Skip to content

How to wear sunscreen and makeup together

Most of us know that protecting our skin from the sun helps prevent age-related damage and dangerous cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma.

But things can get confusing when you’re looking at an array of SPF products. Does a SPF foundation provide enough of a shield from UV radiation?

The truth is, most cosmetics don't typically have sufficient broad spectrum SPF levels for significant protection. To protect your skin, learn how to wear sunscreen and makeup together and face the sunshine with confidence.

Understanding why and how to wear sunscreen and makeup

Traditional cosmetic foundations serve a dual purpose: They smooth away skin imperfections while forming a base for blush, bronzer, and other makeup.

A typical skincare routine includes moisturizer and perhaps a makeup primer, followed by foundation or tinted moisturizer, and sometimes powder. In order to shield your skin from UV radiation, you still need to incorporate a sun protective layer before adding makeup (and then reapply atop your makeup throughout the day!). 

The process for how to wear sunscreen and makeup should fit right into your morning ritual:

  1. Cleanse your face.
  2. Apply moisturizer. (If you use a SPF moisturizer, especially in the summer, skip step three.) 
  3. Spread a generous amount of facial sunscreen on your face, ears, and neck. Check that you covered the tip of your nose, temples, and hairline.
  4. Apply makeup as usual. 

Any product you choose should have an SPF 30+ rating for everyday use and occasional sun exposure. Find one with SPF 50+ for days spent in direct sunlight for extended periods.

Choose sunscreens with broad-spectrum ingredients to guard against both cancer-causing UVB rays and photo-damaging UVA rays. For sunscreens with a PA rating, look for at least PA+++.

Sunscreen for the face

Facial sunscreens are generally formulated to be lightweight and less oily than traditional body sunscreens. Premium sunscreens for the face should glide smoothly onto the skin without leaving residue or pilling that will interfere with your cosmetics.

Look for a sunscreen with hydrating properties that doubles as a facial primer. This sunscreen base will help you avoid the appearance of cracking or wrinkling foundation as you apply makeup on your face.

Moisturizer with SPF

Many moisturizers now include SPF. Look for a lightweight, moisturizing sunscreen that can double up as your only moisturizer layer in the summer. If your skin type is dry, you may choose to use both your usual moisturizer and a  lightweight sunscreen on top. Some tinted moisturizers offer the benefits of hydration and smooth coverage in a single step, in a range of tones.

Foundation with SPF

Technically, a liquid foundation may offer enough basic sun protection if you apply enough of the product. The reason is that the tint ingredient in foundations — iron oxides — block out light.

That said, if you applied enough so that it performs as well as an SPF30+ sunscreen, you would end up with a too-thick layer of foundation that would appear cakey or heavy-looking. If you take a close look at most SPF foundations, the label actually states that it’s not meant to be used as a primary sunscreen because it has not been tested to provide broad spectrum protection. 

So when we are asked how to wear sunscreen and makeup, we recommend using a broad spectrum sunscreen, followed by your foundation.

It’s always better to have two layers of protection, since we don’t usually apply enough sunscreen. SPF30 is the level recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology for daily use, so you can layer an SPF30 sunscreen, followed by your foundation with SPF. 

Learning how to wear sunscreen and makeup can enhance your glow

Beautiful skin requires more than just finding the perfect blush color or the right eyeliner that brings out your eyes. It's important to learn how to wear sunscreen and makeup together to keep skin soft and healthy for years to come.