Help! I Think I’m Using Powder Sunscreen Wrong

Help! I Think I’m Using Powder Sunscreen Wrong featured image
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Powder sunscreen promises a convenient, mess-free way to protect your skin from the sun. But if you’re like me, you might be wondering if you’re doing it wrong. Despite trying several popular SPF brands, I just couldn’t get the hang of it. How much do I apply, how many clicks do I need, and how often do I reapply? Most importantly, am I really getting the protection I need by brushing it on? To get to the bottom of these questions, I spoke with several dermatologists to learn about common mistakes, best practices and how to make powder sunscreen work for everyone.

Featured Experts

  • Dr. Orit Markowitz is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York
  • Dr. Joel Schlessinger is a board-certified dermatologist based in Omaha, NE
  • Dr. Daniel Schlessinger is a board-certified dermatologist based in Omaha, NE
  • Dr. Lesley Loss is a board-certified dermatologist based in Rochester, NY

Common Application Mistakes

One of the most common mistakes people make is not applying enough. “People often don’t put enough on,” explains Rochester, NY dermatologist Lesley Loss, MD. “It needs to be applied generously to provide the SPF protection listed on the product. It’s also intended for the face and chest area, not the whole body.”

Ensuring full coverage can be tricky, which is why these are best used in conjunction with traditional cream or lotion sunscreens. Similarly, Omaha, NE dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD notes, “It can be difficult to know if you’ve applied enough or if you’ve evenly coated the skin. This is why I recommend it as a supplemental re-application method rather than the primary sunscreen.” 

Just Add Powder 

Using powder sunscreen the right way starts with how to layer it. Start the day with a solid base and use it throughout the day to ensure you’re well protected. Dr. Loss advises, “Use a cream or lotion-based sunscreen in the morning. After two hours of sun exposure, powder is great for reapplying.” 

“These sunscreens are perfect for touch-ups over makeup because they won’t mess up your look,” adds Omaha, NE dermatologist Daniel Schlessinger, MD. “Apply your traditional sunscreen first, then makeup, and finish with powder on top” 

The Brush and Flick

Dr. Joel Schlessinger says get the application right by working it through the brush onto your skin. “Ensure the powder flows from the tube into the brush by shaking and flicking it. Apply for at least 20 seconds, making multiple passes over the skin for optimal protection. Avoid inhaling the powder during application.”

The portability of powder sunscreens, often equipped with a built-in retractable brush, makes them ideal for quick touch-ups. “They resemble makeup setting powder and are formulated with finely milled minerals like titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and iron oxides for HEV, or blue light protection,” says Dr. Daniel Schlessinger. “For this reason, powders are a great way to protect areas like the scalp or for re-application over top of makeup because they won’t mess up your look or your hairstyle.”

The Two Hour Rule 

Reapplying every two hours is crucial and powder sunscreens make this process more convenient, especially on the go. “Reapply every two hours but if you’re sweating or swimming, choose something with water resistance as these products typically are not,” Dr. Loss advises.

When to Use and When to Skip

Different skin types and situations can benefit from powder sunscreen, though it’s not universally suitable. “Powder sunscreens mattify skin so they can be a great product for absorbing oil and minimizing shine throughout the day,” says Dr. Daniel Schlessinger. “Additionally, powder sunscreens are all-mineral formulas with sunscreen actives that sit on the top of the skin, making them a great option for people with skin sensitivities.”

However, you can feel free to skip the powder if you’re going in the water. “They are not the best choice for swimming or heavy sweating because they lack water resistance,” Dr. Loss points out. 

While it looks like I am doing it wrong if I think powder sunscreen can be my one and done SPF solution, it’s good to know I can throw it in my bag for touchups during these hot summer months and it can be an easy, on the go solution. But Dr. Daniel Schlessinger says be mindful of bacteria. “It’s important to remember that because the sunscreen flows through a brush similar to a makeup brush, it can be susceptible to bacteria if not kept clean,” he says. “Choose a powder sunscreen brush that has antimicrobial bristles or has a brush head that can be removed from the sunscreen dispenser and cleaned.”

Expert Recommended Products

1 / 6

Jane Iredale Powder-Me SPF 30 Dry Sunscreen ($55)

When it comes to choosing the right powder sunscreen, dermatologists have their favorites. “I like the Jane Iredale Powder-Me SPF 30 Dry Sunscreen,” says Dr. Loss.

Powder Sunscreen
2 / 6

ISDIN Mineral Brush Daily Protection Powder ($60)

New York dermatologist Orit Markowitz, MD prefers the ISDIN Mineral Brush Daily Protection Powder. “It contains zinc and titanium dioxide, providing broad-spectrum protection,” she explains. These ingredients are known for their efficacy in protecting against UVA and UVB rays.

Powder sunscreen
3 / 6

Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50 ($69)

“This powder sunscreen brush protects against environmental damage and has antimicrobial bristles to resist bacteria being transferred to the skin,” says Dr. Daniel Schlessinger.

Behr Colorescience
Photo Credits: Colorscience
4 / 6

Eminence Organics Sun Defense Minerals SPF 30 ($58)  

This powder formula includes vitamins A and E for extra skin protection, recommended for those concerned about environmental skin aging.

Powder Sunscreen
5 / 6

 iS CLINICAL PerfecTint Powder SPF 40 ($78)

For those who want a tinted option, Dr. Joel Schlessinger says this one provides light hydration and comes in five shades.

6 / 6

Arcona Sunsations Nearly Invisible powder sunscreen with SPF 30 ($48)

“This is talc-free and leaves a sheer, translucent finish suitable for most skin tones,” says Dr. Joel Schlessinger.

Powder Sunscreen

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