We get it: Sunscreen can be sticky, greasy, heavy, leave a ghostly white cast and make your makeup slide off by midday. So, do you really need sunscreen before makeup?
Short 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, fines lines, sagging skin… not to talk about skin cancer.
In fact, experts estimate that 90% of premature skin ageing is a direct consequence of not wearing sunscreen and that literally everything else in your skincare routine is totally useless if the complexion is not protected against sun damage.
And no… the SPF-enriched makeup does not help protect against the 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 the sun.
And, finally, it’s important to remember that the FDA has very strict standards (and with good reason given the scope of sun damage) for what constitutes a sunscreen. Makeup with sun protective ingredients doesn’t actually 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 wth staying power (think transparent formulations, no greasiness, magnifying ingredients like silica and lightweight textures that layer without pilling) rather than hinder the process.
Best sunscreens under makeup
Sounds like a lot to ask from SPF but the perfect sunscreen for makeup does exist! Where to find these skincare unicorns?
We have rounded off the best sunscreens for under makeup. 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 through the day!
Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40 PA+++
An absolutely clear gel that literally disappears into skin within seconds sans any white cast (even on darker skin tones), feels like nothing and dries down to a blurring finish — almost like a primer. Plus, it’s also sweat- and water-resistant. This one is my personal favorite sunscreen for makeup.
Supergoop! Glowscreen SPF 40
There’s a reason Supergoop! rules the sunscreen stakes… they make a sunscreen for literally every skin type. If yours tends to be on the drier side, the Glowscreen has added hyaluronic acid for hydration (so makeup doesn’t start getting cakey), along with the same blurring effect and sheer weightlessness of the Supergoop! Unseen (above).
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Milk Sunscreen SPF 60
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.
Fenty Skin Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen
It’s a handful of a name but like all things that RiRi’s magic touches, this oil-free sunscreen layers perfectly under the heaviest makeup, with no piling or flashback. It also won’t appear ashy even on the darkest complexions and is made from coral-reef friendly ingredients.
Tatcha Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen
What makes this one of the best sunscreens for under makeup? Not only does it provide broad spectrum protection without any residue, it actually visibly diminishes the appearance of enlarged pores (with silk and Japanese rose extracts) to create a smooth base for foundations and powders. Win-win!
Lancôme UV Expert Aquagel Primer & Moisturizer SPF 50
This sunscreen is more like a primer that sets the perfect great base for the rest of your makeup with its sheer, velvety texture and a formula that actually mops ups extra oils through the day. It goes on white but dries completely transparent, so don’t have a panic attack the first time you try it out!
Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protector Lotion SPF50+
No chalkiness, no sweatiness, no greasiness… pure perfection.
Peter Thomas Roth Max Clear Invisible Priming Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 45
This clear gel-based, water-resistant sunscreen gel delivers a hefty dose of hydration while drying down like a blurring primer, creating a translucent soft-focus finish for flawless makeup application.
Bloomeffects Tulip Dew Sunscreen Serum SPF 50
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.