Makeup with SPF: Are you protected or not?

Italian beachMy vacay spot @ Lido de Jesolo, Italy


A fortnight ago on a sunny Italian beach, what caught my fancy was a little toddler slathering sunscreen all over his body and promptly handing over the bottle to his mother to apply it to his back where his little hands couldn’t reach.

I suddenly wanted to congratulate the mother on having developed such a healthy habit in her kid. There is nothing more exciting to me as a specialist than people bingeing on sunscreen because it is one stone that kills so many birds in skincare, from signs of aging and pigmentation to all mighty skin cancers – Sunscreen is our knight in creamy armor. 

As we are realizing the importance of sunscreen in ever increasing measures the industry too is not leaving any opportunities unexplored. From ‘SPF clothes’ to nail paint with SPF, no attempt has been left unmade to jump on the sunscreen bandwagon.

What interests me the most as a doctor and a hearty consumer, are makeup products, especially foundations / BB cream, with SPF. While I love a little shot of SPF in my skin products, is it really a replacement for sunscreen or does it just give a false sense of security?



I would totally understand the need of a foundation with SPF, most of the sunscreens are miserably unwearable under makeup. Chalky, too shiny, too matte or just too heavy.

It does seem smarter to fill two needs with one deed…… until it’s not!

Okay, let us get to some basics. The 'correct' amount of sunscreen that is needed to be applied to ensure the level of protection offered on the label is 2.2mg/ cm2 of your body.

 3ml Sensitive Balancing Sun Protection3ml is quite a bit


That roughly equals 3 ml for the face! That means the $50 foundation you splurged on is going to last you a grand total of 10 days. Even if you are filthy rich and can afford that, let us accept that no one can possibly put 3 ml of foundation or even BB cream (we are talking about more than 5 times you normally use ) without looking like a mud cake!


So, if you put on your average 0.5 ml of makeup with SPF 30, all you get is SPF 5, and that means sun protection for less than half an hour for the most exposed part of your body!

When it comes to regular sunscreen, reapplication once every 2-3 hours is just as important as the primary application.

But if you necessarily have to apply tinted sunscreen/foundation with SPF and don’t stick to the recommended amount, reapplications must be done every half an hour. There goes the time you were supposed to ‘enjoy’ in the sun.

The whole point is – you ‘apply’ makeup, but you ‘slather’ sunscreen!

Additionally, when you apply thicker /thinner layer or dab some extra tint to conceal those unflattering spots it's pretty likely that you will end up having uneven skin tone due to a variable amount of sun-rays that get to come in contact with your skin.



The foundations with sunscreen contain anywhere from SPF 5 to SPF 30 but they seldom mention anything about UVA protection (UVA is primarily responsible for pigmentation and wrinkles).

Some do claim to be broad spectrum just because they have zinc oxide, but most have zinc in nominal amount and in an inactivated form.

In reality, it's extremely difficult to incorporate physical sunscreen components like zinc or titanium in effective amounts in makeup without making you look like the nun from ‘The Conjuring’ in photos.


Yes, but very little.

If you ask “Would make up with SPF increase sun protection if you apply that on top of sunscreen?” I would perhaps give you a grudging nod.

But the SPF (or sun protection in general), unlike winter protection doesn’t add up, just because you pile it on.

Layering an SPF 10 foundation over SPF 40 sunscreen won’t give you SPF 50, it would still stay SPF 40, or at best, around SPF 42, if your foundation has a physical sunscreen like zinc or titanium.

BUT I must add that a good compact foundation powder with or without SPF does give you a thin additional layer of protection due to the pigmented talc particles that filter the sun-rays to some extent while also preventing your sunscreen from running down.

Also if you have a little fidget in you and you keep touching your face, layering of sunscreen would ensure a safety net.



Makeup is never a replacement or alternative for a broad spectrum sunscreen.

If you have a mini errand to run or if your office is 15 mins from home, probably you can make do with makeup containing sunscreen. But if you have a sunny date on the beach or a garden picnic planned, use a lightweight sunscreen with a dry finish (so that it is easy to lather on). Let the sunscreen sink in the skin for a couple of minutes and then use a powder foundation.

Use a spray sunscreen for reapplication and you have a sun-ready and flawless skin, in the sun and after it!

If you are total sun nerd like me, I will talk about some ways you can amp up the sun protection and minimize sun damage on your skin with minimum extra efforts in my next Evening Paper post.


To a glorious summer year-round Glow Fam,

Dr. Rashmi Singh


  • Juliana o.

    Enjoyed the post Dr Rashmi. May I know what would you recommendation be for sunscreen’s filter? There’s physical and chemical, would you recommend one over the other and why?

  • April C.

    Hi Dr. Rashmi, thank you for these informational post. I have been neglecting sunscreen application all this while ever since I bought a foundation with SPF. The other day I felt sunburnt after walking down the street with super scorching hot sun and now I know why. OMG I feel like I have sinned for these few months and am scrambling to get my hands on a sunscreen now! If you’re able to let us know more about how we should choose sunscreen, that’ll be really helpful. I had so much fun reading your article although I barely read online, thank you for this!

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