We get it: Sunscreen can be sticky, greasy, and heavy. It can also leave a ghostly white cast and make your makeup slide off by midday. So, do you really need sunscreen before makeup?
Straight answer: YES.
Sunscreen is non-negotiable — even under makeup. Skip the SPF, and you’re laying your skin wide open to dark spots, acne scarring, wrinkles, fine lines, and sagging… not to talk about skin cancer.
Experts estimate that 90% of premature skin aging is a direct consequence of not wearing sunscreen and that everything else in your skincare routine is useless if the complexion is unprotected against sun damage.
Firstly, for adequate sun protection, you will need to apply a dollop about the size of a nickel on your face — that’s roughly seven times the amount of foundation than is normal, even for full coverage. Which is not going to be a good look.
Secondly, makeup isn’t always applied evenly and comes off easily, which makes it a notoriously ineffective ‘screen against sun exposure.
And finally, it’s important to remember that the FDA has rigorous standards for what constitutes “sunscreen” (and with good reason, given the scope of sun damage). Makeup with sun-protective ingredients doesn’t qualify as sunscreen — it’s just still makeup with a little extra thrown in.
So, you absolutely do need sunscreen under your makeup — at least if you want good skin for the rest of your life.
Fortunately, there’s a whole new crop of sunscreens for makeup that actually give your foundations, powders, and blushes a smooth base along with staying power rather than hinder the process.
Think transparent formulations, no greasiness, mattifying ingredients like silica and lightweight textures that layer without pilling — yes, these exist!
Want to learn how to make the best choice? Scroll below to understand everything you need to know about choosing the best sunscreen for face under makeup — and how to layer it for maximum effect.
Best sunscreens for face under makeup
It sounds like a lot to ask from SPF, but the perfect sunscreen for makeup does exist! Where to find these skincare unicorns? And what about tinted sunscreens that can actually do double duty as makeup?
We have rounded off the best of them right here. Pick. Choose. Create the perfect face. And keep it going through the day.
PS: Check out this post for the best sunscreens over makeup when you need to top up throughout the day!
A velvety textured sunscreen that's ultra-light, oil-free, non-shiny, non-greasy, fragrance-free and melts into skin like a dream — quickly and without any white residue. It's also water-resistant for 80 minutes, in case you and your (waterproof) makeup are planning any swimming activities.
This new launch from Bloomeffects is one of the best under makeup sunscreens with tulip extracts in a mineral SPF base for a true skincare-meets-suncare combination. It goes on as lightweight as a serum, sinking into the skin without any chalkiness, ashiness or grease spills.
Neutrogena's Hydro Boost sunscreen offers high-quality sun protection and doubles up as a moisturizer. With a water-light texture, it absorbs quickly without leaving any residue. The hyaluronic acid and glycerin in the formula keep your skin hydrated and primed for makeup application.
EltaMD's UV Clear Facial Sunscreen is a fan favorite, especially for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin. It's oil-free, non-comedogenic, and packed with niacinamide, which reduces redness and inflammation. It dries clear and doesn't interfere with your makeup, making it an excellent everyday choice.
Sunscreen application tips and techniques
It’s not just about choosing the right sunscreen but also how we wear it. According to dermatologists, most of us use a far lesser amount than is necessary, leaving our skin vulnerable to skin damage even with SPF!
Layering sunscreen with makeup
To get the maximum benefits from your sunscreen, ensure you’re layering it correctly. After cleansing and toning, apply your sunscreen. Let it sink into your skin for a few minutes before applying your makeup.
This layering technique helps in ensuring your sunscreen has properly absorbed and provides a seamless base for your makeup.
Reapplying sunscreen throughout the day
Remember, sun protection isn’t a once-and-done affair. Ideally, you should be reapplying your sunscreen every two hours.
But we hear you ask, what about the makeup? Don’t worry. We’ve got all the solutions.
Powder sunscreen: Grab a sunscreen powder or a setting powder with SPF. It’s like touching up your makeup but with a bonus of sun protection. And this trick is a game-changer for the shiny-faced out there (oily skin, we’re looking at you).
Sunscreen spray: If you’re more of a spray-and-go type, use a facial sunscreen spray. Just mist it lightly over your makeup for a layer of sun armor.
Understanding sunscreen formulas
When choosing the best sunscreen for face under makeup, it’s essential to understand the different formulas available. In this section, we will discuss the types of sunscreens: Physical, chemical, and hybrid.
Physical sunscreens, or mineral sunscreens, contain organic compounds like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. A mineral formula works by sitting on top of the skin and acting as a physical barrier that reflects and scatters UV radiation.
The benefits of using physical sunscreens include:
- Broad-spectrum protection: They protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
- Less irritation: They are less likely to cause skin irritation or allergic reactions, making them suitable for sensitive skin.
- Immediate protection: Since they form a barrier on the skin, there’s no wait time for the sunscreen to become effective.
However, mineral powder sunscreens can be more difficult to blend and sometimes leave a white cast on the skin, which might not be ideal under makeup.
Chemical sunscreens contain active ingredients that absorb harmful UV rays, converting them into heat and preventing skin damage. Some common ingredients include oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octocrylene.
The advantages of using chemical sunscreens are:
- Invisible finish: They tend to blend seamlessly into the skin, making them suitable for use under makeup.
- Less product needed: They can provide high sun protection with less product, making them more lightweight and comfortable to wear.
However, chemical sunscreens may be more likely to cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some individuals, and they need about 5-10 minutes to become effective after application. Plus, they are more prone to contain ingredients that can cause damage to our health and the environment.
Hybrid sunscreens combine the best aspects of both physical and chemical sunscreens. They contain a mix of mineral and chemical UV filters, providing broad-spectrum protection with a more comfortable and lightweight finish. This makes this one of the top contenders for the best sunscreen for face under makeup.
When considering hybrid sunscreens, look for the following benefits:
- Improved wearability: Combining ingredients creates a better texture and less white cast, making them suitable for various skin tones and types.
- Synergistic effect: The blend of filters may provide enhanced sun protection, resulting in a more even and longer-lasting coverage under makeup.
PS: Besides the sun’s rays, another kind of light is damaging your skin RIGHT now as you are reading this article. It’s called blue light and is given off by electronic devices. And it can cause even more skin damage than UVA and UVB rays. Read about blue light, why it’s wrecking your skin, and all the solutions RIGHT HERE!
Selecting the best sunscreen for face under makeup
Choosing the best facial sunscreen to wear under makeup ensures proper sun protection while maintaining a flawless look. And these are the factors you need to consider.
Sun Protection Factor (SPF)
SPF level is a measure of how much UVB radiation the sunscreen can filter out. SPF 15 blocks about 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 protects against 97%, and SPF 50 shields from 98%.
Remember, no sunscreen can block 100% of the sun’s UVB rays. And higher SPFs do not last longer than lower ones. For this reason, dermatologists recommend using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapplying it every two hours.
A broad spectrum formula protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays contribute to premature skin aging, while UVB rays cause sunburns.
To ensure the best protection, look for sunscreens labeled as broad-spectrum or offering UVA/UVB protection.
While makeup wearers may not be concerned about water resistance, it is still essential. A water-resistant sunscreen ensures lasting protection, even if you sweat (or have a bout of tears!) throughout the day.
However, reapply as the product directs since even the best sunscreen for face under makeup cannot be entirely waterproof.
Sensitive skin considerations
For those with sensitive skin, look for products labeled as hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, or designed for sensitive skin types.
Mineral-based sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are typically well-tolerated by sensitive skin, as they do not penetrate the skin and provide physical barriers to UV rays.
Here are the most frequently asked questions about the best sunscreen under makeup.
Which sunscreen can be applied under makeup?
The best sunscreen under makeup is one that’s lightweight, absorbs quickly, and doesn’t leave a white cast. If you have oily skin, opt for a mattifying, non-comedogenic sunscreen that won’t clog pores. If you have dry skin, a moisturizing sunscreen could be your best bet.
Can I apply makeup right after sunscreen?
Allow sunscreen to absorb into your skin for at least five minutes before applying makeup. This ensures that your sunscreen creates an effective shield on your skin.
Which is first, primer or sunscreen?
Sunscreen should always come before any makeup, including primer. Generously apply the sunscreen and allow it to sink into your skin. After waiting around 5-10 minutes for the sunscreen to fully absorb, you can use the primer and the rest of your makeup.
Can I use sunscreen as primer?
Some sunscreens can also work like a primer, including smoothing the skin or providing a matte finish, creating a good base for makeup application while shielding your skin against harmful UV rays.
Which sunscreens are suitable for oily skin under makeup?
For those with oily skin, a mattifying or oil-free sunscreen is essential. These formulas can help control shine while providing sun protection. It’s also worth considering mineral SPF, which is usually less likely to clog pores than chemical sunscreens.
Can I skip sunscreen if my makeup has SPF?
While makeup with SPF provides some protection, it’s often not enough. You would need to apply a thick layer of makeup to get the full SPF benefit listed on the product, which is generally not how makeup is worn. So, don’t skip your sunscreen — layer it underneath your makeup.
Can sunscreen replace my moisturizer?
Some sunscreens have moisturizing ingredients like plant-based squalane and hyaluronic acid and can be used as a moisturizer. However, if your skin is dry, using a separate moisturizer before applying sunscreen is better.