing from her hand because she said the correct amount to apply is way more than you think – think a golf ball size or a shot glass full of sunscreen.

“On average, the majority of people only apply 25-50% of the needed amount of sunscreen to get that sun protective factor, so it's important to make sure you apply enough,” she said.

McCann’s rules for sunscreen:

  • Reapply every 2 hours
  • SPF 30 is proven to work
  • Look for Broad Spectrum coverage
  • Water resistant
  • Apply at least 15-30 minutes before going in the sun or pool
  • Pay close attention to spots frequently missed: ears, hands and feet
  • Protect the part line on scalps -- wear a hat

Sunscreens in aerosol cans typically get less approval than creams, but McCann says it's better to use them than fight about it.

Rules for sunscreen spray:

  • Apply these indoors, outside tends to blow the mist away
  • Don't inhale the fumes
  • Spray a thick layer
  • Rub it in

Experts say to keep exposure to a minimum for babies under 6 months old. However, brands marketed toward babies contain hypoallergenic components and, according to McCann, are preferred when very young children are in the sun.

Remember sunscreen expires. Every three years it's time for a new bottle, but McCann said you should be going through at least an entire bottle in one summer, probably more!