Face and Body Sunscreens: Can They Be Used Interchangeably?

Face and Body Sunscreens: Can They Be Used Interchangeably?

When I write about sunscreens, often the feedback I get is that people do use sunscreen on their face but they tend to “forget” the body. I had a chat with my mum, mother-in-law and aunties about the use of sunscreen when I was back in Malaysia last month (I’m on a shove-sunscreen-down-your-throat crusade, I tell ya) and they told me that the most they’d do is apply sunscreen on their face. They might even do the neck if they remember. When it comes to sunscreen on the body, the feedback I got was this – “Err…uhm…erm…no“.

Body Sunscreens

After giving them an appropriately condescending look of horror (I preach sunscreen, remember? The “look” is required :P), honestly, I don’t blame them. I’ve seen a lot of the body sunscreens in Malaysia and Australia. They’re usually quite thick in texture and leaves a icky sticky feeling on the skin.

What I’ve been told is that they don’t like the sunscreen on the body because they found it too thick. On hot days, the sticky sensation is unbearable especially in tropical climates. They don’t mind applying sunscreen on the face with face sunscreen, but prefer not to apply sunscreen on the body. It’s sad (and alarming) that they would skip sun protection because of this.

In that case, here begs the question: can face and body sunscreens be used interchangeably?

I like using face sunscreen on my body. In fact, I prefer it. I’ve been using face sunscreen on my arms, legs, back, etc for years. As long as the sunscreen isn’t like tinted moisturiser, I’ll use it on my body. Face sunscreens are often lighter and non-greasy. They feel better on the skin and you get the same amount of sun protection on your body as you would on your face (provided you apply ample amounts of it, of course, with repeated applications).

Face Sunscreens

I wouldn’t recommend using general sunscreens on the face. By general sunscreens, I mean the family-sized ones that don’t particularly specify which part of the body the sunscreen is meant to be used. They are often thicker and comedogenic (block pores). They are all right to be applied on the body but can cause breakouts on the face if used too much. Face sunscreens, on the other hand, are lighter and most of them non-comedogenic.

Face and Body Sunscreen

Face sunscreen on the left, body sunscreen on the right

Often people stop using sunscreens altogether because of these reasons – too thick, too much of a grey cast on the skin, breaks skin out, causes acne or even “bacne”. Usually, it’s because they’re not using the appropriate sunscreens for their face and body.

So if you don’t use sunscreen on your body because of the reasons I stated above, might I suggest you to consider using face sunscreen for your body instead. Using face sunscreen on your body also means you would need to apply significantly more than normal to make sure you’re sufficiently protected. Cost per ml-wise, yes, face sunscreens will always be more expensive than body sunscreens, especially when you have to use a whole lot more on your body. But I’d rather pay more and still use sunscreen on my body than not apply any at all and develop crepey, wrinkly skin (or worse, contract melanoma).

What about you? Do you use sunscreen on your body? What about applying face sunscreen on your body?

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38 comments… add one
  1. Chelsea

    I was only driving home yesterday, realising my arms felt very “burny”, thinking I really should have put sunscreen on my arms. When I wear a singlet or something I do, but with 3/4 sleeve and the like I forget.. I always do my face, neck and decolletage though. And I have been known to put body sunscreen on my face, as I get 1 pimple a year, it’s not an issue πŸ˜›
    Chelsea recently posted..Review: Australis IntensifEYE Shadow Quad – Hey Beauty!My Profile

    1. Tine

      In Asia, you can actually purchasing long cotton driving gloves (goes past the elbows) for ladies, just so you can protect your arms from the sun when driving. When I was much younger, I thought it was rather wanker-y but now, oh yeah, it’s a really good idea πŸ˜›

      ONE pimple a year? I hate you.

      PS: I don’t. πŸ˜›

  2. LeGeeque

    Oops. Guilty as charged. I don’t usually apply on my arms because I’m indoors most of the time. And when I do go out, I need a tiny bit of Vit D anyway – tragically low. And I spend a maximum of 5-10mins outdoors when the sun is out at its max. After work walks, I slap on CCA’s thick high protection all over my limbs and top up for my face, ears and neck. Then I slap on a hat and off we go.
    LeGeeque recently posted..What’s Up, Dawg?My Profile

    1. Tine

      I have low levels of Vitamin D too. Doctor (proper GP, not the quack I live with) made me eat Vit D tablets and strongly discourage prolonged exposure to the sun because it’s barely enough to replenish the Vit D levels anyway. πŸ™‚

      One thing I still don’t do is use a hat. I really should. Then again, they should have hats for bigger heads. Most don’t fit my fat head πŸ™

  3. maddy

    I think unless you’re doing sport or an outdoor activity most people forget to put sunscreen on their body. I’m a cyclist and I coach rowing so sunscreen is really important to me, (excellent preach Tine!) I use Ella Bache face saver on my face, and banana boat sport on my body (only one that i”m not allergic to). I usually use a cleansing wipe at the end of the day to remove any excess, because unfortunately it tends to attract road grime.

    1. Tine

      Hahaha I can tell I’m already preaching to the converted πŸ˜‰ Good on you! Personally I’m not a fan of the Ella Bache sunscreen but only because I find it too heavy on me. The SPF is excellent though. The cleansing wipe tip is great; I know of people who do that too because there are some sunscreens that are difficult to remove.

  4. Tegan @ Tegania's Thoughts

    I do the same thing! When it is hot and humid my face sunscreen (Olay Complete) is my bodies best friend!
    Tegan @ Tegania’s Thoughts recently posted..Natural Secrets Goatsmilk Body Creme and Goatsmilk Moisturising Soap ReviewMy Profile

    1. Tine

      Yay! You use face sunscreen on your body too! It works, right? πŸ™‚

  5. Tine, I feel the same as you. Whenever someone tells me that they don’t use sunscreen, I automatically have this horror face on (I tried not to but I can’t help it LOL). I think it’s because I can’t even imagining myself going out without SPF on.

    I think face sunscreens are OK to be used on the body, but I prefer not the other way around.
    Angela @ The Unprofessional Beauty Blog recently posted..Rose Link UK Hello Glow Whitening Plus Facial Polish|Discover A Radiant ComplexionMy Profile

    1. Tine

      Me too! I didn’t used to be so obsessed with sunscreens before. I mean, 10 years ago, if you asked me to put sunscreen on my body, I’d probably ask if you were joking. πŸ˜›

  6. Grace-melody Moo

    Yeah, I often apply face sunscreen on my body too. Especially those with nice smells. πŸ™‚ The fragrances make me feel good. I am one who feels naked leaving the house without sunscreen everywhere. Probably because I am fair and freckle easily. Sometimes, I even apply sunscreen when I am indoors, haha. Just in case I get some sun from the windows or some God-knows-what rays from the PC screen that I face all day. I’m obsessive like that.

    I seldom apply normal body sunscreen on my face, because my eyes get irritated somehow. And I am no fan of having a face that shines like the lake in the sun. πŸ™‚

    1. Tine

      Wow! I definitely need to learn from you because as much as I preach wearing sunscreen outdoors, I don’t wear them at home. Mum told me about the UV rays from the lights and computer but I’m like *yawn*. Terrible, I know πŸ˜›

      Can’t do body sunscreen on the face unless it’s an emergency (e.g. I forgot to put any on and all I have is a travel-sized tube of body sunscreen in my purse). I find most of them too thick.

  7. Jackie

    When I was about 5 my Grandma told me to always look after my hands and neck because they will be the first places to show your age. As a result I wear sunscreen year round, in any weather, on all exposed skin. If you cast a shadow you are getting UV exposure. I already have sun spots on my hands at 45 and can only imagine how much worse they would be if I hadn’t done this. Yikes! A floppy black cotton hat is always shoved in my handbag too.
    Love the Biore Aqua rich 50+ and Skin Aqua and use both on my body. Getting ready to stock up in KL πŸ™‚

    1. Tine

      I’m still terrible at wearing hats. I really should wear them as they help shield me from UV rays. Unfortunately I have a rather large head and most hats don’t fit me properly. Sigh. πŸ™

      PS: The Biore sunscreens are fab!

  8. Jackie

    Oh and you can get those driving gloves from the Cancer Council shops as well as Daiso. My Aunty wears them (she must have had the same talk from my Grandma :))

    1. Tine

      Ooooh the Cancer Council have the driving gloves too! Well that’s just clever, isn’t it? πŸ˜›

  9. Michelle Beh

    I usually use face sunscreen on my body as well ( whenever I remember πŸ˜‰ ) Lol. But I must admit that I don’t apply to my whole body which I know I should have do that . The reason why I usually use face sunscreen rather than body sunscreen is because I’m dislike the stickiness of my body skin area when I apple the body sunscreen unlike the face sunscreen as Tine said , it’s lighter texture and less greasy as well . πŸ˜€

    1. Tine

      That’s the problem with a lot of body sunscreens and why people often neglect putting them on the arms, legs and any other parts exposed to the sun. One time I had body sunscreen on that was quite thick and I was wearing shorts. I had lunch and when I got up, I literally had thigh marks on the leather seat from my sunscreen! >.<

  10. Biianca

    Im afraid I’m one of those who uses sunscreen on my face only. I don apply on my body because I’m scared it’ll be sticky which begs the question, does sunscreen have to be applied on my whole body or just the areas that are exposed to sunlight?

    1. Tine

      I usually just apply sunscreen on areas exposed to the sun. This includes the backs of my hands and feet if I’m wearing sandals πŸ™‚

  11. Issa

    errr, uhm…hihihi… i am guilty of not using sunscreen on my body for the same reasons. It is really not that comfortable because of the sticky feeling,.. I try to use a lotion with SPF though, but I am sure it is not enough because it only has SPF 24, πŸ™ … Oh, maybe I can try using face sunscreen on my body but it would really be more costly….

    1. Tine

      SPF24 is actually pretty good! Some protection is better than no protection, love πŸ™‚

      As for cost justification (as I always do. Ahem), let’s put it this way:
      – Spend more on face sunscreen to be used on the body
      – Spend less on fixing crepey, wrinkly skin when we’re older.

      The ends justify the means πŸ˜€

  12. Natasha

    I am a sunscreen addict! I have ones for the body and ones for the face. I keep one in the office and one in my purse and have a sunscreen powder for touch-ups… I live in sunny San Diego and work outdoors so I need sunscreen year-round. I’m also very white so I’m at high risk for burning and skin cancer… I prefer face sunscreens because of their texture, but they’re pretty pricey to put all over your body if you do that every day…so I kind of cheat. I use face sunscreens on my face, neck and hands and a cheap0 sunscreen on my arms and legs.
    Natasha recently posted..Monday Blog Love: Flabby Face of MakeupMy Profile

    1. Tine

      Yeah it is pricey to use face sunscreens on the arms and legs. I think that’s why I go through 3-4 tubes/bottles a year >.< But that's fantastic that you even have sunscreen powder for touch-ups. That's a great idea. It's not sufficient sun protection but it's better than not replenishing at all. What would you recommend for sunscreen powder that helps control oil as well?

  13. Swati

    hey Tine…how u doing??? i have come to the blog after a long time but have been following all your posts πŸ™‚ so great to see u after a month long vacation!
    i use marie veronique sunscreen, donno if you have heard of it! i use it on my face, neck, decolletage and arms and rest all are covered parts of the body so i do makedo with it only! yes, the body sunscreens are generally very gooey and even i dont feel like using them!!
    Swati recently posted..My Hair Diary – February 2013My Profile

    1. Tine

      I’m good Swati, how are you? It’s been a while! πŸ™‚

      Yes I’ve heard of the Marie Veronique sunscreen; in fact, it’s one of the more popular ones in the market, I hear. I’ve not tried it out yet because it’s not available in Australia, which means I need to get it online. I hear it’s quite thick though. What do you think? Worth getting?

  14. Jess W

    I too am another sunscreen crusader but I am also guilty for not putting sunscreen on my body for a number of times (except when I am out to somewhere really sunny and that I am expected to stay under it for a looong time). Living in Malaysia, it is far too humid and the sunscreen we get are just too thick and sticky so most of us leave this out altogether in our beauty regimen. Using face sunscreen does the trick but using a good one actually cost a bit so it can rack up some bills at the end of the month. Do you have any suggestions for light, non-sticky sunscreen? πŸ™‚

    1. Tine

      In Malaysia, I find that the Asian brands ones work well. I particularly like Biore and Skin Aqua. Problem is, most do contain alcohol, and that could be a concern for some. My family and friends in Malaysia aren’t keen on body sunscreen because of that reason you gave as well, because most are too thick and sticky for the very humid weather. Heck even I tried out my mum’s regular body sunscreen and felt like my thighs were sticking to the couch >.< Which is why I recommend the ones by Biore and Skin Aqua for the body. They're not very pricey and they do the job (they're very light and non-sticky too).

      1. Jess W

        Thanks much!

  15. Marisa Anderson

    Yes I apply sunscreen to my body, especially my arms and shoulders, were I can burn, if out in the sun tooo long. I never knew that regular sunscreen used on face could block pores, I’m sooo going to switch to sunscreen made for the face. Thanks for this article.
    Marisa Anderson recently posted..What’s With All These Makeup Brushes?My Profile

    1. Tine

      My pleasure Marisa. Just take note that it does get more expensive if you decide to use face sunscreen on the body as well. πŸ™‚

  16. Eunice

    These days, I’m indoors mostly (air con!). But I’m also guilty of forgetting sunscreen on my body, or rather, I forget mostly to take care of my skin now (with an active 6 months old demanding so much attention). I use Avene SPF50 and I have the body one too. it’s a spray and very light so I do use it on my face as well when I use it. Now bub is 6 months, I’m starting to apply sunblock for him when we need to be out, but the one I bought for him, yucks! so thick and greasy. I may have to source alternatives for him

    1. Tine

      I’ve seen a number of Japanese sunscreens for children and infants and they’re very light. The one I’m currently using, Allie by Kanebo Mild UV Protector (http://www.imomoko.com/product_detail.php?ID=5663) is actually meant for children. I did read on Makeup Alley that it contains alcohol though. Hmm maybe not such a good idea after all. I’m not sure if you have access to Australian sunscreen brands like Hamilton or Sunsense? They have sunscreens for toddlers which aren’t bad. Good luck!

  17. Poohkie

    Hi Tine,

    Body sunscreens in India are the same – icky & sticky! But I still use them. I do occasionally use my face sunscreen on my body, but I can’t do it all the time. This is because my sunscreen is expensive & I use up a tube a month just for the face. If I use it regularly for my body, it’ll just be way too expensive.

    1. Tine

      Yeah I know what you mean. It can be expensive using face sunscreen on the body. I suggest not using the, er, good stuff that you use on your face on the body. I buy the ones by Japanese brands; they’re affordable and good quality. And if I’m in a hurry, I can use them on my face too πŸ™‚

  18. Vanessa

    Hey ladies,

    If any of you live in south east Asia/Korea and are able to buy from qoo.10 I strongly recommend a cream based sunscreen by dodo cosmetics. It’s called 3W clinic intensive and it’s super cheap (currently 6 sgd for 2x 70ml bottles). best of all, the texture feels just like putting moisturizer on, not sticky at all and it works. I was reading up on how long I can expect a bottle that size to last with daily use since I intend to stock up with the current promotion and somehow found myself here πŸ™‚

    So yeah, technically…using daily 7.5ml for face and arms is only about 10 doses? Ima stock up and paint myself in sunscreen daily!

    Here’s the link if anyone’s interested:

    1. Tine

      Thanks for your comment and links, Vanessa. I’ll be sure to check them out! πŸ™‚

  19. danika anderson

    I really like Sun Putty Face. Broad-spectrum protection that goes on clear. My complexion has cleared up dramatically since using Sun Putty; acne blemishes and brown spots have gone away. Though concentrated for the face, I use a thin film on my body and it works fine as a body sunscreen also.



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