Does Makeup With Sunscreen Really Protect Your Skin?

Does Makeup With Sunscreen Really Protect Your Skin? featured image
lechatnoir / Getty Images

There’s a whole new generation of complexion products hitting the market that promise high-performance makeup and sun protection simultaneously. But do they really offer enough protection to shield your skin from UV damage? Or, should you stick to a traditional sunscreen formula and treat the makeup products as a bonus layer of defense? Here, the experts share their insight and we include our favorite makeup products that contain sunscreen.

  • Michelle Wong, PhD, a cosmetic chemist based in Australia
  • Lauren Moy, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and facial plastic surgeon based in Beverly Hills, CA

Why Makeup With Sunscreen Isn’t Considered Sufficient Sun Protection

“With any SPF-rated product, you’ll get the labeled SPF if you apply the full amount,” says Dr. Wong. “This is 2 milligrams per square centimeter, which is about one-fourth teaspoon for your face. Most makeup isn’t designed for that level of coverage, so you’re more likely to get a fraction of the labeled amount.” For example, in an Instagram video Dr. Wong posted, she demonstrates this fact. “For my face, I need 0.76 grams to get the labeled SPF, which works out to be 13 pumps of foundation,” she explains in the video. “I usually use 1.5 pumps of foundation. So, unless you apply this much every day, you’re not getting the labeled protection.” Maybe Meredith Duxbury has been applying her foundation correctly after all.

Beverly Hills, CA dermatologist and facial plastic surgeon Lauren Moy, MD shares the same thought. “You cannot rely on the SPF in foundations or makeup products,” she says. “It is usually not sufficient because people do not apply or reapply enough makeup to make the sunscreen protection factor effective. You should use a regular SPF as a primer under your makeup. I recommend TiZO3 Tinted Primer/Sunscreen SPF 40.”

For some people, however, using makeup with SPF can be beneficial, Dr. Wong says. For example, “it can give a tiny layer of protection for those who were never going to apply sunscreen in the first place. But, it’s good to be aware that you should be using a dedicated sunscreen product as well.”

Your Complexion Makeup May Already Contain Some UV Protection

Nearly all foundations and concealers contain iron oxide, which is what gives the formulas their pigment. Blush, eyeshadow, lipstick and other products also typically include the ingredient. Similarly to how zinc oxide and titanium dioxide create a physical barrier on the skin, iron oxides also do so. “Iron oxides in color cosmetics offer a little UV protection,” says Dr. Wong. “But, the main benefit is blue light protection, as blue light from the sun can worsen uneven pigmentation in darker skin.”

According to a study published in the journal Drugs in Dermatology, “iron-oxide containing formulas in a foundation format have dual functions. They can provide additional benefits in a patient’s daily routine by masking existing pigmentation. And, they can prevent the development of pigmentation triggered by sunlight exposure, extending protection beyond the UV spectrum.” Separately, the study also revealed that sunscreens containing iron oxides offer superior protection than those that don’t.

Our Favorite Makeup Products That Contain Sunscreen

If you are going to opt for makeup containing sunscreen, the experts agree that it’s best to consider it a bonus layer of protection from UV rays, rather than the sole mode of protection.

1 / 7

Nudestix Nudescreen Blush Tint SPF 30 ($30)

“The most preventive thing you can do is to wear your SPF every day,” says brand cofounder Taylor Frankel. “We created a mineral SPF blush tint with non-nano zinc that can be used on the cheeks, lips and eyes for a beautiful, monochromatic look. I like to apply it on my lips especially because lips are one of the most susceptible places on the face to skin cancers. This is because there is no natural lipid barrier on the lips. We also have a Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Approval for the daily use of this product.”



2 / 7

Vacation Studio Tone SPF 50 3-In-1 Bronzing Drops ($29)

“Many bronzing drops are very sheer with hardly any coverage, and they don’t have SPF in them,” says Katrina Virani, vice president of product development for Vacation. “This one is a bronze color that blends in very seamlessly, but it also shows you where you’ve applied so that you know where you’re getting that SPF 50 protection. Not only that, but we also put nourishing ingredients in here, including ceramides. It’s a gorgeous product.”


3 / 7

Tatcha The Kissu Lip Tint SPF 25 ($34)

Formulated with silk protein and botanical lanolin, this hydrating, unscented lip tint is that extra layer of defense our lips need when we’re exposed to the sun. Celebrity makeup artist Daniel Martin, director of artistry for Tatcha, worked with the brand to develop this new product. “Together we created three shades—Plum Blossom, Camellia and Black Lily—that are perfect for any skin tone and beautifully buildable,” he says. “The tints apply seamlessly without any flaking, and offer extra protection for an area that’s often left out of the essential SPF step.” 



4 / 7

Tower 28 SunnyDays Tinted SPF 30 ($32)

Call this a tinted sunscreen or a foundation with sunscreen. (I prefer the latter based on coverage.) Either way, I fell in love with this product the first time I tried it. I use the shade Melrose, which is light with warm undertones. The brand has a great shade finder on its website to help you determine which of the 17 flexible shades is best for your skin tone. The hydrating formula does a nice job of masking redness, but still lets skin look natural with a glowy finish.

BUY ON TOWER 28 – $32


5 / 7

Naked Sundays SPF50 Glow + Go Lip Oil ($22)

A beach bag necessity, this is the new-and-improved version of the brand’s lip oil with sunscreen. Infused with watermelon extract to hydrate as it protects with SPF, it’s not sticky, glides right on and has a really nice feel on the lips. It’s also chock-full of antioxidants, including vitamins C and E and lycopene, as well as amino acids, to nourish the fragile skin of the lips. Lastly, we love the four different scents: Coconut, Watermelon, Cherry Pie and Salted Caramel.



6 / 7

Supergoop! Shimmershade SPF 30 ($24)

Leave it to the sun-care pros at Supergoop! to create the first-ever eyeshadow with sunscreen. We love the creamy texture that feels soft and powdery as you blend it into your skin. The finish is super shimmery, but in a sophisticated way, and the hybrid sun protection is perfect to defend the delicate eyelids from UV damage that ages them.



7 / 7

bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30 ($39)

This is a cult-classic that’s been named the number-one tinted moisturizer in the U.S. according to market data. It’s incredibly hydrating thanks to hyaluronic acid and plant-based squalane, which gives skin a healthy glow. The coverage is pretty sheer, but you can build it up a little bit if you want more. It also now comes in a matte version if you don’t prefer a dewy finish.



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