How Long Does Sunscreen Actually Last?

If you’re heading to a sunny destination then this is the article for you! Something we’ll always be passionate about is the need for everyday sun protection. This is unquestionably one topic that we will always keep promoting. Because without protection, your skin is vulnerable to UV rays that cause malignant moles, sunspots, premature wrinkles, and other problems.

Maybe you already know this and make it a point to apply sunscreen every day. But do you reapply it on a regular basis? Sunscreen does not, contrary to common assumptions, stay on the skin all day. Using it in the morning and not applying it again, when it comes to sun protection, isn't doing your complexion any favors.

So, how long does sunscreen remain on the skin and how frequently should it be reapplied? We're here to clear the air once and for all.

Why Does Sunscreen Need To Be Reapplied?

There are a few key reasons why reapplying your daily SPF is so vital.

To begin with, chemical sunscreens (sunscreens that operate by absorbing UV rays) will degrade with prolonged contact with the sun. So if you don't reapply it on a frequent basis, you're likely to get an awful sunburn.

Another reason to use sunscreen frequently is that there's a good possibility you might have missed a couple of spots when you first applied it so putting another layer on will make sure you get those missed spots from the first time around.

Lastly, according to research, it's expected that when applying sunscreen people use less than half of the sun protection they need, so basically reapplying sunscreen is similar to painting your walls a second time around. 

So How Long Does Sunscreen Last?

It’s recommended that you reapply sunscreen after two hours. The reasoning for this time frame is due to the way SPF is measured. 

SPF ratings indicate how much sun protection a sunscreen product will provide for 120 minutes in the sun. However, keep in mind that the two-hour guideline assumes you apply the right thickness the first time (between 1.3 and 2.0 mg/cm).

If you're sweating or swimming, you should apply sunscreen sooner. Also, it’s important to know that "water-resistant" sunscreens aren't really waterproof. In reality, sunscreen creams that claim to be waterproof or sweatproof are banned. So, make sure that after swimming or heavy perspiration, you reapply sunscreen 40-80 minutes later.

In addition, sunscreen has an expiration date. Sunscreen expires after three years after the date of purchase according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Don’t use expired sunscreen; the shelf life is also the extent of the sunscreen’s SPF protection. Using expired sunscreen, even a high SPF, can still leave you vulnerable to UVA rays and sun damage.

Chemical vs. Physical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreen absorbs UV photons into the skin, turns them to heat, and then releases them from the body. These contain active chemicals such as avobenzone, octinoxate, and oxybenzone.

Sunblock that is applied to the skin and rests on top of it reflects the sun's rays. Physical blocks are mostly composed of the minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

Consequences of Not Reapplying Sunscreen

If sunbathing is one of your favorite pastimes (or perhaps you're just looking for information to keep safe in the sun), knowing what to do if you forget to apply or reapply sunscreen becomes critical.

Skin cancer is one thing that can happen when you expose your skin to the sun. However, there are a number of additional effects to consider first. 

Painful Burns: When you get a sunburn your skin becomes red and uncomfortable. It occurs when you fail to use sunscreen and spend too much time in the sun. The majority of people forget to reapply sunscreen which can lead to severe sunburns. If these burns are ignored, they will blister, requiring the assistance of skin care professionals and the use of certain products to help with the healing process.

Signs of Aging: If you don't use sunscreen, your supple, firm, and wrinkle-free skin will look old and droopy much earlier. Too much UV exposure can harm the collagen formation in your skin, which is responsible for skin tightening. As a result, skin suppleness is lost, and noticeable wrinkles appear.

Dark Spots/Hyperpigmentation: Melanin is a pigment found in the skin, hair, and eyes that gives them their natural color. The color of your skin, hair, and eyes might be affected by a melanin imbalance or spike. Unprotected sun exposure is one of the reasons that causes melanin to increase, and can result in hyperpigmentation or dark patches.

Skin Cancer: Obviously, if your skin is exposed to the sun, the danger of skin cancer is always present. The skin cells multiply rapidly when exposed to direct sunlight. According to a study conducted by the Skin Cancer Foundation, regular use of sunscreen reduces the risk of squamous cell carcinoma by 40% and melanoma risk by 50%.

Sunscreen: How To Protect Your Skin From the Sun

The majority of people are aware that sunscreen is an essential component of any sun protection regimen. However, applying sunscreen correctly might be a challenge. Here are some sun safety guidelines to remember when applying sunscreen.

Use SPF 15 or Higher

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends applying a daily SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or higher for best sun protection. Individuals that have light skin and are especially vulnerable to skin damage should go for SPF 20, SPF 30, or even SPF 50. 

Just be wary of being lulled into a false feeling of security by a higher SPF rating. Even SPF 100 has to be reapplied every two hours to give your skin the most protection.

Choose Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen

Always pick a broad-spectrum SPF when purchasing sunscreen. The best sunscreens are designed to shield your skin from ultraviolet radiation. UVA radiation may induce wrinkles, whereas UVB rays can cause skin burns. Both forms significantly heighten your chances of getting skin cancer.

Wait for Your Sunscreen To Sink in

Remember to apply chemical sunscreen or mineral sunscreen 15-20 minutes before going outside and tanning. This type of product requires time to bond to the skin before it can function efficiently.

If you use a physical sunscreen that sits on top of the skin, you can walk outside in the sun right after applying it.

Focus on Sun-Exposed Areas

Concentrate on regions that are exposed to the sun the most, such as the back of your neck, hands, arms, shoulders, and tops of your feet. Another usually overlooked area that receives a lot of solar exposure is the tops of the ears. And of course don't forget about your face, especially your nose.

Don’t Cheat Your Skin — Reapply Your Sunscreen

It's best to reapply sunscreen every two hours, particularly after swimming or sweating.

You shouldn't need a second layer if you mostly remain indoors and away from windows. However, keep in mind how often you actually go outside. Just in case, have a second bottle of sunscreen at your desk. Even a brief midday stroll might damage your skin.

Remember that no sunscreen is infallible so it's always best to look for shade and use wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, or other protective apparel, such as rashguards and cover-ups.


There are three important facts regarding sunscreen that you should note when going to the beach:

  • Chemical sunscreens degrade in the sun and should be reapplied on a frequent basis.
  • Because most individuals don't apply enough sunscreen the first time, reapplication is essential.
  • Sunscreens, regardless of their SPF value, only last around two hours after application.

So, to answer your question, it’s best to apply your sunscreen every two hours to be protected from any harmful rays. This way you can head out into the sun worry-free knowing you’re safe from getting a sunburn or any other damage from the sun! 

Head to the La Blanca website, and explore all the swimsuit options we have available for you. Try them on at home without the risk when you enjoy complimentary shipping and returns on all orders over $79. 



How Often Should You Reapply Sunscreen? | Mahoney Dermatology

How long your sunscreen actually protects you, according to dermatologists | Business Insider

Sun Protection | The Skin Cancer Foundation