The One (but Very Crucial) Mistake You Might Be Making with Sunscreen

If you wear sunscreen daily, congratulations. You’re already ahead of the curve with your skincare routine. Along with washing your face and moisturizing, it is one of the most important things you can do to maintain the health of your skin over time.

Let’s move on to best sunscreen practices. Aside from wearing it every day, and ideally reapplying it every few hours when you’re outdoors, you’ve likely heard that sunscreen should always be applied as the very last step of your skincare routine. And while this is certainly true for mineral sunscreens, it turns out it’s not the best practice for chemical SPFs.

A quick pause here to talk about the differences between mineral and chemical sunscreens...

Put simply, chemical sunscreens absorb into your skin, whereas physical sunscreens sit on top of it. More specifically, chemical sunscreens use ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate and avobenzone to create a chemical reaction (hence the name) that changes UV rays into heat that is then released from the skin. Physical sunscreens use ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to block UV rays from penetrating through your skin in the first place.

For a chemical sunscreen to do its job properly, it needs to get into your skin—which is why the order of application is important here. When using a chemical sunscreen, it should go on before your moisturizer, so there isn't anything getting in the way of its absorption (i.e., ingredients from your moisturizer that could prevent or minimize absorption of the chemical blockers).

Prefer to use a mineral or physical sunscreen? Cool, proceed as usual and continue to apply them as the last step of your routine since they’re formulated to reflect light off the surface of your skin.

And if you really want to go the extra mile, we’d suggest topping things off with a cute summer hat for added protection.

The 20 Best Mineral Sunscreens, From a Silky Serum to an Acne-Safe Option

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Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...