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How to Properly Remove Sunscreen From Your Skin, According to an Expert

Sunscreen may be a daily essential, but that doesn’t mean it has to cling to you at all times

Nobody actually enjoys applying sunscreen. Rubbing some lightweight SPF on your face in the morning is one thing, but reapplying it all over your body, all day long can seriously mess with your beach/pool vibes — especially when sand, chlorine, dirt and other summer-y residue are in the mix.

It’s such a sticky combo, in fact, that no mere shower is capable of cleansing it from your skin — especially if you’re swapping out environmentally toxic, chemical sunscreens a la Coppertone and Hawaiian Tropic for mineral options (bar soap is no match for all that zinc and titanium dioxide).

For some more industrial-strength suggestions then, I reached out to Andrea Amez, an esthetician, product consultant, beach lover and former swimmer from L.A. who says she commonly encounters sunscreen buildup on her clients’ skin and even her own, which can result in clogged and elevated pores (not to mention, that not-so-fresh beach feeling a good two to three days after you were last on the waterfront). Here’s what she advises…

Double-Cleanse Your Face

“The first thing I tell people is to consider double cleansing,” she explains. “Use an oil cleanser to take off the first layer of sunscreen, dirt and sweat. Then wash again with your normal gel or foam facial cleanser.”

While she doesn’t typically recommend scrubs because of how harsh physical exfoliants can be, Amez says that they’re perfect for removing sunscreen, especially for people with a lot of body hair. “Scrubs are great at removing product. They will ensure the zinc and titanium particles from sunscreen get really broken down, especially in between facial hair follicles where it gets trapped.” Her favorite scrub is this super well-formulated, but pricey jojoba bead exfoliant by African Botanics. “Also,” she adds, “I don’t recommend guys use chemical exfoliants after being in the sun all day. That’s too harsh; in this case at least, scrubs can actually be gentler.”

Use Toner

All you need is rosewater or alcohol-free witch hazel (or Thayers, the classic combination of the two). Just put a little on a cotton pad — there’s no need to soak it — and swipe it around your face. Toning shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds total, but a lot of deep cleansing can happen in that little amount of time.

“Even if you’ve already double-cleansed your face, once you tone, you’ll be surprised at how much sunscreen is leftover,” Amez says. “A lot of the time, people underestimate the extent of stuff that gets leftover on our faces from our body, our products and environmental factors. Plus, many cleansers still don’t fully breakdown all of those molecules and particles, especially those in mineral sunscreens, so it requires a bit of a process.”

Glove It Up

Back to scrubbing for a minute. “Every person should have a really good body glove,” Amez recommends. They don’t need to be fancy either. “I just use the ones from Korean markets, where I get two for like $5,” she continues. “You can also get some from Amazon, where one side will have a softer material and the other is scratchier. Whenever I get home from the beach, I scrub my body down with one of these and some body wash. I was a swimmer for 10 years, and using a body glove or loofah all over as soon as I got home was crucial to my routine back then. It really gets the sunscreen off your body.”

It’s also worth noting: If you’re someone who likes to tan, don’t fret — exfoliating won’t cause you to lose your bronzeness. If anything, it will even your tan out.

Get After Those Baby Wipes Like, Well, a Baby

“I always carry little body wipes around in the summer, either by Burt’s Bees or Yes To Carrots,” says Amez. “You can get them inexpensively at Target or CVS, but they still really clean. In fact, they’re an awesome pre-cleanse even if you’re going to shower after. Ursa Major also makes great wipes that are clean and individually wrapped, so you don’t have to take the whole pack and risk them drying out.”

Similarly, Amez recommends a product called “shower sheets” by Yuni that are much bigger than your average facial (or baby) wipe. “They’re large body wipes that cleanse, refresh and deodorize the body pretty instantly,” she says.

As a Preventative Measure, Opt for Sunscreen Sprays

To save yourself all this trouble in the first place, Amez says to use a natural sunscreen spray. The molecules are smaller, which makes removal easier — again, especially for the extra hairy among us. She recommends Coola’s mineral sunscreen spray, as it doesn’t get as chunky or flaky as lotion. “The great thing about Coola is that it’s very clean and doesn’t carry oxybenzone, which is a hormone disruptor,” Amez explains. “I like this line because it’s very, very clean but still has the same wide range of product options as Coppertone and Banana Boat.”

So remember: Sunscreen may be a daily essential, but that doesn’t mean it has to cling to you at all times.