Can sunscreens double up as moisturizers?

Sunscreen & Moisturizer

I’m not sure if this comes as a surprise but I don’t use a moisturizer in the day at all.  On a daily basis, I apply a vitamin C serum on my face and sunscreen after cleansing my face.  Is that sufficient?  Well, yes for me.  I have a combination skin type with quite an oily T-zone.  I’ve found through experience that using a moisturizer with a sunscreen doesn’t work well.  My face felt so heavy with all the moisturizing ingredients plus makeup and so I’ve been skipping that step for quite awhile now.

Sunscreens already contain moisturizing ingredients
Moisturizers are great by itself to increase the skin’s water content, protect the skin and make the skin appear smoother.  They are a beauty essential and they are mostly based on three types of ingredients: humectants, emollients, occlusive (very often emollients have occlusive properties as well). However, if we look at most of the sunscreen on the market now, they already contain some combination of humectants and emollients, as well as other ingredients.  My Keys Soap Solar Rx Sunscreen for example, comes with 10% shea butter on top of a combination of avocado oil, carrot seed oil, black cumin oil and vegetable glycerin. 

Skip the moisturizer or opt for a humectant based lotion
Hence, unless your sunscreen does not contain sufficient moisturizing contents, or your skin is extremely dry or if you’re going through a winter spell, then you might want to consider skipping the moisturizer especially if you feel your skin has been laden with too much stuff.  Alternatively, you might want to use a lighter lotion based on humectant moisturizing ingredients.  For reference purpose, you might want to refer to the following table to get a better understanding on the three types of moisturizing agents and find out what your sunscreen already contains.

Types of moisturizing agents Texture & common ingredients
Increase the water content by attracting natural moisture from the dermis into the epidermis.
Don’t feel greasy on the skin.  Best humectant active ingredients are glycerin, sorbitol, urea, lactic acid and hyaluronic acid and others.
Create a protective barrier that prevents the moisture present in your skin from evaporating.
Can clog pores &  are generally not recommend for those who are prone to blackheads or breakouts. Ingredients commonly used as emollients are petrolatum, lanolin, butyl stearate, glycerin, lanolin, mineral oil, petrolatum.
Create an oily barrier on the surface of the skin which slows the natural evaporation of water from the surface of the skin.
Heavy and greasy on the skin and can cause breakout to those who are acne-prone.Common occlusive ingredients include petrolatum, mineral oil, siloxanes (dimethicone, cyclomethicone), paraffin, beewax, and various vegetable and animal fats like lanolins, cocoa butter, jojoba, olive and almond oils.

Moisturizer with sunscreen?
Moisturizer with sunscreen?
And what about moisturizers that contain sunscreen? Some people might think this is a better option. Well, I’m not too keen on the idea because most of the time, the sunscreen protection factor is low. Plus the sunscreen active ingredients may not be sufficient. Hence, my preference is to go for a good sunscreen that also has moisturizing capabilities.

Sunscreen first or moisturizer first
Oh, I forgot to add that by using a sunscreen that doubles up as a moisturizer, you also take the headache out of when to apply sunscreen in the order of our skincare regime.  As mentioned in my earlier entry sunscreen before or after moisturizer, if you’re using a chemical sunscreen which absorbs UV rays and neutralize them in the skin tissues, then you have to apply it clean, bare skin first because in order to be effective, it must interact with our skin cells.


  1. Tine says:

    I’m ridiculously religious in applying moisturiser AND sunscreen, that I skip neither of them in my day routine. But I do agree with you on the oily bit, because I get that a lot too. Just to ease my OCD-ness, I apply a very thin layer of moisturiser, before applying a thin layer of sunscreen on. It works :p

    Tine: I know what you mean. I only stop using moisturizer quite recently. But even when I use a little, I find that my face was still full of oil.

  2. Eveline says:

    I don’t use moisturiser at all unless I’m doing my weekly medium strength AHA/BHA peel. I just apply AHA/BHA, a serum around my eyes, and that’s it. In the day it’s liquid foundation + mineral make-up. My face is super oily and any moisturiser would make it worse.

    However, as one ages, his or her skin would change too. I’m watching my skin carefully and would add moisturiser to my routine in the future if necessary.

    Eveline: That’s true. We need to change with the times and the seasons. ?

  3. nicole says:

    I must apply both moisturizer and physical sunblock because the sunbock itself very lightweight. If I go under sun, I must apply sweat proof foundation to seal another protection, on other side, better complexion anytime. :p

    nicole: Yes, some sunblocks are pretty lightweight in terms of moisturizing ingredients. With those as well as those that contain alcohol (which I try to steer clear of), I would use a moisturizer.

  4. ParisB says:

    I always did the moisturiser-sunscreen thing because I felt the sunscreens I was using were not moisturising enough. Well, until I came across the Eucerin one that I love ? At SPF40 plus being a decent light day moisturiser, I can’t ask for any more! But you have definitely given us something to think about!

    Paris: Wow, I’m really itching to give this Eucerin one a try after reading your review and your comments. Haven’t seen it around though.

  5. Melissa says:

    I use Neutrogena’s SPF 45 daily moisturizer. Slightly more oily than moisturizer, but far less so than a plain ol’ sunscreen, I use it daily (also on my arms) and recommend it.

    Melissa: I haven’t tried this but keen to know what’s the sunscreen active ingredient that is used though.

  6. Betty Lee says:


    I just got my ad onto your site here and wanted to let you know that one of the ingredients I use in my body butter and lotion bars is coconut oil.

    Coconut oil is a natural sunscreen, heals the skin and moisturizes.

    My website has a page devoted to coconut oil and information about it at

    I think you will be blessed with this information.

    Grandma Betty

    Betty: Thanks for the ad and the info. I’ll check it out.

  7. tessmaymn says:

    Thanks for the post

  8. Bhagya says:

    Wow. I always thought moisturizer is a MUST! And now thanks to you I can guilt free step out of my home with only sunscreen.. ?

  9. sesame says:

    If your sunscreen is moisturizing enough, there is no need for additional moisturizer.

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