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One of this week's most viral TikTok beauty hacks is sunscreen layering, courtesy of skin and hair content creator Abbey Yung, whose video has amassed an impressive 1.1 million views and counting. "Most people don't actually apply that much sunscreen," says Abbey, completely correctly. Not long ago, London-based consultant dermatologist Dr Emma Wedgeworth told me that experts generally advise a teaspoonful of sunscreen for the face and neck but you'd be forgiven for winging it. That's where Abbey's layering technique comes in.
"Here's what I like to do instead," says Abbey. "I apply my sunscreen in layers. First I start off with one layer of sunscreen, making sure to evenly cover my entire face. 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." This helps to prevent the sunscreen from pilling, says Abbey (which is when the product rolls off your skin in little pieces), and being really difficult to blend into your skin. "If you're using a really nice, lightweight sunscreen, then it won't feel like too much at all," says Abbey.
It's safe to say I was intrigued by sunscreen layering. Some SPFs can take an age to absorb or leave behind a white cast, giving darker skin in particular a grey or purple tinge. Others collect in fine lines or the hairs on the face, and bunch up into little balls of product that disturb makeup. Could going in with an initial light layer of sunscreen prevent this from happening? Before I attempted it, I checked in with an aesthetician and sunscreen-obsessive Alicia Lartey, and it turns out there's method to it.
"I completely agree with this," Alicia tells me. "I think it’s a great technique, especially for those who have issues with pilling, or if you're trying a new sunscreen for the first time and have no idea what the outcome will be." Alicia practises sunscreen layering herself. "I apply my sunscreen in stages, consisting of around three layers because I like to use a lot of sunscreen. When applying each layer, I make sure it’s evenly distributed on my face. Each time, I find that the sunscreen just sinks in and the white cast disappears."
Regardless of the brand or formulation, sunscreen takes a little while to sink into the skin and my impatience often gets the better of me. Even as a beauty director, I'll admit that I often think about skipping it entirely, but if having access to some of the best skincare experts in the business has taught me anything, it's that sunscreen is a must for all skin types and tones — and in all weather. Yes, even when it's cloudy outside.
I'm currently using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA rays (responsible for premature ageing and skin cancer) and UVB rays (which cause sunburn). It also boasts hydrating hyaluronic acid, moisturising glycerin and antioxidant vitamin C to shield skin against dulling pollution. As a baseline, I began with a very light layer (much less than I would usually apply), which absorbed in a matter of seconds.
Lately, I've seen lots of dermatologists extolling the virtues of the two-finger application method to make sure you're getting enough product. Simply squeeze sunscreen onto the full length of your index and middle finger, then apply this directly to the face and blend in. This is what I did for the second additional layer and, unlike usual, I wasn't there for ages rubbing it all in. It's as if the first layer acts as a primer, encouraging the second layer to melt seamlessly into the skin. Doing this means that I can skip my toner, serum and moisturiser steps. The two sunscreen layers are more than enough to adequately hydrate and protect my skin throughout the day.
I know what you're thinking. A double or even triple sunscreen application? In this economy? But SPF doesn't have to cost a fortune to protect your skin properly. Instead, dermatologist Dr Andrew Birnie suggests hunting for a sunscreen that delivers broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. The expert consensus is clear, though: If you don't want to layer up, one application of sunscreen is better than nothing at all.
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