The Myth Behind SPF Foundations

spf makeup
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Concealer, foundation, blush, a sweep of mascara, lipstick. Wash your hands. Dry them off. Fix your blouse. Head out the door.

Dammit! You forgot to put on your sunscreen.

That’s usually how it goes, right?

As women we go through a lot of steps before we start the day. And who wants to factor in a squeeze of sunscreen? It’s either pretty chalky or kind of oily. It smells like artificial coconut or just something utterly concocted in a lab.

I wish I could sit here and tell you, “Wait! You can just buy makeup with SPF in it. That will solve EVERYTHING!”

Sadly, I can’t. Revoke your trust in your name brand SPF 45 foundation because the SPF in makeup doesn’t do much for your skin.

“In order to achieve the SPF stated on a bottle of foundation, you’d have to use A LOT more than you’d normally use, but not an entire bottle,” Dr. Leslie Baumann tells Vix. Baumann is a board certified dermatologist, author, and CEO of Baumann Cosmetic Dermatology in Miami, FL.

The reasons for this varies, but it’s agreed that the SPF in makeup isn’t strong enough to keep the sun’s rays from causing havoc on your skin.

Skin care professionals recommend putting a nickel or teaspoon sized amount of sunscreen on your face for proper protection, but that’s way more foundation than the average woman puts on her face. If you were to do that with makeup, you’d have to cake on a massive amount, wherein you run the risk of looking like you’re ready to take center stage in a broadway musical.

Then again, if you don’t cake it on and instead dab it on parts of your face that need more coverage, you run the risk of not covering your entire face. As Dr. Jeanine Downie, a New Jersey-based dermatologist pointed out to the New York Times in 2013, “It’s thicker in some places and thinner in some places. Also, you’re probably not putting it on your neck.”

The tools with which you use to apply can have a significant impact on its effectiveness too. “Women often dilute their foundation by applying it with a damp makeup sponge, which reduces the level of sun protection even more,” Dr. Baumann states.

Dr. Baumann suggests that you apply your sunscreen after your moisturizer and right before you put on your makeup. The best way to apply is to dab it on.

“Dabbing creates a thicker layer of sunscreen on the skin, which is more effective, but we are inclined to rub it in to make it go away,” she says. Rubbing it in reduces the level of protection.

Also, don’t forget to touch up your SPF later in the day, just as you would your lipstick.

“If you're wearing makeup and you need to reapply sunscreen, there are some great mineral-based powder sunscreens that you can dust on without disturbing your makeup,” she advises.

This doesn’t mean you should toss every tube that advertises SPF 15 or greater. It simply means you shouldn’t count your SPF-infused foundation as your main source of sun protection—only an additional one. A little extra SPF never hurt anyone, but too little certainly has.

Time to buy those sunscreen tubes in Costco-sized bulk.

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