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15 Hacks to Apply Your Sunscreen More Easily

Never suffer through another sunburn again.

If you're spending time outside this summer, using sunscreen is non-negotiable. With over 90,000 cases of melanoma diagnosed in the United States alone each year, your decision to slap on some sunscreen—or forgo it—might actually a matter of life and death. However, even if you've stocked up on the highest SPF money can buy, and it won't make a lick of difference if you aren't applying it correctly.

Luckily, the basics are simple: sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours, and you should be using about a shot glass-sized amount to cover your body. Unfortunately, it's the actual act of getting the stuff evenly applied that proves a bit trickier. Whether your problem is getting that impossible spot on your back or protecting your face without getting sunscreen in your eyes, these simple tricks for applying sunscreen more easily will ensure you're not feeling the burn this summer. And if you want to make sure you're using the sunscreen that's right for you, Here's How to Figure Out Which SPF You Should Use.

Use Plastic Wrap to Reach Tricky Spots

Hand pulling plastic wrap

Most people will agree that the real pain when it comes to applying sunscreen is making sure you reach the center of your back. One easy work around is to apply sunscreen to a piece of plastic wrap and rub it across your back like you were drying it with a towel. You might look silly, but it's better than having a random sunburnt splotch on the middle of your back. And for more ways to turn things you already own into multitaskers, discover these 50 New Ways to Use Everyday Items.

Keep Your Hands Clean With Makeup Sponges

woman with makeup sponge

If you're the type of person who's always rubbing your eyes, it's definitely in your best interest to not have sunscreen all over your fingers. Instead of rubbing it on with your hands, use a makeup sponge to apply sunscreen to keep it from irritating your eyes later.

Use a Stick to Keep Your Eyes Safe

Lip balm

To really ensure against getting sunscreen in your eyes, skip liquids entirely and use a solid sunscreen stick. Because it's a solid, you can get very full coverage without worrying about it dripping or running into your eyes. And for more summer skin care tips, discover how to Beat the Summer Sun With These 10 Skin Care Products.

Use a Cotton Swab for Precise Coverage


It's important to apply sunscreen to any skin exposed to the sun, and that includes the part in your hair and your hairline. To protect these easy-to-miss areas, use a cotton swab for thorough coverage that won't get your hair all greasy. And if you want to stay healthy all summer long, learn the 15 Biggest Health Mistakes People Make in Summer.

Use a Gel to Handle Body Hair

bad beauty products

Sunscreen and a hairy chest are not a great combination. However, it's a lot easier to switch products than become a serial chest waxer, so skip the traditional sunscreen lotion and use a sunscreen gel instead. They're more lightweight, absorb quickly into the skin, and won't leave your chest hair looking like you styled it with Elmer's glue.

Apply Setting Spray

Facial spray
buritora / Shutterstock

If you're wear makeup everywhere, reapplying sunscreen every two hours can be kind of a nightmare. Instead, reach for a setting spray with an SPF of 30 or more to keep your makeup game strong and your skin safe. And to really give your makeup lasting power, check out these 20 Tips for a Less Sweaty Summer.

Use a Paint Roller

Paint roller for sunscreen

If plastic wrap isn't your style, you might have another solution to the dilemma of getting sunscreen on those hard-to-reach places on your back. A 4-inch paint roller can apply sunscreen to your back the same way it would apply paint to a wall. Put some sunscreen on the roller and get to painting your body.

Practice Yoga to Maximize Your Reach

Cow-faced pose sunscreen

This one's a bit of a long-term strategy, but there is a pose in yoga that might help you slowly increase the flexibility of your arms and shoulders until you can touch your entire back. It's called cow face pose, or gomukhasana. If you're able, practice by sitting up straight, then raising an arm over your head and rotating it so that your palm is facing your back. Next, bend your elbow. Your palm should be resting on your back. Bring your other arm behind your back and bend your elbow so the back of that hand is against your back. If possible clasp your hands. If you can't, no big deal; instead, try grabbing using a towel, strap, or your shirt to bridge the gap between your hands. After holding the position for ten seconds, repeat on the other side. This is a great way to work towards getting the flexibility you need to put sunscreen on your entire back without any assistance.

Sneak In Sunscreen Whenever Possible

woman putting on makeup in mirror

If your sunscreen shortcoming is that you can never remember to put it on, switch to products that already have SPF. It's especially important to remember to protect your lips, because they're so often neglected and are particularly painful when burned. Make sure you're using a lip balm with SPF, even if your lips aren't chapped, and reapply at least every two hours. Other skin care products you use in the morning should also have SPF, but this will only protect your skin from daylight for a few hours. If you're using other SPF products, make sure to reapply, especially if you're outside between 10 AM and 4 PM, when the sun's rays are at their most damaging.

Try an Aerosol Spray

Aerosol sunscreen application

This is definitely not the most cost effective solution, but an aerosol spray is a great way to get total coverage in a jiffy. There are a few caveats, however. It will be much harder to get reliable coverage if it's windy outside, and aerosols aren't intended to be sprayed directly onto your face. Additionally, some aerosol sunscreen needs to be rubbed in, which means you may still need some help getting it on those hard-to-reach places. And if you frequently skip the sunscreen, you may want to bone up on the 30 Reasons Your Skin Is Getting Worse in Your 30s.

Use a Brush-On Block

Powder sunscreen for easy application

If you've got oily skin, you probably don't want to add greasy sunscreen into your daily routine. Instead, you can buy powder sunscreen and apply it with a brush to minimize shine.

Make Your Own

bad puns

Conversely, if you have dry skin or have got your skin care routine down to an exact science, you can add powdered sunscreen to products you already use to give them some added SPF and reduce the number of products in your cabinet. Just remember you have to reapply if you're going to be out in the sun all day.

Use a Towel

no woman over 40 should have mismatched towels in her apartment

Some people find that putting sunscreen on a towel and rubbing it across their back like they're drying off is a good way to hit those hard-to-reach spots. While rubbing yourself down with a sunscreen-soaked towel may feel a bit odd, it's still a lot less awkward than asking a stranger to rub lotion on you.

Invest in a Lotion Applicator

Lotion applicator for sunscreen

If you'd rather go for pro, skip straight to the right tool for the job and buy a lotion applicator. This handy tool will get the job done; after all, it's the only job it's intended for.

Try Face Painting

Face paint a kid with sunscreen

If your biggest challenge getting sunscreen on is that you're trying to put it on a squirmy child who doesn't like having their face touched (and can you blame them?), turn the process into a game by saying you're painting their face. Kids might hate getting sunscreen on, but few will turn down a funny face-painting session. And once you've mastered the art of sunscreening your children, check out The 5 Best Trips to Take With Kids.

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