Should you put on sunscreen or foundation first?

Q: I wear full makeup over a layer of sunscreen every day. Does it decrease my UV protection?

The key to reducing your risk of skin cancer, sun spots and wrinkles from sun damage is to incorporate sunscreen into your daily routine and apply it – and reapply it – correctly.

Luckily, when it comes to wearing makeup and sunscreen together, there’s good news, says Dr. Nikhil Dhingra, a dermatologist at Spring Street Dermatology in New York: It doesn’t matter how much foundation , concealer, blush or highlighter that you apply during your makeup routine, you will always be protected from the sun, as long as you follow a few simple steps.

An important way to make sure you’re really protected from harmful UV rays is to apply your sunscreen as the last step in your morning skincare routine, but before you start putting on your makeup.

Chemical sunscreens contain filters that penetrate the skin and absorb UV light, while physical (or mineral) sunscreens sit on the skin and scatter UV light. Because of these processes, sunscreen is most effective when applied directly to clean skin.

After washing your face in the morning and applying skincare products, such as toners, serums, moisturizers, or oils, apply your sunscreen. Dermatologists recommend using a minimum sun protection factor of 30.

Studies have shown that people generally don’t use enough sunscreen for adequate protection. Most only apply a quarter of the amount they need for their whole body, said Dr. Amanda Doyle, a dermatologist at the Russak Dermatology Clinic in New York. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, you need about two milligrams of sunscreen per square inch of skin to achieve the advertised SPF.

Because everyone is different, that may mean more or less sunscreen depending on your face size. To make application a little easier, Tiara Willis, a New York-based beautician, recommends the two finger ruler (line the length of your middle and index finger with sunscreen) to measure enough sunscreen for your face and neck.

Before applying makeup over your sunscreen, let it soak into the skin for at least two minutes. Avoid touching your face during this time. Dr. Kiran Mian, a dermatologist at Hudson Dermatology & Laser Surgery in New York, said adding makeup too soon could dilute your sunscreen or interact with the ingredients, rendering them ineffective.

Think of putting on sunscreen as if you were painting a room: apply it in an even, thick layer, then let it dry sufficiently before touching or decorating it. Dr. Mian suggested doing something like brushing your eyebrows after applying sunscreen to keep you busy in the meantime. If your sunscreen base is properly dried and set, your makeup ingredients should not negatively affect its SPF.

Many foundations, beauty balms, and color-correcting creams contain sunscreen, which might seem like a handy way to protect your skin without compromising your makeup routine. However, makeup with SPF is not sufficient as a sole sunscreen option, as you would need to use a lot of it – more than most people typically use for their daily appearance – to effectively protect your skin.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have added SPF to your makeup because, when it comes to sunscreen, more is more. A study published in 2021 even concluded that layering makeup over sunscreen boosted total sun protection. This is because all makeup, even products that don’t have an SPF built in, contain filters similar to those found in physical sunscreens, which can provide extra protection if your screen base coat solar is not enough.

Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, or after swimming or sweating. Even sitting near a window while you work requires reapplying because glass doesn’t significantly block UVA or UVB rays. Usually, reapplying is as simple as slapping on another layer of sunscreen, but it can be trickier when wearing makeup.

The somewhat disappointing news: there aren’t enough studies to prove the effectiveness of reapplying SPF over makeup. And there’s reason to think that’s not ideal, because we know sunscreen works best when applied as close to the skin as possible and because it’s hard to apply enough sunscreen on makeup to be sufficiently protective. Powdered sunscreens, for example, are an attractive option for reapplication because of their portability and usefulness as a quick touch-up tool, but in reality, said Dr. Cula Svidzinski, medical director of the Skin of Color Center of the Mount Sinai Medical Center. , you need to apply about a teaspoon of powdered sunscreen to your face to achieve the advertised SPF.

SPF setting sprays and sunscreen sprays in general are appealing for their easy application, but the truth is that they still need to be rubbed into the skin to provide adequate coverage from the sun, negating the presumed convenience.

Also remember that SPF is not cumulative. “If your sunscreen is SPF 30 and then you apply an SPF 15 moisturizer, you don’t have SPF 45 protection,” Dr. Mian says.

So what should you do? Experts say you should use any method that will encourage you to reapply your sunscreen, as long as you understand that you probably won’t get the full SPF advertised. Whether you’re reapplying powdered sunscreen, drowning your face in SPF setting spray, or pouring sunscreen on the back of your hand and applying it over your makeup, even a little SPF boost is better than nothing, experts said.

Caira Blackwell is a staff writer at Wirecutter covering health and sleep. His work has previously appeared in Okayplayer, The Knockturnal and Nylon magazine.

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