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Makeup with SPF – A Safe Substitute for Sunscreen?

Sunscreen Makeup

Makeup products with SPF have recently become more trendy, thanks to their appeal as a faster, easier way to apply sunscreen and color-corrective facial makeup in one swift go. 

“Time is of the essence, especially in the mornings, and the idea of incorporating yet another step to an already laborious skincare and makeup regime seems unfeasible. Luckily, many of our favourite makeup formulas also provide sun protection, therefore killing two birds with one stone,” writes Glamour UK

But, do foundations, powder, or tinted moisturizers with SPF do enough to adequately protect the skin from the sun? 

The most popular products

Makeup products with SPF are most frequently “color corrective” products for the face and neck like:

  • Foundation
  • Tinted moisturizer, primer, or serum
  • BB or CC creams
  • Concealer
  • Bronzers

Consumers are attracted to these SPF makeup products because of their seeming two-for-one punch: apply a layer of foundation and protect the skin with SPF all in one go. However, despite the popularity of SPF makeup, experts are urging consumers to apply traditional sunscreen before makeup, and to never substitute SPF makeup for sunscreen.

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Cautions against makeup as sunscreen

There are several problematic aspects of consumers using makeup for sun protection. First, and perhaps most importantly, is that makeup with SPF will most likely never be used in a high enough quantity to provide adequate protection. 

“Makeup does not provide enough coverage,” Dermatologist Leslie Baumann, MD, said in an interview with Web MD. “You need seven times the normal amount of foundation and 14 times the normal amount of powder to get the sun protection factor on the label. No one does this.”

SunburnWith the expert recommendation for sunscreen clocking in at an entire teaspoon of product for the face and neck, it’s highly unlikely that any kind of makeup, even a liquid product like tinted moisturizer, would ever provide enough protection to be safe. 

Additionally, dermatologists caution against using SPF makeup as the sole skin protector, since  sunscreen is most effective when applied every two hours. Consumers are unlikely to reapply makeup with SPF as frequently as needed to be effective – or to reapply their SPF makeup at all.

Finally, SPF makeup is being warned against as a substitute for sunscreen because the products often do not have a high enough SPF. As the American Academy of Dermatology states:

“Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays. Higher-number SPFs block slightly more of the sun’s UVB rays, but no sunscreen can block 100 percent of the sun’s UVB rays.”

The bottom line? Makeup with SPF should never replace traditional sunscreen on the face, neck, or anywhere else on the body.

A surprising study 

There’s also one more reason experts have been warning consumers away from relying on SPF makeup as their main source of sun protection.

A study published in the journal Plos One discovered that when participants used moisturizer with SPF, as opposed to a sunscreen and a moisturizer, they applied less product to the area around their eyes. 

“This finding was a surprise,” said the study’s author, Austin McCormick, M.D., to Consumer Reports. “We thought that the perception of moisturizer would be that it might sting less,” so people wouldn’t be afraid to apply it closer to their eyes.”

This finding concerned skincare experts, as areas around the eyes are an especially common area for skin cancer to develop. Dermatologists worry that consumers relying on SPF makeup are also skipping application to the skin around the eyes – or not using enough product to provide any real protection. 

Better protection works in tandem

Makeup with SPF can be an excellent, workhorse product to add into a skincare routine – as long as it’s applied after a sufficient amount of sunscreen.

Moving ahead, formulators and marketers have a continuing responsibility to educate consumers about the importance of protecting their skin from the sun with traditional sunscreens, no matter what the current craze or trend.

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