You asked, we answered: Is the sunscreen in your makeup enough?

Woman applying cream to her face


Does sunscreen included in makeup like foundation and powder really protect you from the sun enough to skip daily sunscreen application? 

Answer from board-certified dermatologist Vanessa Voss, MD:

There’s a distinction between the effects of natural light on skin, mainly discoloration, and the effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays, which we know are cancer-causing. Opaque makeup, such as foundation and powder, provides some protection from certain visible light. Makeup that doesn’t have UV protection won't protect your skin from the cancer-causing rays though.

If you’re using foundation with SPF 30 and broad-spectrum coverage (meaning it offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays), you don’t need to add sunscreen. I wouldn’t rely on makeup without that labeling to provide enough protection. You should wear additional sunscreen in that case.

Also, you should wear sunscreen no matter what skin color you have. Ultraviolet exposure from the sun is damaging to dark skin as well as light skin.

What type of sunscreen should I use?

Most sunscreen comes in two main categories:

  1. Physical blocker sunscreens: These are made up mostly of zinc, titanium or both. Physical sunscreens should be worn underneath makeup and are often included in makeup because they deflect sunlight.
  2. Chemical sunscreens: These sunscreens don't contain zinc or titanium. They're made up of chemical compounds that block the damaging UV rays. The most common chemical sunscreen ingredient is oxybenzone, but there are many others. Chemical sunscreens need to work together with your skin. So, they should always be worn underneath your makeup.

If you use a daily moisturizer with at least SPF 30 and broad-spectrum coverage, you can forgo additional sunscreen. Many people prefer to use combination products because it saves a step in their morning routine. Also, if you need to reapply sunscreen during the day without removing your makeup, a spray-on sunscreen can be a good alternative.

How often should I reapply sunscreen?

How often you apply sunscreen depends on how much sun and light exposure you’ll be getting. I recommend using sunscreen first thing in the morning before leaving the house. If you're inside most of the day, you probably don't need to reapply. But, if you go outside later in the day, you should put on another layer.

If you spend a lot of time outdoors, reapply sunscreen every two hours. It’s important to wear sunscreen every day, year-round, even on cold or cloudy days. There are types of ultraviolet rays that can still pass through clouds and damage our skin. And don’t forget a hat and sunglasses!

If you’re planning a midday workout, wash your face with a gentle cleanser to remove makeup and sunscreen before you exercise. When you start sweating, your pores open. Then all the buildup from makeup and other products can get into your pores and worsen acne. You can reapply your sunscreen and makeup after your workout.

Will sunscreen cause my face to break out?

Most sunscreens are not acne-triggering. But if you’re concerned about acne, look for sunscreen that says it’s noncomedogenic, which means it won't clog your pores. Also, products containing niacinamide can help soothe the skin.

I recommend sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30. Anything lower than that won’t provide the protection that you need. Sometimes, the higher SPF products can become a bit sticky or thick. I recommend finding a sunscreen that you like the feel and the smell of. That way, you'll be more likely to wear it regularly.

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