Sunscreen and Your Makeup Routine

Many foundations and powders contain sunscreen, but is it enough for daily protection?

From the WebMD Archives

You want to prevent wrinkles and skin cancer, so you are dedicated to wearing sunscreen. But coverage looks shiny or chalky, especially under makeup.

Many foundations and other makeup products offer a built-in sun protection factor (SPF). Is that your smartest beauty solution? Dermatologist Leslie Baumann, MD, says giving in to that temptation would be a mistake.

"Makeup does not provide enough coverage," she says. "You 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. No one does this."

So can you marry makeup and sunscreen in your routine and still look good? Yes, if you follow these steps.

1. Select the proper sunscreen.

Before you step in front of the bathroom mirror, find a sunscreen that offers enough protection. The Skin Cancer Foundation advises people to use a moisturizer containing broad-spectrum sunscreen (which means it blocks both UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF rating of at least 15. Ingredients such as zinc oxide, avobenzone (Parsol 1789) or ecamsule (Mexoryl), combined with octocrylene and avobenzone work best with makeup and provide broad spectrum sun protection.


  • Baumann says to layer a physical sunscreen, such as Aveeno Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer SPF 15, with a chemical sunscreen (either Topix Glycolix Elite Sunscreen SPF 30 or Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Sensitive Skin SPF 30), to block most of the sun’s rays.
  • Tina Turnbow, makeup artist, advises using a natural moisturizer, such as Pur-lisse pur-protect SPF 30, which is light and smooth and good for dewy skin. She also says Arcona Reozone SPF 20 is a little richer but has more of a matte finish.
  • Patti Bell, makeup artist, says DDF Matte Finish Photo-Age Protection SPF 30 is oil-free.
  • Karen Houpt, dermatologist, says that If you’re concerned about an unflattering white pall, avoid products with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

2. Apply sunscreen liberally.

"Apply a thin, even coat, approximately one teaspoon for face, neck, and ears," Houpt says. ""Let the sunscreen soak into the skin and dab the excess with tissue. After you finish applying sunscreen, wash the residue off your hands before applying makeup.


3. If necessary, use SPF eye cream.

If sunscreen irritates the delicate area around your eyes, the Skin Cancer Foundation suggests using an SPF 15 eye cream.

4. Apply a foundation or tinted moisturizer with 15 or more SPF.

If you use makeup foundation or tinted moisturizer -- a light foundation with sheer coverage -- remember that you cannot rely on these products alone; they must be used in conjunction with sunscreen. Although sunscreen is the most important element to shield skin from the sun, foundation or tinted moisturizer with SPF can help. Check labels, and purchase products with SPF 15 or higher.


  • Turnbow recommends Prescriptives 1 Oil Free Matte Finish MakeUp SPF 15 for a foundation. She suggests Alison Raffaele Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15 because it provides sheer coverage, good moisture, and natural ingredients. When using a primer (a base for heavier makeup), she uses Smashbox Photo Finish Primer SPF 15 with Dermaxyl Complex.
  • Bell likes Laura Mercier Oil-Free Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20.

5. Apply powder.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends applying compressed powder with a sponge because the powder's particles provide some sun protection, and powder will help keep sunscreen and moisturizer in place.


  • Turnbow recommends Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral SPF 30 -- especially for keeping skin matte. It’s a talc-free, transparent matte SPF 30 mineral powder with a brush applicator.
  • Bell likes Clinique Almost Powder Make-Up SPF 15 because it’s lightweight. YSL’s Matt Touch Compact Foundation SPF 20 is a new matte powder that hydrates, soothes pores, and absorbs oil.

6. Don’t forget the lips.

Protect your lips with an SPF 15 or higher lipstick or lip balm. Covergirl Triple Lipstick, SPF 15 offers broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sun protection for lips, as does Mary Kay Sun Essentials Lip Protector Sunscreen SPF 15. If you wear lipstick for sun protection, use an opaque shade rather than a high-gloss lipstick with little pigmentation.

7. Reapply

Bauman recommends reapplying sunscreen once during the day regardless of indoor or outdoor activity. "UVA goes through glass," she says.

If you're spending ample time outdoors, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends reapplying sunscreen on the face and lips every two hours.

How can you manage that with your makeup routine? Turnbow suggests dusting on an SPF translucent powder after you reapply sunscreen to keep shine down. If you're spending time outdoors and want a less complicated routine, keep it simple with lip color, mascara, and maybe a long-lasting eyeliner. She says cheek stains are also good for light, natural-looking color.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Emmy M. Graber, MD on November 14, 2012



Leslie Baumann, MD, director of cosmetic dermatology at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami.

Skin Cancer Foundation: “Sun Protection and Makeup.”

Tina Turnbow, makeup artist,

Patty Bell, makeup artist, Patty Bell Makeup.

Karen Houpt, MD, professor of dermatology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

WebMD Feature: “8 Burning Questions About Sunscreens.”

© 2009 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.


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