The 'SPF Layering' Hack Ensures You Wear Enough Sunscreen (& Don't Deal With Pilling)

If you don't have an eye for measurement, there's a hack that helps you apply the perfect sunscreen amount every time without using spoons for references. Boosted by TikToker user Abbey Young, this fool-proof "SPF layering" hack has gone viral with over a million views at the time of writing this article. According to Young, to avoid under-applying her sunscreen, she spreads it in layers, "First I start off with one layer of sunscreen, making sure to evenly cover my entire face." The trichologist-in-training continues, "Then after I let that sunscreen absorb for a few minutes, I'll go ahead and apply a second layer on top of that first one."

However, there's a fine distinction between wearing SPF and wearing it right. For instance, wearing sunscreen too thin can cheat the skin out of the sun protection it deserves. Many people layer their skin with only 25 to 50% of the recommended quantity of sunscreen, notes Dr. Darrel Rigel, clinical professor of dermatology at NYU, via CBS News. If you want maximum sun protection, you must apply enough sunscreen. The conventional wisdom is to use ⅓ or ½ a tablespoon of sunscreen for the face alone. But how many of us squeeze sunscreen out onto a tablespoon to be sure we're using the correct quantity? Not all of us are experts in measuring spoons. 

How to use the SPF layering hack to your advantage

Covering your face with broad-spectrum sunscreen before sun exposure is the most surefire way to protect your skin from damaging UV rays, reducing risks of skin cancer, premature aging, and UV-induced skin disorders. This explains why Abbey Young thinks it's better to be safe than sorry. Young explains that this layering technique helps prevent sunscreen from flaking or developing tiny white beads on your skin's surface. 

If your skin is pilling with sunscreen, it will be very difficult for the makeup product that follows to glide on and blend perfectly. Sunscreen pilling is common among excessively dry or oily skin. It's a sign that the formula is not being spread out evenly or absorbed into your skin, which means that your skin is not getting enough sun protection from the product. If you're always having problems with sunscreen pilling, this SPF layering technique might be the right fit for you. 

Although layering looks overwhelming for the skin, it doesn't necessarily feel that way. Young reassures her audience that layering will not contribute to stuffy or greasy skin if you use a super lightweight product. So, what's the right product for SPF layering?  

What kind of sunscreens to use for SPF layering

When Abbey Young refers to SPF layering, what she means is to apply one single formula in multiple layers. However, you can also layer different sunscreen products for your SPF application as long as they have the same UV filters. Just ensure that at least one of the products has an SPF of 30 or higher and that you apply it liberally and evenly on your face. For added sun protection, follow with a moisturizer or foundation with similar UV filters. 

Chemical sunscreens are safe to mix with their own types, and so are physical sunscreens. For example, you can pair titanium dioxide with zinc oxide, the two sun-filtering ingredients primarily in physical or mineral sunscreens. You don't want to pair a physical sunscreen with a chemical one, such as combining titanium dioxide or zinc oxide with avobenzone. This combination can compromise UVA protection on the skin, according to a 2021 research published in Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences.

Religious use of SPF is the most crucial part of any skincare routine, regardless of age and skin type. People have different ways of wearing sunscreen that works for them. As long as it helps your skin get more sun protection, it's the right application method for you.