Not to be the Debbie Downers of your Wednesday (praise be, we're halfway there!), but we're about to be the Debbie Downers of your Wednesday. However, on the bright side, we might just save your skin. Or at least, we're relaying the new science-backed information and findings that might.
To be honest, we've had our suspicions regarding multipurpose SPF products for a while now. SPF-enriched versions of our favorite moisturizers, foundations, concealers, and lip balms? How cool! How brilliant! How perfect for our multitasker-loving selves! Except, of course, studies now say they may not be so brilliant after all. The gist: These two-in-one alternatives aren't nearly as effective at protecting our skin as we've been lead to think.
According to a 2019 study from the University of Liverpool moisturizers boasting SPF provide less protection from the sun's harmful rays than an SPF formula (of equivalent strength) that's served straight-up—aka one that's not mixed into a cult-favorite day cream. The study also found that when applying the multipurpose products, consumers were far more likely to miss crucial areas of their face where damage can run rampant. (If you want a scare, just take a look at these photographs taken with a special camera—the dark areas show where product has been thoroughly applied and absorbed, and lighter areas show where product was missed and less thoroughly absorbed.)
"Although moisturizer with SPF does provide sun protection, our research suggests that it's not on the same level as sunscreen. We would not recommend it as a like-for-like replacement for your sun protection needs," states Dr. Kevin Hamill, a lecturer in cell and molecular biology, one of the lead researchers in the case.
And Matthew Gass of the British Association of Dermatologists agrees. “Unfortunately, moisturizer with SPF just doesn't perform particularly well in real-world situations compared to sunscreen. Although it may say SPF 30 on the box, this study is just further evidence that lab testing conditions for these products don't reflect how they are used." In other words, a lab session isn't necessarily accounting for the fact that we're not slapping on our day cream with the same vigor we might our sunscreen.
So while you most definitely can continue to use your multitasking moisturizer (it can't hurt, after all), to gain a significant enough amount of protection, it needs to be paired with a strict sunscreen potion as well. Fear not. We've rounded up eight of Byrdie HQ's forever go-to sunscreen formulas. Keep scrolling for all of our favorites!
Next Up: 2018's Best New Sunscreens
Lourenco EAJ, Shaw L, Pratt H, et al. Application of SPF moisturisers is inferior to sunscreens in coverage of facial and eyelid regions. PLoS One. 2019;14(4):e0212548. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0212548
University of Liverpool. Sunscreen application has better face coverage than SPF moisturizers, study shows. Updated April 4, 2019.
Barr S. SPF in moisturizers doesn't protect skin fully from the sun, study warns. Independent. July 4, 2018.