Dermatologist explains how SPF in makeup works and how to know if you are getting enough UV sun protection for your skin.
Have you wondered, “is makeup with sunscreen enough sun protection?” You want to prevent premature aging and sun damage for your facial skin and is that SPF makeup you love good enough? In my latest video I explain how makeup and sunscreens work for sun protection so that you can make good choices about your skin care.
First, you need to understand that the SPF in any product is determined by correctly dosing the amount of product apply to your skin correctly. This means that you need to put enough of that product on to get the full SPF out of your product. If you’ are not using enough of a sunscreen containing product, then you’re not getting the full SPF protection that is written on the label and your skin is probably under protected.
How much sunscreen do you need to apply to get the full SPF from your product?
Sunscreen SPF testing is done using 2mg/cm2 of sunscreen applied to skin. This averages out to an average sized adult applying a shot glass (1 ounce) or sunscreen if they were in an average bathing suit. It’s a lot! We know that most people apply much less sunscreen than is used to determine the SPF of a product.
If you’re not applying enough of an SPF product then you will have some protection but not what you expect. Ideally, you need to use the right amount of product for the skin surface that you’re covering.
How do you know how much sunscreen to apply to your face?
We teach our patients that for the head and neck, you want to aim for about a third to a half of a teaspoon for sun protection of that surface area. And again, your surface area is going to depend on the clothing that you’re wearing, the amount of skin that’s sticking out from hair, hat, etc. So ideally, you can scale that back if you’re just applying the sunscreen to your face because you’re using a face makeup product. But you want to keep that ratio in mind. Another simple trick is to aim for about a nickle sized dollop for your face. Are you willing to put that much makeup on? If so, you may get the full SPF out of the product. This is one important way to tell if your makeup with sunscreen is giving you enough sun protection.
How do sunscreens work to block UV rays?
It is important to understand that there are two mechanisms of action for sunscreen, and you need to know what the filter the UV filter is in your product, be it a makeup or a sunscreen.
First, there’s chemical sunscreen UV filters. They include everything but zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These UV filters need to bind into your skin. The chemical UV filter molecules work by blocking UV rays by absorbing them. When they absorb UV rays the molecule degrades so those actually wear out it as it protects your skin. If you’re planning on wearing a chemical sunscreen product for an entire day in the sun you’re probably going to run out of protection.
Second, are the mineral sunscreen UV filters. These are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. (My favorite is zinc oxide for a number of geeky science reasons and the fact that it has broader protection into UVA.) Mineral filters actually bounce light off of your skin. Eventually, after a lot of bouncing, they will degrade, but they’re working by what we call scattering or reflecting ultraviolet rays. Mineral UV filters are going to be there for you a little bit longer because they do not degrade as quickly. If you top a creamy mineral filter product with mineral makeup powder you get even more protection. Find my favorite mineral facial products here. I am a huge mineral facial product fan because they are hypoallergenic, non-irritating, look great and give amazing protection!
So, is makeup with sunscreen enough sun protection to prevent premature skin aging?
Key factors for successful sun protection include knowing which UV filters you are using, being certain to put enough sunscreen on your skin, and putting the right type of sunscreen product on for your activities!
Dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey
Thus, if you are depending on the SPF in your makeup for sun protection, you need to know which of the two types of UV filters is in your makeup product AND you need to be certain that the dosing (amount you apply) is adequate for your activities. If for example you are just going to run a few errands in and out of your car and you’re not going to be in the sun that much, maybe you can get away with a chemical sunscreen in your makeup. But, if you’re going to be out at a wedding all day long, you need to be much more prescriptive about your sun protection.
How to be certain that makeup with sunscreen gives you enough sun protection – think outside the box!
So, the SPF in your makeup may be good enough if the filter is durable and it matches your daily activities. Alternatively, if you’re going to be out a lot, you may want to use a sunscreen that you know you will apply (dose) in the prescribed amount so that it will reliably sun protect you. It may also be tinted, which is my personal favorite way to go, so that it can double as a makeup! My top choice is to use a tinted sunscreen that I like so much that I know I will put the prescribed amount on my skin to get the full SPF dosing out of it. Then, If I also want to wear makeup, I can apply mineral powder on top for additional sun protection.
So, is makeup with sunscreen enough sun protection? It depends, and you have to think about what your filter is, if you are putting enough of it on, and what your daily activities are.
To see all of the facial sunscreens and sun protection products that I use in my dermatology practice click here.
About The Author