Makeup with SPF: your 2nd line of sun defense

Some readers have asked me if they cannot reapply their sunscreen with their makeup on, is it fine for them to rely on their makeup for sun protection. Well, the answer is yes and no; it really depends on what type of makeup they are using, the active ingredients in their products and how much they apply.

Powdered and compact foundation
Most powdered foundation offers some form of SPF protection. Usually ingredients such as Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide or even both are found in mineral foundations. Compact foundation on the other hand, tends to be formulated with both chemical and mineral sunscreen ingredients; an example could be a combination of Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate and Titanium Dioxide. Hence, going by the ingredients, they do offer broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. The problem is, when scientists test facial powders to determine SPF, they typically assume that 2mg of product will be used per cm2 of skin. The average face is about 600cm2, meaning that a person needs to apply about 1.2g of facial powder to get the SPF stated on the product’s label (source). According to Dr Leslie Baumann, author of Skin Type Solution, that means we have to pile 14 times more powder than we already do and we can never apply that much of face powder! If you really want some sun protection from your powder, choose one with high SPF so that you can still enjoy some level of SPF protection after application. A recommended product is Avene Tinted Compact SPF 50 with 18% Titanium Dioxide and 4.9% Zinc Oxide.

Liquid foundation
On the other hand, liquid foundation might offer better sun protection for the skin compared to powdered or compact foundation. This is because the texture of the liquid foundation makes it easier to apply more than powdered or compact foundation and not cake up (but one can risk having clogged pores though). So one with a high SPF might work quite well as most are not going to apply a thick layer anyway and the end result would translate to a lower SPF. Maybe that’s why a product like Shiseido Sun Protection Liquid Foundation SPF 42 PA+++ is rated quite highly for its UV protection. In fact, the texture of a liquid foundation is pretty close to that of some sunscreens. The key difference is that a liquid foundation typically do not contain that much sun protection active ingredients. For example, the mentioned Shiseido product contains two active ingredients – Titanium Dioxide and Octyl Methoxycinnamate while a sun protection cream under the same brand contains three active ingredients like Octinoxate, Titanium Dioxide, and Zinc Oxide. Additionally, while the percentages of such active ingredients are stated in sunscreens, it is rarely the case for foundations and hence, there is no way to ascertain if there are sufficient active ingredients in most.

Makeup enhance sun protection
So makeup with SPF might come with broad spectrum protection and some are even formulated with antioxidant ingredients that would provide a form of sun defense as well. However, whether it is powdered foundation or liquid foundation, makeup can only enhance sun protection if layered over a sunscreen product. That means they are best viewed as a second line of sun defense. So my answer for those who cannot reapply sunscreen over their makeup is, reapplying some makeup with SPF would provide some level of sun protection. Even if it is minimum, it is better than not applying anything at all.

My daily sun care routine
Personally, I don’t reapply my suncreen in the day and neither do I reapply my makeup. This is because I use a mineral sunscreen containing Zinc Oxide, which sits on top of my skin and it remains active until I blend, wipe or wash my face. Plus, I really much prefer to take UV protection in the form of supplements for additional sun protection throughout the day.


  1. xin says:

    hmm i use a SPF40 on a daily basis and also a foundation of at least SPF15. And I stay indoor most of the time. However, I feel like I turned darker recently, and I am wondering if it is due to the lighting in the office.

  2. claire says:

    I have been looking for a natural foundation with SPF that i can use when pregnancy. I think it is not good to put on too much chemical on face during pregnancy, and i have been looking for a good one for sooooo long. what do you recommand?? thanks!

  3. sesame says:

    Lighting in the office shouldn’t make such a big difference plus you’re wearing SPF products. Are you sitting near the window? Or you might need to take a look at your SPF40 product again.

  4. sesame says:

    If powder type, try mineral foundation with few ingredients. The range from LA Splash is not bad. They’re available at some selected Guardian stores if you’re located in Singapore.

  5. espenine says:

    I apply the MVO Sunscreen followed by liquid foundation with around SPF 25++. Then I lightly tap another layer of MVO Sunscreen on areas that are more prone to pigmentation such as cheekbone near the eyes. This is because I am afraid that I may have rubbed off some sunscreen when I apply liquid foundation. Then I dabbed lightly with loose powder with SPF to set makeup.

  6. sesame says:

    Oh that’s a good idea. I don’t do that although I’m conscious of the sunscreen being blended away. But the liquid foundation I usually wear has some SPF…so I’m more at ease. Plus, I use the MVO Sun Protective Oil under the MVO Face Screen.

  7. Carrie says:

    I usually apply sunscreen after moisturizing and before foundation to ensure I have a sound protection from the sun, as well as using sunscreen as a pre-makeup base. It is because I also find it tricky to reapply sunscreen with makeup on!! And I do not like using compact foundation as it either dries up my skin or makes the makeup looking cakey… :S

  8. sesame says:

    Yeah, some of the sunscreen formulation makes a good pre-makeup base. I like my MVO one…I find my makeup looks better with it compared to when I use others.

  9. Mai says:

    Aarghhh the way y0u raved ab0ut the MV0 Face Screen makes me dr00l (is that even the right w0rd t0 use??) G0sh i seri0usly h0pe MV0 will quicky terminate their current shipping vend0r 0r threaten them @ gunp0int t0 reduce their charges!!! LOL.

  10. sesame says:

    Haha…yes, I really really love them. That’s why even when they didn’t want to ship to Singapore initially, I made my own arrangements to buy and then got someone ship over to me. I just knew from looking at the ingredients, that this is my HG daily sun protection product.

    But having said that, not all my readers like this product. It’s a mix. Some found it drying. All I can say is, in the realm of sunscreen with the most natural ingredients, this is my perfect product. ?

  11. Mai says:

    Well, im cr0ssing my fingers that when i finally get my hand 0n them, they will w0rk well with my skin. My biggest w0rry will be the c0l0r. H0pe the white cast w0nt b t00 0bvi0us f0r my t0ne.

  12. sesame says:

    The tinted version would be good if your skin is slightly tan. Otherwise, the whitecast is not so obvious for fair skin.

  13. Lucia says:

    I’m 33 and believe it or not I’ve only started using moisturizers this year (until now I refuse to use lotions on my body as I find them too greasy and I feel like they make me sweat more!). A few years ago I did try using Olay Total effects, mainly for anti-aging purposes, but my face and neck turned very red the day after i used it. I tried it again months later but the same thing happened. I’ve always had oily and sensitive skin until recently I noticed that part of my face is dry and only my T-zone area gets oily (very oily at that!) So, earlier this year I finally started using a moisturizer for combination skin which is hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, 100% fragrance free, 100% preservative and PABA-free and has an SPF of 15. Then, last night I stumbled upon your blog on sunscreens and it got me very worried! ? After reading your blog I realized that my daily moisturizer is not enough to protect my skin and keep it healthy! I live in the tropics so it gets quite hot here most of the time. I don’t go out everyday but I’m front of the PC all day. When I do go out in the morning or before 5PM in the afternoon, the sun is, almost always, scorching hot!

    Do you think my moisturizer is enough when I’m just home or indoors? It has SPF but does not offer protection against UVA rays as per the ingredients (its active ingredients are: phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid-4%, methylene bis-benzotriazolyl tetramethylbutylphenol – .05%). What sunscreen would you suggest I use? I wear makeup when I go out (a creme foundation or sometimes a BB cream with spf20 pa+++) over my moisturizer. Do I put on sunscreen before everything else or after the moisturizer? By the way, I’m Asian but I have medium-fair/pinkish skin. I turn red rather easily. ?

    Would really appreciate your help! ?

    I’ve been to the mall today and i’ve been eyeing Burt’s Bees Radiance spf15 day lotion which offers broad spectrum or the cheaper one, Neutrogena sensitive skin sunblock lotion SPF60. My friend has recommended Mary Kay’s Timewise Age fighting moisturizer sunscreen spf15. I would appreciate your thoughts in these products. I’d really like to started using a sunscreen immediately. Need your expertise! ? Thank you!

  14. Lucia says:

    I meant “start” using a sunscreen..

  15. sesame says:

    Burt’s Bees is not sufficient. You prefer natural sunblocks? Then those with zinc oxide would suit you. Which country are you staying because that would determine what you can get here. Otherwise, the La-Roche Posay or Vichy range have good products that are protective enough…just that they are chemical sunscreens.

  16. Lucia says:

    Thanks a lot for the quick reply. :)I’m in the Philippines. Unfortunately, I do not know if where have La-Roche Posay or Vichy available here. ? Any other suggestions? I’m also thinking of using a night cream for my fine lines and huge pores. What night creams or serums can you suggest for my skin? I’ve seen some at the mall yesterday, one from Burt’s Bees called Naturally ageless w/ pomegranate skin firming night creme, Skincare Cosmetics’ RETINOL vitamin enriched night cream, Derma e Age defying night creme and Philosophy’s Jar of Hope which is quite pricey.

    I really can’t wait to start on a new skin care regimen. Grateful for your help. ?

  17. Lucia says:

    Oh and yes, I do prefer natural sunblocks…but just about anything that works would be fine as long as it is not too harmful on my already (i think) damaged skin. Thanks again!

  18. Sav v says:

    That’s great information.. may i know where i can get your products?

    Thank you.

Leave a Reply