Can you mix your sunscreen with foundation? Derms answer this and other SPF and makeup questions

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Gorgeous Black woman with glowing skin.
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Summer calls for all of the dreamy, sun-soaked occasions, from weddings to al fresco dinner parties and beyond. It also calls for adequate sun protection. By now, many of us are familiar with the basics of sun safety: the best sunscreen is one you’ll wear, choose a broad spectrum product with an SPF of 30 or higher, protection is a must even on cloudy days, etc. But when it comes to sunscreen and makeup, it seems there are more questions than answers. 

Here, two dermatologists shed light on how to properly work SPF into your beauty routine, so you can put your best (protected!) face forward all summer long.

Can I mix my foundation with sunscreen?

As tempting as it may be, especially on mornings that you hit snooze, it’s best not to blend the two products together. “The problem is that the protective aspect of the sunscreen may be compromised when it mixes with other components in the makeup,” said Dr. Renée A. Beach, a Toronto-based dermatologist and founder of DermAtelier on Avenue, over email. To ensure your sunscreen does its job at safeguarding your skin from harmful UV rays, lather it on separately.

At what part of my routine should I apply sunscreen?

Sunscreen should follow your skincare, said Dr. Renita Ahluwalia, lead dermatologist and co-founder of the Canadian Dermatology Centre in Toronto. So cleanse, moisturize, apply any serums and then load up on the SPF. Wait about 30 seconds to let it dry and you’re clear to proceed with your makeup. 

Should I apply sunscreen around my eye area too?

Ahluwalia said that if you’re wearing sunglasses with the appropriate filters, “you probably would get enough protection without it.” However, she does recommend people apply sunscreen to the areas around their eyes when not wearing a proper pair.

Due to the risk of sunscreen running and stinging the eyes, Beach said many people will opt for thicker stick formulas that are less likely to migrate. But she also noted that sunnies may be all you need. “The reason to protect the eyes is to protect against ocular melanoma, and sunglasses with tint provide this protection,” she explained.  

Can I apply a lip product over an SPF lip balm?

Yes. Just as you would apply your makeup over your sunscreen, the same goes when it comes to the lips, the experts said.

Does makeup containing SPF offer enough protection?

Multi-purpose products can be a game-changer for beauty routine minimalists, but trying to streamline your collection with SPF makeup isn’t the best idea. Because of how they’re formulated, these products typically don’t offer enough protection. “They don’t [have to] meet the same parameters for protection and testing the way sunscreens do,” Ahluwalia explained, noting that Canadian sunscreens are considered drugs and undergo rigorous testing. 

Even if makeup with SPF did offer enough protection on its own, Beach pointed out another issue: re-application. “How many times can you reapply makeup in a day before it looks cakey?”

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reach for a foundation containing SPF. While SPF-infused makeup isn’t a substitute for a trusty tube of sunscreen, Ahluwalia and Beach agreed that it’s always a nice-to-have and can provide some extra protection from UV rays. 

How do I reapply sunscreen without ruining my makeup?

The last thing anyone wants after setting their makeup is for it to budge. But reapplying sunscreen at least every two hours when out in the sun — or more frequently if you’re sweating or swimming — is a must. “It’s tough to reapply SPF [when wearing makeup] for sure,” said Beach, but it can be done! She suggests opting for an SPF spray or mist and delicately rubbing it into the skin. 

Spraying these formulas in your hand before applying them to the skin can help ensure an even application and adequate protection, said Ahluwalia. Sunscreen powders in pressed compacts or brush form are also a great option for quick and seamless reapplication, she added. 

Sunscreen makes my face look oily. How do I avoid this?

If this is the case, you may be using the wrong product for your skin. Sunscreen technology is quite advanced these days, Ahluwalia explained, and formulations suitable for all sorts of skin types are readily available. “I often find that the mineral sunscreens tend to make people less oily just because of the nature of the filters in them,” she said. “Generally, they rest on [the] skin surface and do not irritate the sebaceous glands.” 

Additionally, Beach suggests looking for sunscreens branded as “dry touch” or “mattifying.” These versions contain ingredients like silica, which help reduce shine. 

Do I really need a separate sunscreen for my face and body?

“In a perfect world, no,” said Beach. But realistically, the skin on our face can be more sensitive and prone to acne, dermatitis, rosacea and other conditions compared to the skin on our body. Ahluwalia noted that sunscreens formulated for the body also might not make the most elegant base for makeup. However, if your skin isn’t particularly sensitive and your plans include lazing by the pool sans makeup, then body sunscreen will provide adequate protection, she said. 

“There are a few products on the market that are formulated to be pleasing for both the face and the body,” Beach added. “If [the wearer] is really low maintenance, then they’re a practical way to protect the skin.”

Do tinted sunscreens offer more protection?

According to the experts and recent research, yes. “Tinted sunscreen, that is sunscreen which contains iron oxides and comes out of the tube or pump as coloured, is the best topical option to prevent pigmentary skin changes due to exposure to visible light,” said Beach. (Visible light is the part of the electromagnetic spectrum detectable to the human eye, like light from the sun or an incandescent bulb, as opposed to invisible light which includes UV rays.) 

These wavelengths are what cause the damage that produces pigmentation to the skin, especially skin of colour. Ahluwalia noted that people with darker skin tones, particularly Fitzpatrick skin type IV and above, stand to benefit from iron oxides found in many tinted mineral sunscreens and some chemical ones. Beach also recommends tinted sunscreens with iron oxides to any of her patients experiencing skin discolouration. 

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