How to Apply Sunscreen with a Cushion Puff

Have you ever seen Sunshine? The 2007 Danny Boyle movie stars Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, and Hiroyuki Sanada as sexy space scientists sent to reignite our dying sun with nukesand pretty pretty blue eyes, because if the sun dies, it takes us all out with it. Sunshine is one of my favorite movies, but it isn’t perfect. Danny Boyle totally neglects to explore the silver lining of the sun dying, which is that we wouldn’t need sunscreen anymore.

In the real world, unfortunately(?), the sun isn’t dying, so we do need sunscreen if we want to prevent premature aging and reduce our risk of skin cancer. And in the real world, sunscreen, all sunscreen, even my favorite sunscreen, is more or less a giant pain in the ass. That is, unless you use my friend Chel‘s genius trick for getting near-perfect sunscreen application at practically the speed of light!

Affiliate links are marked with an double asterisk(*).

First, let’s take a minute tolook at Cillian Murphy again let our very own sexy science friends, Michelle from Lab Muffin and Stephen from Kind of Stephen, remind us why proper sunscreen application is such a pain in the ass. To receive the full protection advertised on a sunscreen label, we need to apply a lot of sunscreen at a time, in a “continuous and even layer.” That is often much harder than it sounds…unless you use a cushion puff.

Cushion puffs for sunscreen
What’s good for the egg is good for the Essence.

The dense, flat applicators used to apply cushion makeup turn out to be pretty much perfect for sunscreen application. Cushion puffs generally aren’t as absorbent as other types of makeup sponges, so they won’t suck up all your sunscreen. They’re made to spread product over skin by patting rather than smearing or rubbing, allowing you to achieve more even and uniform coverage. And since you pat rather than smear, if you apply your sunscreen in multiple layers, you can do so without disrupting what you’ve already put on.

There are actual sunscreen cushions on the market, but those aren’t the same. You’d have to go through a couple of them a week to get protection comparable to this method due to the volume of sunscreen used. Save yourself some money and some UV damage and just do it Chel’s way. It’s criminally easy!

1. Dispense enough sunscreen to adequately cover your face, plus a little more to make up for any product absorbed by the cushion puff. The thicker my sunscreen, the less extra I use: just a little dab for thick consistencies, one or two pea-sized dollops of a watery or gel product.

Single dose of sunscreen
By the way, my personal rule of thumb for sunscreen dosage is two finger lengths for face, three for neck and upper chest.

2. Dot the sunscreen onto your forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin. Don’t worry about spreading it out or rubbing it in.

3. Using a clean, dry cushion puff, patpatpat your sunscreen out to distribute it evenly over your face.

4. Let sunscreen dry.

5. If desired, repeat with a second layer of sunscreen all over face or on areas that receive more intense sun exposure, such as cheekbones and the bridge of your nose. Let dry again. The cushion puff method also makes reapplication later in the day much easier and much less problematic for makeup wearers than reapplication with fingers would be. Yet another problem solved!

6. Clean your cushion puff frequently. I wash it about once every other day and air-dry it afterwards.

I’ve found that using a cushion puff to apply my sunscreen cuts a good 5-10 minutes out of my morning routine. It’s practically effortless. And since my skin hasn’t been tanning or freckling, I’m confident that the cushion puff method hasn’t reduced my coverage. Actually, my face has lightened up slightly since I started doing this, making me suspect I’m getting better UV protection than I used to. Those perfectly even and perfectly distributed layers of sunscreen make a difference.

Where can I buy cushion puffs?

Cushion puffs are inexpensive and pretty easy to find these days. I pick up a five-pack of Meme Puffs from Memebox* whenever I’m doing a Memehaul. It looks like there’s a good selection of cushion puffs on Amazon* now, too.

What are your tricks for getting maximum protection from your sunscreens? And have you seen Sunshine?


37 thoughts on “How to Apply Sunscreen with a Cushion Puff

  1. This sounds like a great tip for receiving an even application, however I was curious to what you mean that this method cuts “good 5-10 minutes out of my morning routine”. Do you mean in regards to applying by fingers?

    Love your blog by the way! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Fiddy!
    Love your posts! There is so often some innovative idea that I can’t live without for one more day. Just wondering… How is this affected by the quality of the puffs? I can’t get Memebox in Australia, but I notice there are cheaper puffs and then known brands.
    I saw Innisfree etc and then some like this: What do you think?
    7Pcs Air Cushion BB Cream Cosmetic Make Up Sponge Powder Puffs Pad Natural Latex
    Condition: New
    Color:Dark Blue
    AU $3.03
    Economy (10-19
    business days)
    Economy Int’l Postage


  3. This is a trick I use for the past few months!! Glad to know that someone as inspiring as you do the same trick like I do 😀 I currently using sunscreen from Mamonde, the one with calendula in it. It has thick consistency, so it was hard to spread it evenly on my face. At the same time, I have a cushion puff from etude house ac cleanup mild bb cushion that I didn’t use because it soak too much product and then I was like how about using this puff to apply the mamonde sunscreen on my face? I thought if I use the puff maybe the sunscreen can spread evenly on my face and can make my face less shiny. It does the job for evenly applying the sunscreen on my face though, but unfortunately it can’t make my face less shiny, maybe I should look for another sunscreen

    Thank you for sharing this 😀


  4. This is a great trick! I definitely need to pick up some puffs and give it a try! Multiple pics of Cillian Murphy also very much appreciated LOL.


    1. I do find that pilling is less of a problem when I do this. I think maybe getting the sunscreen to dry in a more uniform layer might help it stick together instead of rubbing off in big flakes? Let me know how it goes for you!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I bought the Biore sunscreen cause it’s ur fav and I’m loving it so far! I’m planning to add actives into my skincare routine. If it’s not too much, can you tell me the name of your physician from Curology? Some people said it wasn’t the best service for them and I hope mine to be a good one, so just wondering if I can choose the doctor that’s prescribing mine.


  6. Hehe I have to admit, I don’t remember to wear sunscreen everyday. Mostly because I’m lazy :P. But this idea is really cool and I love me some air puffs so I’m going to have to try it out. At the moment, I’m loving A’pieu pure block water bling sun balm. I just wish I caught it when crayon shinchan was out cuz the packaging is so much cuter!!


  7. After spending several hours with you here on your blog, I take it that you’ve personally sorted through the physical v. chemical sunscreen dilemma. You should do a post on it! There is so much info out there to consider and reconsider and no sunscreen seems perfect– or rather they all seem far from perfect. I think I’m ready to settle on a nano-particle physical sunscreen with maybe even an SPF as low as 15, which is obviously not at all where you ended up. You’ve managed an impressively firm footing in the sciency aspects of skin care, especially for being self-taught and not having a science background from what I’ve gathered, so I’m very interested to hear more about how you came to favor chemical sunscreens and also how you feel regarding the warnings that many of the sunscreen chemicals, once combined, some how magically turn into free radicals perhaps (I’m clearly not so great with the sciency part) contributing to instead of purely preventing skin aging. HAALP. I hate sunscreen. Even if you don’t want to write a post on this, maybe there are other posts that you can just quickly refer me to.


  8. Hi Fiddy,
    After seeing a youtube post about making your own cushions (for sunblock, moisturizer, etc), would it be enough sunblock to just apply it from there? That is, do you think there would be enough product on the sponge to protect from sun damage?
    Thanks in advance!


    1. Hi! You’d still have to apply a significant amount from the cushion; I think you’d end up refilling it every couple of days if you’re using the full amount of sunscreen recommended! That is doable, though, but my concern with DIY cushions is preservatives. The thing is, cushion products are much more prone to contamination than products in conventional tubes or bottles due to far greater exposure to air and bacteria. Cushion products are generally made with a stronger preservative system. Transferring a product that was designed for a tube or bottle into a cushion may be inviting bad things to grow in there 😦


  9. Hi Fiddy! Is it ok to use a regular used bb cushion case and sponges? I mean, all clean up, I have a bb cushion from Etude House that I don’t use and was thinking to clean it properly to put inside sunscreen only.


  10. Hi Fiddy! Is it ok to refill with sunscreen an old cushion case? I have one from Etude House that I don’t like and I was thinking to clean it and fill it with sunscreen only. Thanks for you wonderfull blog!


  11. Hi Fiddy,

    I tried this method it works beautifully! Instead of a cushion puff I used a beauty blender! It cut the time in half it took for my sunscreen to absorb and I was able to apply a lot more sunscreen without the greasy feel.


  12. This sunscreen method saved my life! Okay, maybe not, but it feels like it. I’ve always been bad about applying sunscreen because it feels so nasty and I hate waiting for it to sink in — this cut down the time to basically instant dryness. Amazing. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi, Fiddy,
    Which sunscreen do you recommend for kids? I thought that my kids should start to use an everyday sunscreen for their face in order to protect them and also to get used to skincare at an early age. Should it be chemical or physical? What do you think? Thanks!


    1. Ani,

      I’m not Fiddy 🙂 but I remembered that others have asked the same question, and I turned up this information:

      As of July 2016, Fiddy’s son gets a Neutrogena sunscreen on his body. (She didn’t specify which one — she’s said that she uses Neutrogena Beach Defense Broad Spectrum Lotion SPF 70 as her own body sunscreen.)

      On his face, they use either Thankyou Farmer Sun Project Water Sun Cream SPF 50 PA+++ or Naruko 10 Peptide Total Defense Sunscreen SPF 50 PA+++.

      Both sunscreens include chemical and physical blockers. The Thankyou Farmer sunscreen is described by Fiddy as “creamy and moisturizing”; the Naruko is a “very runny and fast-drying one that resembles the Biore face milks except not at all drying and almost totally clear.”

      Hope that helps! You can also browse through the “Sunscreen” category of her blog posts:


    2. Lately my kid uses whatever I have tbh! If you want to be extra careful, I would look at alcohol-free sunscreens that use inorganic (physical) filters, but my general philosophy is that if I deem it safe for me, then it’s okay for the boy. Also, your pediatrician may have some recommendations!


  14. I’ve been using this method the past few months and it’s so convenient! My job requires me to be in direct sunlight for 3-4 hours a day, so I have to reapply sunscreen at least once or twice and this is such an easy way to do it.

    One note for people like me who need to reapply – Shiseido Senka Mineral Water UV Essence (aka Aging Care UV Sunscreen) is MUCH better, in my experience, than Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence. The Biore is a pilly mess when I reapply it (unless I wash my face, but I don’t have time for that!), but I have no issues reapplying the Senka.


  15. Thanks a ton for this! I was skeptical to buy a cushion puff for applying my sunscreen though now I’m sure.


  16. Hi Fiddy! Thanks for this suggestion. I started with the facial applicator from a self tanner, but have since moved on to applying my sunscreen (and vitamin C serum, and Shark Sauce) with a tear drop shaped silicone sponge/makeup applicator. It absorbs zero product, can be washed with every use and is dry right away, and might never need to be replaced. It took a little getting trial and error to find the best method of application, but now it is the only way I apply my sunscreen or more precious products. My palms don’t need Shark Sauce :). I do a quadrant of my face at a time (i.e. forehead, each cheek, nose and chin) I put the product on the silicone tear drop, dot the product across the area a few times, maybe smear it just a bit, and then go to town with the patting. I find that it gives me really even coverage and no product goes to waste!!


  17. I cannot believe I just found this life hack! I saw the memes on your Instagram about three fingers of sunscreen, and while hilarious it also made me a little nervous that i have been doing my daily sunscreen application wrong! This post is so helpful. I have a beauty blender powder puff – do you think that would work for this? I tried without a puff (Omg so much product) vs with the powder puff and it was so quick and easy to blend I’m now suspicious lol. Thanks in advance for the help 😊 i love your blog and content!


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