By Sarah Garcia
Many skin care products boast what seems like a healthy bonus — and a simple way to combine two steps in your daily skin care regimen. But is that SPF in your moisturizer, foundation or bronzer the real deal? We talked to our expert to get answers to some of the most common questions.
Can makeup with SPF stand alone?
When it comes to protecting the delicate facial skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, does makeup or tinted moisturizer with sun protection factor stand up to the task? These products may help to protect the skin, but the coverage from makeup varies according to how it is applied and therefore might not be as effective as sunscreen, says Lucia Seminario-Vidal, MD, PhD, board-certified dermatologist at Moffitt Cancer Center. Seminario-Vidal still recommends applying a traditional sunscreen, even if your other products tout SPF.
Is there a right way to layer sunscreen and makeup?
Now that you know your makeup’s SPF should be supplemented with the real deal, you need to get the order of application right. Ideally, sunscreen should be applied first, at least 10 to 15 minutes prior to makeup. If you are looking for a shortcut, tinted sunscreen may be a good standalone option. However, Seminario-Vidal says it must be used appropriately:
- Choose a tinted sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher
- Shake before application to ensure the active ingredients are mixed throughout
- Apply a thick layer at least 10 to 15 minutes prior to sun exposure
- Be sure to reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating
Do more products equal more protection?
It is a common misconception that combining multiple products with varying SPFs equates to greater protection. “You’ll only be protected by the highest SPF you’ve applied,” says Seminario-Vidal. “For example, if you apply a sunscreen with SPF 30 and then a foundation with SPF 15, you will get only SPF of 30.”
Physical or chemical sunscreen — which is better?
There are two types of sunscreen: chemical and physical. Although both are effective, when combining with makeup, order of application makes all the difference. “Chemical sunscreens must be absorbed by the skin to be effective, while physical sunscreens work by creating a physical barrier between the skin and the sun,” says Seminario-Vidal. If you opt to apply after makeup, you’ll want to choose a physical sunscreen. Sunscreen powders or tinted compacts with SPF are great options for touch-ups.
What should I look for on the label?
The labels on sun care products can start to look like alphabet soup. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a sunscreen that meets three key criteria:
- Broad-spectrum protection: Provides protection against UVA and UVB rays.
- SPF 30 or higher: SPF 30 blocks 97% of the sun’s UVB rays. Higher SPFs block slightly more, but no sunscreen blocks 100%.
- Water resistant: A sunscreen labeled as water resistant will stay effective for 40 minutes in the water. It should then be reapplied. “There is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen,” notes Seminario-Vidal.
How else can I limit sun damage?
Applying the right sunscreen as directed is one of the best ways to stay protected from the sun’s harmful UV radiation. Maximize your sun protection by taking a few extra steps:
- Stay in the shade when possible.
- Limit time in the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Protect your eyes with sunglasses, your face and neck with a hat, and your body with sun protective clothing.
- Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun.
- Avoid the sun if you’re taking any medications that make your skin more sensitive to UV radiation.