I’ll be honest: Up until this point, makeup and sunscreen have been completely separate concepts in my head. It wasn’t until recently that I learned about the wonderful world of sunscreen makeup, aka tinted moisturizers, foundations, lip balms, and setting powders that have a SPF of 30 or higher, meaning they can help protect your skin from sun damage when used with your daily sunscreen (more on that below). And as someone who spends 90 percent of her life applying sunscreen (seriously, I have a constant supply of hand cream with SPF at my desk, water-resistant sunscreen on hand during the summer, and reef-safe sunscreen near me every damn day), this revelation was huge. I mean, if you’re already going to be wearing makeup, why not wear makeup that can give your face a little boost of protection too?
But before you (ahem, I) get ahead of yourself, let’s go over two myth-busting basics:
- Sunscreen makeup can’t—and shouldn’t—replace your regular, daily sunscreen. Why? Because the amount of makeup you’re actually applying to your skin is minimal, which means you’re not getting the full SPF number you see on the bottle. In fact, you’re probably getting about one-seventh of the SPF strength, says Dendy Engelman, MD, a board certified dermatologist at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in New York City.
- Doubling up on SPFs doesn’t double the protection. So if you wear your regular SPF 30 mineral sunscreen, and you layer on a tinted moisturizer with SPF 30, you’re not actually wearing a total of SPF 60—you’re still wearing SPF 30. That’s not to say you’re not getting a bit more protection (the more layers on your face, the more of a barrier you have against the sun in general), but it’s not the math equation you might think.
I know, major bummer. Still, the experts I spoke with all recommend wearing sunscreen makeup every day for a little extra protection against sun damage and blue-light damage (yes, it’s real, and it’s coming from your phone and computer). Even though sunscreen makeup isn’t strong enough to protect you on its own, it still helps to ensure that you’re getting a full-coverage application of SPF after your tablespoon’s worth of regular sunscreen.
K, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get to how to actually choose the right products.
Meet the experts
- Dendy Engelman, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in New York City.
- Purvisha Patel, MD, is board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon, and the founder of Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Associates in multiple locations across Tennessee and Mississippi. Dr. Patel is also the founder of Visha Skincare, a skincare line that specializes in brightening and fading UV damage.
- Neil Scibelli, beauty expert and celebrity makeup artist who has worked with celebrities like Elisabeth Shue, Elle MacPherson, and Michelle Williams.
What to look for in sunscreen makeup
Choose SPF 30 or higher
First and foremost, set your shopping filters to “SPF 30 or higher.” We’ll say it again and again, but SPF 30 is the bare minimum that’ll fully protect you from sun damage, especially considering, per my previous email, how little protection you’re getting from sunscreen makeup in general.
Consider your own skin type
Makeup artist Neil Scibelli says the type of sunscreen makeup you choose depends on your skin type. If you have oily skin, he says, opt for lightweight, oil-free primers, foundations, and concealers with SPF, then set your skin with an SPF-filled powder. “I’m a big fan of powders with SPF, because they help mattify the skin while also giving you that sun protection,” says Scibelli. If you have “normal” skin, look for any type of products with SPF for your ~protective glow~, and for dry skin, look for medium-weight, moisturizing primers, foundations, and concealers.
Our top sunscreen makeup picks of 2022
Ready to get down into the details for exactly which sunscreen makeup products are right for you? Cool. Keep scrolling.
This Foundation with Sunscreen
Milk Makeup Sunshine Skin Tint Clean SPF 30 Foundation
This sheer foundation goes on with a lightweight, dewy finish that won’t leave you with cakey makeup. Not only does it have SPF 30, but also blue-light protection, thanks to the iron oxides in the formula, which will help protect your skin from staring at screens all day, says Dr. Patel.
This Tinted Primer with Sunscreen
Live Tinted Hueguard 3-in-1 Broad Spectrum Mineral SPF 30 Primer
“I like to use sunscreen primers that are really sheer and fluid,” says Scibelli. Enter: This creamy mineral sunscreen primer with SPF 35, which is spiked with vitamin E and alpha-bisabolol, a soothing, anti-inflammatory ingredient found in chamomile. Smooth it on top of your skincare and you’ll have extra-protected skin and ~primed~ canvas for your makeup.
This Lightweight Tinted Serum
Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40 Foundation
One of the main factors Scibelli looks for in face makeup with SPF is its thickness and opacity. Why? Because if you plan on layering your makeup (think: foundation, concealer, blush, and highlighter), you want to start with an SPF base that’s thin and silky, rather than thick and heavy. This oil-free, lightweight skin tint serum is formulated with a cocktail of niacinamide (which helps brighten dark spots) and squalane (which mimics the skin’s natural oils to moisturize your skin barrier) to leave your skin looking dewy and glow-y.
This SPF Foundation for Sensitive Skin
Tower 28 Beauty SunnyDays SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen Foundation
You can go ahead and add this foundation with SPF 30 to your list of acceptable products for sensitive skin. The tinted formula is totally breathable, but will still give you more coverage than a regular tinted moisturizer, helping to neutralize dark spots and redness while still looking natural.
This Plumping Lip Balm with SPF
Dr. Lara Devgan Scientific Beauty Platinum Lip Plump SPF 30
This four-in-one lip balm is a true multitasker: It has a light berry-colored tint, a high-shine finish, a slight plumping effect, and a major dose SPF 30. The only con: Reviewers say the plumping effect only lasts for 30 minutes to an hour, but if you’re looking for a tinted lip gloss with sun protection and a little bit of oompf on your lips, this is it.
This Lightweight Primer with SPF
Beekman 1802 Milk Primer SPF 35 2-in-1 Daily Defense Sunscreen & Makeup Perfecter
Even if you usually avoid face makeup at all costs, I’m begging you to make an exception for this primer. Because yes, even though it’s another layer on your skin, this lightweight primer will help smooth out any uneven texture and prevent your makeup from sliding or smudging.
This Setting Spray with Sunscreen
Kate Somerville UncompliKated SPF Soft Focus Makeup Setting Spray Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen
One of the most forgotten rules of SPF? Reapplication. And if you’re outside in the sun, your SPF 30 moisturizer that you put on at 9 a.m. isn’t going to hold up until the afternoon. That’s where this setting spray comes in, which will not only set your makeup so it doesn’t budge an inch, but also give you a regular refresh of your SPF without undoing all your hard work.
This Oil-Free Primer with SPF
Lancôme UV Expert Aquagel Primer & Moisturizer SPF 50
If you’re not already using a primer in your makeup routine, now is a great time to get one with SPF, like this moisturizing primer with SPF 50. It goes on white, but dries completely sheer, and it’s oil-free, so if you’re looking for a sunscreen for oily skin (hi, me), this won’t leave you feeling extra shiny.
This Setting Spray for UVA and UVB Protection
Milani Make it Last Sunscreen Setting Spray SPF 30
A good setting spray is crucial when you need your makeup to last for hours (and honestly, when do you not?). Spray this SPF 30 on as the final layer in your makeup look for another layer of protection. Plus, this one protects from both UVA and UVB rays (i.e., the rays that can lead to cancer-causing sunburns and premature signs of aging).
This CC Cream with Sunscreen
It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream with SPF 50+
A CC cream that neutralizes redness, helps even out hyperpigmentation and scars, and lasts all dang day? Yes, please. This CC cream is also filled with SPF 50 to help protect your skin from sun damage and burns, but make sure to still layer it on top of your favorite sunscreen of at least SPF 30 to be a gold-star skin student.
This Tinted BB Cream with Sunscreen
Tarte BB Tinted Treatment 12 Hour Primer Broad Spectrum SPF 30
If a foundation with SPF feels too heavy for your liking, but your tinted moisturizer doesn’t give you quite enough coverage, you need to try this SPF 30 BB cream. The tinted formula gives your skin a medium-coverage tint, while also helping to smooth the look of fine lines and pores.
This Face Powder with Sunscreen
ColorScience Brush-On Sunscreen Mineral Powder for Sensitive Skin
K, so a powder with SPF 50 won’t give you nearly as much coverage as a regular sunscreen (since you can’t see exactly how much coverage you’re getting, and not using nearly enough to get full protection). But a mattifying sunscreen powder like this one from ColorScience helps top up your SPF throughout the day without messing up your makeup, while also absorbing any excess oils from your moisturizer or sunscreen beneath it.
This Tinted Lip Balm with SPF
MDSolarSciences Hydrating Sheer Lip Balm SPF 30
Sure, your years-old SPF lip balm that lives in your car’s cup holder will work in a pinch, but where’s the color and fun? Answer: in this tinted lip balm with SPF 30. It not only leaves your lips with a wash of color, but will also keep them moisturized and soft with avocado oil, jojoba oil, and shea butter.
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