Proper Use

Drug information provided by: Merative, Micromedex®

Sunscreen agents are for external use only. These products usually come with patient directions. Read them carefully before using any product.

In choosing the sunscreen product, you may consider the following:

  • Type of Activity—Take precautions when you are in places of higher elevations (mountains) or on reflective surfaces (concrete, sand, snow, or water), as these may increase the likelihood of sun damage to the skin. Use a sunscreen with ultraviolet A/ultraviolet B (UVA/UVB) coverage and with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Activities that make you sweat, such as outdoor jobs (gardeners, construction workers), outdoor sports (tennis) or exercise, prolonged sunbathing, or water sports such as swimming, water-skiing, or wind surfing, may result in the removal of the sunscreen agent from the skin. Use a water-resistant or waterproof sunscreen agent with SPF of 15 or more. When possible, also wear a hat, long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and UV-opaque sunglasses. Wearing UV-opaque sunglasses when you are in the sun is also necessary because the sun rays can cause cataracts.
  • Age—Do not use sunscreen agents on infants younger than 6 months of age. For children 6 months of age and older, use a lotion form of sunscreen with broad spectrum and SPF of 15 or higher. Avoid using alcohol-based sunscreen products for this age group.
  • Site of application—For the ear and nose, use a physical sunscreen agent. For the lips, use a gel-based lip sunscreen or lip balm.
  • Skin condition—If your skin is dry, use a cream or lotion form of sunscreen agent. If your skin is oily, use an alcohol or gel-based sunscreen. Avoid using alcohol-based sunscreens on eczematous or inflamed skin.

The following are skin types (complexions) and the appropriate sunscreen agent that should be used:

  • Very fair; always burns easily; rarely tans—Use SPF 20 to 30.
  • Fair; always burns easily; tans minimally—Use SPF 12 to 20.
  • Light; burns moderately; tans gradually (light brown)—Use SPF 8 to 12.
  • Medium; burns minimally; always tans well (moderate brown)—Use SPF 4 to 8.
  • Dark; rarely burns; tans profusely (dark brown)—Use SPF 2 to 4.

Before every exposure to the sun, apply an appropriate sunscreen product that protects you against ultraviolet (UV) sun rays. For maximum sun protection, sunscreens should be applied uniformly and thickly to all exposed skin surfaces (including the lips, using lip sunscreen or lip balm). Sunscreen products containing aminobenzoic acid, lisadimate, padimate O, or roxadimate should be applied 1 to 2 hours before sun exposure. Other sunscreen products should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure, unless otherwise directed by the package instructions. Lip sunscreens should be applied 45 to 60 minutes before sun exposure.

Because most sunscreens are easily removed from the skin, you should reapply these products liberally every 1 to 2 hours for adequate protection. You should reapply sunscreen especially after swimming or heavy perspiration. Lip sunscreens should be reapplied liberally at least once every hour while you are in the sun and also before and after swimming, after eating and drinking, and during other activities that remove it from the lips.

Keep sunscreen products (e.g., sprays) away from the eyes.

Some sunscreen agents contain alcohol and are flammable. Do not use near heat, near open flame, or while smoking.

Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average dose of sunscreen agents.

  • For topical dosage forms (cream, gel, lotion, lip balm, oil, spray, and stick):
    • For sunburn (prevention):
      • Adults, teenagers, and children 6 months of age and older—Apply liberally and evenly to exposed area(s) of skin (including the lips, using lip sunscreen or lip balm) before sun exposure. Reapply when needed.
      • Infants younger than 6 months of age—Use is not recommended.


Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Keep from freezing.

Keep out of the reach of children.

Do not keep outdated medicine or medicine no longer needed.

Ask your healthcare professional how you should dispose of any medicine you do not use.