Skip to main content
Alert icon
COVID-19 Resources Click here for details.

Is Sunscreen in My Makeup Enough to Protect Me?

July 22, 2021

We all know by now that we should be using sunscreen every day. And while many makeup foundations and powders contain sunscreen, is it enough for daily protection? After all, your face is at least somewhat protected by your layer of foundation, right? And aren’t you covered if your foundation has SPF in it? Is eliminating sunscreen each morning by using a makeup product with a sun protection factor (SPF) a safe bet? 

Although it is better than wearing no sunscreen at all, sunscreen in makeup may not be the best idea. SPF, or sun protection factor, relates to the sunscreen’s ability to block UVB light, the wavelength responsible for sunburns and most melanomas. The SPF number indicates how well it does that and for how long. The sun also emits UVA rays, which are the ones linked to premature aging. The SPF doesn’t cover a product’s ability to block UVA rays so it’s best to choose a sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum” to ensure you are protected from both types of rays. Your favorite makeup products may not have this type of protection. Even if you find a broad-spectrum makeup product you like, you would need seven times the normal amount of foundation and 14 times the normal amount of powder to get the sun protection factor on the label. 

To protect the skin, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a product with at least SPF 30. The trouble is most SPF ratings are overestimated. If a product claims to be SPF 30, you can assume you’re maybe only getting half that. If your favorite makeup foundation is SPF 30 or even SPF 50, it’s probably not enough. A better bet, apply a sunscreen with at least an SPF 30, and a makeup with an SPF 30. Together they’ll add up to the protection you need.

Your sun protection only equals the highest SPF you are wearing, so an SPF of 30 in your moisturizer, plus an SPF of 15 in your makeup unfortunately doesn’t mean you are receiving an SPF of 45. It is still an SPF of 30. Layering a lower SPF over a higher one can possibly dilute the higher one, which is why starting high is a good plan.

You also may be limited in the types of sunscreens available to you in makeup products. Chemical sunscreens incorporate more elegantly into makeup formulations. Physical, or “mineral” sunscreens, containing zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, sit on top of the skin and create a film that physically deflects the rays from penetrating the skin’s surface. 

These are typically the preferred sunscreen agent of dermatologists. 

Mineral sunscreen makeup lines are great options as they use these sunscreen ingredients as the basis of their sun protection. The minerals they contain naturally block both UVA and UVB which make them broad-spectrum by nature. Mineral powders with SPF are also great for touch-ups. To stay protected all day, you should be reapplying sunscreen every two hours. Mineral powders are great for this as they matte any shininess and add SPF at the same time.

Dermatologists recommend starting in the morning with a liberal amount of sunscreen and letting it absorb into your skin for a few minutes before applying your makeup over it. To find a sunscreen that works best with your makeup, look for one that’s labeled “for face” and described as non-comedogenic” to reduce your risk of acne breakouts and includes a moisturizer if your skin requires it so you can eliminate a step.

One makeup product that should always have SPF is lip balm. Lips have almost no melanin, so they need extra protection from the sun. Protect your pout with a formula with SPF 30 and opt for a waxy, matte finish instead of glossy, high-shine products since they can attract the sun’s rays and worsens burns.

The bottom line is the best sunscreen for you is the one that you will wear. If you make sunscreen and touch ups a part of your everyday beauty routine, then you can use whatever makeup you want, SPF or no SPF. While makeup with SPF provides some protection, you shouldn’t depend on it as your primary sunscreen. 

If you are worried about the effects sun exposure has had on your skin, a dermatologist can help assess your risk.