Is the SPF in Your Makeup Useless? How to Tell...

Dr. Janet Zand

July 31, 2020

The beauty industry is full of makeup products with SPF, including foundations, primers, and even eyeshadow.

But does SPF in your makeup really give you enough sun protection?

Well, it depends on three factors.

1. How much you apply

When skin care companies test a product’s SPF, they slather on an extra thick layer. But in the real world, we’re not spackling our faces with foundation.

Instead, we’re putting on only as much as we need to even out our skin and conceal problem areas. Then we blend it in, which thins it out even more.

So if your favorite foundation says SPF 30 on the label, you’re really only getting about half of that. That means an SPF of just 15.

And an SPF of 15 is only enough to protect your skin for about 2 hours.

2. The type of coverage in your makeup

SPF isn’t the whole story.

That’s because SPF only protects you from UVB rays. UVB rays are responsible for sunburn and most melanomas, so it’s important to avoid them.

But it’s the other rays — the UVA rays — that cause wrinkles and other signs of aging.

So you need protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Sometimes this is called “broad-spectrum” sunblock.

And unfortunately, most makeup with SPF is not broad-spectrum. So it’s not protecting your skin from the UVA rays that age your skin.

3. How frequently you reapply your makeup

When it comes to makeup with SPF, most of us only apply it once per day. Because if we reapplied it, we’d ruin our other makeup.

Unfortunately, once per day isn’t enough. You have to reapply an SPF product throughout the day, or else you’re leaving your skin exposed to UV rays!

So that’s the bad news. Luckily, there’s an easy fix that keeps your makeup in place and your skin protected.

The simple sunscreen solution: double up

First, apply a broad-spectrum sunblock. Choose a physical sunblock with zinc or titanium dioxide instead of chemical sunscreens. Why? Because studies show that the chemicals in sunscreen actually seep into your bloodstream, where they could potentially cause problems.

Second, apply your makeup that contains SPF. By doubling up, you'll get a higher SPF overall. Plus you’ll be sure you’re protected from both UVA and UVB rays.

Finally, to reapply throughout the day, you can try brushing  on a translucent mineral powder with SPF. (Some even come with all-in-one brush applicators that are great for when you’re on the go.)

Bonus: The translucent SPF powder will also get rid of any shine on your T-zone.

This strategy may not be the all-in-one solution you hoped for when you bought makeup with SPF in it. But sun protection is NOT the place to cut corners!

Try this out and let me know how it goes.

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