How Much Sun Protection Does Makeup With SPF Really Provide?

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We love the sun for giving us life and the vitamin D we need to keep us happy and healthy, but too much fun in the sun without protection is a strict no-no. Whether you're an outdoor bunny or prefer to spend time indoors, sunscreen is non-negotiable. Of course, you need a little extra SPF if you're outdoors for long periods of time. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, everyone needs to wear sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher and SPF 30 or higher on every exposed part of their body, including the lips, if they're spending time outside. 

The foundation recommends a broad-spectrum protection sunscreen that protects you from UVA (causes aging) and UVB (causes burning) rays to reduce sun damage and the possibility of skin cancer. According to a study published in the journal Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, sun exposure is responsible for "80% of visible facial aging signs." Therefore, if you want to maintain younger-looking skin, sunscreen is crucial.

Nowadays, makeup fans can find tons of foundations, concealers, lipsticks, and even eye makeup products with SPF — a bonus as you can still rock your makeup and protect yourself from the sun. However, most makeup products limit their SPF to 25, which is lower than the suggested SPF level of 30, per Byrdie. So, if you're out and about, can you just rely on your makeup SPF to protect your skin? Let's see what dermatologists have to say.

What dermatologists say about makeup with SPF

First of all, if you choose makeup with SPF, kudos to you, but it might not be enough. On this, Dr. Alicia Zalka, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Surface Deep, told Dermstore, "Many makeup products provide an excellent addition—not replacement—to the sunscreen armamentarium." It would then seem like makeup with SPF can't be a replacement for sunscreen.

Technically, the SPF in makeup should be enough to provide the required sun protection, but the amount of makeup you need to get that level of defense might be a bit much. "You would need over six to seven times the required amount of traditional sunscreen when entirely relying on just makeup for your sun protection," Texas-based and board-certified dermatologist Adeline Kikam tells Byrdie. That means you would need a lot of makeup on. Dr. Kikam added that not all SPF-infused makeup products meet the FDA standards for the level of sun protection you need, so relying solely on your makeup might not be enough.

According to New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, you need 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of makeup with SPF 30 just for your face, which is quite an excessive amount (via Real Simple). Another thing to keep in mind is that just because makeup claims to have SPF 3 doesn't mean they're as "effective as a pure SPF 30 sunscreen" because they're mixed with other ingredients. So, it would be best if you use sunscreen in addition to SPF-infused makeup.

How to layer SPF when you wear makeup

According to Real Simple, another thing to remember is that "sunscreen is not additive," which means you can't add the two SPFs of your sunscreen and makeup together for a higher level of sun protection. For example, wearing two products with SPF 30 doesn't mean you're wearing an SPF level of 60.

Most people worry about sunscreen messing up their makeup, so they skip it altogether. However, board-certified dermatologist Alicia Zalka recommends wearing mineral sunscreen as a base and adding "a foundation or tinted moisturizer with SPF topped with powder" to protect your skin (via Dermstore). Since reapplication over makeup can be an issue, Dr. Zalka recommends using a powder or spray SPF for hassle-free reapplication.

To accomplish the protection you need, you should start with an SPF product and layer it with SPF-infused makeup like a tinted moisturizer. Then, choose a powder or spray sunscreen for reapplication. This way, you're already covered with sun protection, and the makeup adds an extra layer of SPF, which isn't bad. Plus, the convenience of powder and spray makes the whole process of reapplication super easy.

Sunscreen in makeup isn't completely pointless — it gives you extra protection — but you can't use it as your main source of sun protection.