Many makeup products come with SPF 15, 20 or 25 already in them. It might seem like you’re getting a two-fer: Your makeup needs to be taken care of as well as sun protection.

A recent study out of England tested how well people use sunscreen versus moisturizer with an SPF in it. Turns out, people were much more likely to miss areas of the face, especially around the eyelids, when they used moisturizer with SPF in it rather than a sunscreen. Moisturizer is a thicker product, but you need to use a lot to get the protection you need, and people just don’t do it, says Dr. Renee Snyder, a dermatologist with St. David’s Medical Center in Austin, Texas.

Another big problem with using makeup or moisturizer with SPF in it as your sun protection is that it has to be reapplied, Snyder says.

“It degrades,” Snyder says. “No sunscreen can last more than two hours.”

How realistic is it to think that every two hours you’re going to reapply makeup?

“It’s hard for a dermatologist to tell someone who is a working female, ‘Hey, I know you have a full face of makeup on, go reapply makeup,'” she says.


Instead, her practice sells sunscreen that comes in powder form that can be reapplied on top of makeup. Or you can use a misting sunscreen that you can reapply on top of the makeup. Look for sunscreens for your face that say “noncomedogenic,” which means they won’t clog the pores and cause acne. In addition, mineral makeup does have some natural protection because of the zinc in it, she says.

A tinted sunscreen can be a good solution because you’ll still get some moisture from it. There are also gels, powders and setting mists.

“There’s all sorts of stuff girls can use,” Snyder says.

Every sunscreen product now has water-resistant claims on it and will tell you how long it is water resistant for. Take that as how long you have before you need to reapply more sunscreen.

The sunscreens that tend to last longer have pure zinc oxide in them, which is more of a barrier.

Even if you’re inside all day in an office, Snyder advocates for reapplying sunscreen in the middle of the day in case you go out for a quick bite to eat or run an errand.

Don’t think that because your moisturizer, foundation and powder all have SPF in them that you are getting triple the SPF. It doesn’t work that way, Snyder says. It only lasts as long as the product with the highest SPF and the longest water resistance.


It’s also important that your sunscreen says “broad spectrum” because if not, it only blocks out UVB rays. UVA rays are the aging rays that cause cancer. Often makeup only has SPF and not broad spectrum.

“You think you’re covered and you’re not,” she says.

That can be more damaging because you might spend more time outside thinking you’re covered when you haven’t really protected your skin.

The eyelids and the area between the eye and nose are often missed when applying sunscreen. It’s habit to skip those areas, and some people might think that because the sunscreen says “avoid the eye area,” that means you shouldn’t use it around your eyes and your eyelids. Just don’t put it in your eyes.

Of all the skin cancers of the head and neck area, 10% are around the eyes, Snyder says. “If you’re not totally covered with sunglasses and protecting that area, you’re actually really vulnerable there,” she says.

The ears and the back of the neck are often places people forget to put sunscreen, as well as the top of the feet.

Lips also need protection. Look for lip makeup that has SPF on it. If you are using a lip balm or lip gloss, “You’re basically putting baby oil on your lips and laying out,” Snyder says.


If you are prone to cold sores, you especially need a lip sunscreen because UV light actually can inflame it.

To protect the face, a hat is not enough. That’s really for the scalp, she says, but you can still get sunburned on your face because of the sun reflecting off of surfaces.

A lot of new products have come on the market. Isdin sunscreen is one that dermatologists like because it has a photo protection component that repairs the DNA damage from the sun. Snyder especially recommends it for patients who have had cancer on their face or have precancerous areas.

Snyder also recommends Heliocare. It’s an antioxidant pill you take every day that adds SPF of 2 to your skin. It might not sound like much, but when used with sunscreen, it can be effective, Snyder says. And some people are having luck with taking niacinamide, which has anti-inflammatory properties.

“I’ve taken the approach that people aren’t going to use sunscreen correctly,” she says. “I’ve taken the approach of giving them other tools.”

Those include hats, sunglasses, sun shirts and supplements.