Confused About Wearing Sunscreen Under Makeup? These Methods and Products Make It Foolproof

If your makeup or moisturizer doesn't have SPF, you need to add that essential layer--and add it the right way.
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If your makeup or moisturizer doesn't have SPF, you need to add that essential layer--and add it the right way.

If this is the first time you’ve been told to wear sunscreen every day, no exceptions, even when it’s cloudy, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? COME HAVE A SIT! 

Seriously though, it’s pretty common knowledge that SPF is the only proven age-prevention thing you can do. It also happens to be slightly more confusing than just slapping it on your face and going out looking like a half-assed ghost. Lots of complexion makeup has SPF included, but sometimes your favorite foundation, tinted moisturizer or just regular moisturizer is made sans sun protection, and you’re like, “Why? Why you gonna play me like that?”

Honestly, some of my favorite moisturizers and makeup don’t include SPF, which makes me have to make up for it by slathering it on underneath. But then it feels weird because it’s an extra layer of goop under more goops. I’ll sacrifice a slightly goopy complexion for the sake of sun care because foundation or powder with SPF often doesn’t cover your whole face because it gets applied sparingly. Amateur mistake.

The way the sunscreen scripture goes is that you should apply non-mineral sunscreen after all your skincare products but before your moisturizer and makeup. The reason being is that the chemicals that are there to block the sun need to absorb into your skin, so having no barriers between means maximum protection. SPF 30 is a good bet to have you covered all day unless you sweat it off or get sprayed with a hose or something. You can go higher if you’re the outdoorsy type. (Fun fact: the number of SPF doesn’t mean it’s a stronger formula; just that it’s longer-lasting protection), but 30 is fine for the home-to-work-to-home crowd.

But won’t it feel weird? Won’t it break you out? Won’t it make your makeup slide off your face like a thrown pie? 

Probably at first, possibly if you don’t find one that works for you, and no it shouldn’t.

There are plenty of sunscreens out there that cater to skincare since beauty brands are well aware of how important it is. Skinceuticals makes great super-light formulas with or without tint.

L TO R: Obagi Medical Professional-C Suncare with SPF 30, Eve Lom Daily Protection + SPF50, Avène Hydrance Optimale SPF 25, Laneige Triple Sunscreen SPF 40

L TO R: Obagi Medical Professional-C Suncare with SPF 30, Eve Lom Daily Protection + SPF50, Avène Hydrance Optimale SPF 25, Laneige Triple Sunscreen SPF 40

Some of my favorites are ones that kind of double as primers, like Obagi Medical Professional-C Suncare (with 10% vitamin C for skin repair, natch) which comes in a matte gel formula that disappears into your skin.

Eve Lom Daily Protection +SPF50 is my favorite sunscreen that’s a moisturizer because it leaves zero cast, feels just like a regular super-soft moisturizer, and wears well under makeup. Avene Hydrance Optimale with SPF25 is my sensitive-skin pick in the winter because it’s way gentle with dry patches and doesn’t leave cast either, which is crucial when you have creepy dry patches on your face that do not need further highlighting.

All-around go-to is Laneige Triple Sunscreen because it seeps into my skin lightning-fast, and while it may leave a slight white cast, it acts like a primer that grabs onto whatever BB cream or foundation I put over it. In fact, probably the best way to ease your face into sunscreen before makeup is to get a primer with SPF—if nothing else to trick your brain to thinking that it’s okay to put more things on your face in the name of skincare and beauty. 

But primer or no, the key to making your makeup play nice with your sunscreen is to wait for your SPF to absorb before putting makeup on top of it. You don’t have to set a timer, but wait until the sunscreen isn’t slick on your skin and has absorbed. You can even use a fancy-lady fan if you are fancier than you are patient.

As for makeup touch-ups throughout the day, if that’s your thing, cushion compacts will be your best friend. 

This one is from IOPE but there are literally so many cushion compacts with SPF out there. Seriously, so many.

This one is from IOPE but there are literally so many cushion compacts with SPF out there. Seriously, so many.

Patting on complexion makeup with a little sponge can press in the SPF while also evening out your makeup. I tend to use these as my normal complexion makeup either way, so I don’t fret about mixing finish or shade. Also, they’re stupid-easy for someone who is foundation-dumb like me.

  • Is sunscreen still confusing for lots of people? 
  • What are your go-tos for moisturizers with SPF?
  • Do you prefer mineral or chemical sunscreens?