Does Makeup With SPF Provide Adequate Sun Protection?

hand dipping brush into powdered makeup

Stocksy / kkgas

With sunnier days ahead, it's important to understand the benefits of SPF use and the best practices for protecting our skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun. While it's understood how important a role SPF plays in our everyday beauty routines, it's imperative to know the very best ways to use SPF to be consistently protected. While several brands contain SPF in their makeup products, the real question is, have SPF infused foundations and makeup products enough to keep our skin safe from the sun? We interviewed two expert dermatologists to get the real deal. Ahead, everything we learned about whether or not the SPF in your makeup will provide adequate protection.

Meet the Expert

  • Adeline Kikam, DO, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and expert in treating numerous skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and melasma at the Dermatology Clinic of McAllen, Texas.
  • Dustin Portela, DO, is a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in skin cancer surgery, facial reconstruction, skin cancer prevention, complex medical dermatology, and wound healing at Treasure Valley Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center.

What Is SPF Makeup?

We've seen SPF in foundations, tinted moisturizers, loose powders, and more, but what exactly is SPF in makeup? To break it down easily, SPF stands for "Sun Protection Factor," which is used as a clinical measure to test the effectiveness of any sunscreen product against sunburn. The number of SPF is a guide for how long someone can be exposed to UV rays before any sunburn starts to occur and is then compared to the time it will take to burn when exposed to UV radiation when no sunscreen is applied at all. So SPF in makeup is simply sunscreen added to makeup formulas to help protect skin against UV rays.

Does Makeup With SPF Provide Adequate Sun Protection?

The short answer? No, Portela explains, "Theoretically makeup with an SPF should provide adequate protection, but we know that sunscreen ratings are achieved based on a standard (and quite heavy) application of 2mg/cm2 of sunscreen standardize the rating system."

What does that mean exactly? According to Kikam, "You would need over 6-7 times the required amount of traditional sunscreen when entirely relying on just makeup for your sun protection." This means it would take a ton of makeup to provide the adequate protection that regular SPF would provide, and in most cases, people are not going to wear anything remotely close to that much foundation.

Kikam went on to explain, "You have to keep in mind that the FDA has strict guidelines or criteria to what constitutes a sunscreen. Just because a product has sunscreen ingredients does not automatically qualify it as sunscreen. Some makeup with sunscreen ingredients can’t make claims of sun protection because they haven’t met FDA standards to make that claim."

And states the importance of looking for correct labeling when shopping for the right sunscreen, saying, "Your sunscreen should have the label “Broad Spectrum” which assures that it covers for both UVA and UVB and be at least an SPF of 30." For facial sunscreen that leaves no cast and is suitable for all skin types, and works well with or without makeup, try SuperGoop Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 ($34).

The Right Way to Use Makeup With SPF

If makeup with SPF isn't going to provide the proper protection we need against UV and UVB rays, should we discontinue using it altogether? The good news for anyone who has a stock of makeup with SPF products in their beauty routine is that you don't need to stop using these products. Instead, changing the ways we incorporate products with SPF into our routines is all that's necessary to ensure we are getting everything we need. Kikam explains, "While I would rather patients use sunscreen in makeup than not use any sunscreen at all, I like to remind them that sunscreen in makeup should be used more like icing on the cake. Instead of using it to replace traditional sunscreen, use it as an add-on."

The steps should be to first layer your adequate amount of traditional sunscreen (1/4-1/2 teaspoon for both face and neck) per Portela's recommendation, and then follow up with your makeup that contains sunscreen ingredients. This allows your face and neck to be fully protected from the sun, and you reap the benefits of wearing makeup products you enjoy that also contain SPF. If you're looking for tinted moisturizers or light foundations that contain SPF, try
Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Natural Skin Perfector Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($49), First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($28), or ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40 Foundation ($48).

What about re-applying? Kikam says, "The standard rule is to re-apply sunscreen every two hours even when wearing makeup which can be tricky if not practical to cleanse your face before reapplying sunscreen." An easy solution recommended is to use powders or setting sprays that contain SPF that you can easily apply on top of makeup to refresh it without having to cleanse and completely start over.  Supergoop! Defense Refresh Setting Mist SPF 40 ($30) is a great setting mist that you can re-apply throughout the day, and Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50 ($69) is a suitable product to use if you're looking for powder.

If tinted sunscreens are what you're after, Kikam highly recommends TIZO3 Facial Primer Tinted SPF 40 Primer Sunscreen ($43) or EltaMD UV Elements Broad-Spectrum SPF 44 Tinted Sunscreen ($38.50).

The Takeaway

Protecting your skin from the sun on a daily basis is extremely important, and you should do this with a separate sunscreen that contains at least SPF 30 to guard yourself against UV and UVB rays. You absolutely can use makeup that contains sunscreen for added benefit; just be sure to not have this be the only source of sun protection you're getting. When you can, touch up your makeup with setting sprays or powders that contain SPF to ensure you're taking all precautions against UV and UVB rays on a daily basis.

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