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Two-finger Rule for Sunscreen Application

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Sunscreen is a crucial part of the morning skincare routine for all skin types. Continue reading to learn the details of sunscreen application.

Written by

Dr. Zeba Jabeen

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Dilip Kumar Meena

Published At September 11, 2023
Reviewed AtSeptember 11, 2023

Introduction:

With the depletion of the ozone layer of the atmosphere, the exposure to the sun’s harmful radiation, the ultraviolet rays, is increasing, and its direct influence is seen on the skin. However, the artificial light around us also harms the skin. So, the emphasis on the need for sunscreen was laid.

Several ways are advised for sunscreen application, but the two-finger method is usually the most preferred. As per the British Medical Journal, it involves applying sunscreen in a quantity of two finger-length to different body parts to ensure optimal SPF (sun protection factor).

What Are the Benefits of Sunscreen?

The sun causes significant damage to the skin and harms it in multiple ways. So, sunscreen use is of paramount importance. Sunscreen is the only shielding for the skin that is effective against UV (ultraviolet) rays.

Wearing sunscreen has a myriad of profits, a few of which are mentioned below:

  • It evens the skin tone.

  • It protects against sunburn.

  • It helps in treating and preventing hyperpigmentation.

  • It delays and prevents premature aging.

  • It keeps skin inflammation at bay.

  • It decreases the chances of skin cancer.

It is also recommended that sunscreen should contribute to a minimum of 40 percent of a skincare budget and should be a compulsory part of the daily regimen. Sunscreen application is usually the last step of the morning (day) skincare routine after the moisturizer application. However, when wearing makeup, sunscreen is applied before foundation.

When to Apply a Sunscreen?

Sunscreen is a must in all seasons or weather as ultraviolet rays are always present, no matter whether the weather is cloudy. So, sunscreen application is essential every single day throughout the year. It cannot be avoided even when living indoors, like in a basement. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the daily use of broad-spectrum sunscreen, having an SPF of 30 or higher, and its reapplication too. Sunscreen reapplication is suggested for daily makeup wearers, particularly with sunscreen spray. It is further emphasized to set a timer or alarm for reapplication.

What Is Two-Finger Method?

Excessive exposure to UV rays can damage the skin and potentially contribute to the development of certain forms of skin cancer. So, its proper application is also essential. A significant number of individuals require education regarding the recommended dosage of sunscreen, as inadequate application can leave the skin vulnerable to UV damage. Usually, people use only 25 to 50 percent of the advised amount.

The two-finger method is the sunscreen application technique that involves squeezing sunscreen up to the length of two fingers (the distance from the crease of the palm to the tip of the index and middle fingers) and using the same only over one section of the body, such as the face or neck. The exact amount is used for different body parts. It is a simple way to squirt a sufficient quantity to cover the expanse.

The Origin of the Two-finger Rule:

Though the two-finger method has gained momentum lately, yet, it was first described in a dosage guide published in 2002. According to the researchers, a person should apply the two-finger lengths of sunscreen to eleven different body parts.

The different body parts are:

  • The head, face, and neck.

  • Left arm.

  • Right arm.

  • Upper back.

  • Lower back.

  • Chest (upper torso area).

  • Stomach (lower torso area).

  • Left upper leg and thigh.

  • Right upper leg and thigh.

  • Lower left leg and foot.

  • Lower right leg and foot.

The authors call this division “the rule of nines,” as each section represents approximately nine percent of the body. Besides the two-finger rule of sunscreen application, there are other ways to get adequate coverage. Using shade and wearing sun-blocking clothes, such as sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats, also protects against UV rays.

As various sunscreen application techniques are available so, whether the two-finger method is chosen or not, sunscreen application and reapplication are imperative for maintaining the skin’s health and preventing its damage. The skin experts advise not to be shy with layering up the body with body lotion or face moisturizer containing SPF.

What Are the Benefits of the Two-Finger Method?

The two-finger rule of using sunscreen is a technique that allows an individual to receive the sun protection level mentioned on the product. This allows the user to utilize the product to its maximum. It needs applying two-finger lengths of sunscreen to eleven sections of the body to ensure thorough coverage. This technique is essential because when a certain SPF number is assigned to a sunscreen, it is done for a defined amount, like about one ounce or a full shot glass. This applies to the whole body.

Can the Two-Finger Method Prevent Under or Over-Application of Sunscreen?

The two-finger method indeed prevents the under-application of sunscreen. However, overapplication is generally only possible if someone uses an excess quantity. It prevents wastage of the product as well. The two-finger method is also a means of portion control. It is easier to use with thick creamy sunscreen types, but with thinner or more liquid formulae, modifying and measuring the two-finger amount may be required to avoid a mess. Applying sunscreen in two sections, upper and lower, to the legs and back makes it appropriate to get the maximum coverage.

Does Reapplication Is Needed With the Two-Finger Method?

Sunscreen reapplication is one-hundred percent required, even when using the two-finger rule. The protective effects of all sunscreens typically last for approximately two hours, with a duration of 45 minutes to an hour in situations involving perspiration or water exposure.

Conclusion:

The value of sunscreen is now known to almost everybody, yet, the knowledge of using an adequate amount is rare. This includes the need for reapplication or skipping it altogether. The various advertisement modes are reminders of the gains of preventive skincare, which are usually enough these days to encourage everyone to use sunscreen daily. But, an emphasis on reapplication and optimal quantity usage should be addressed. Unfortunately, nature has not designed the human skin to manage unfiltered sun exposure. Various home remedies like carrot, coconut, and shea butter provide insufficient protection and are not comparable to clinically approved formulae. So, adequate information on sunscreen application is mandatory.

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Dr. Dilip Kumar Meena
Dr. Dilip Kumar Meena

Dermatology

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sunscreen
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