How To Layer Sunscreen & Makeup The Right Way


If you've heard it once, you've heard it a zillion times: Sunscreen is important. It protects you from skin cancer, helps prevent wrinkles, wards off hyper-pigmentation — you know the spiel. But when it comes to layering sunscreen and makeup, things can get kind of, well, confusing. After all, if our makeup already has SPF in it, do we really need to glob sunscreen, too? In a word: yes.

According to Dr. Jessie Cheung of DuPage Dermatology, layering on products the right way is critical to making sure your skin is getting the protection it needs. Apparently, one SPF-filled product (that isn't actually sunscreen) simply isn't going to cut it. "Makeup should always go last, so that you don't rub the pigments away," she says. Beyond that, though, the layering process gets a littttle complicated. Especially when you're at the beach, and need to reapply mid-day.

Most of us have put together the perfect serum/moisturizer/primer/foundation routine that makes our skin look #flawless when we leave the house every morning, and the thought of having to add goopy, unappealing sunscreen to the lineup feels rather unappealing. Thankfully, there are plenty of cosmetic sunscreen brands and products that won't make the extra step feel as unappealing.

Here's what Dr. Cheung wants you to know about properly layering sunscreen under your makeup and five products that will make you feel utterly luxurious as you do it.

1. You Actually Do Need Sunscreen Under Your Makeup

Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector SPF 42, $33, Macys

Just because your foundation touts SPF 30 coverage, it doesn't mean that it can do the job of actual sunscreen — the real thing always, always trumps makeup. "Most people don't apply makeup thick enough to get the printed SPF rating," says Dr. Cheung. "And the SPF ingredients in makeup may not be the best at protecting you from the sun — they are often made of chemical blockers that degrade with sun exposure."

2. You Don't Need To Go Crazy With Layering

Ultra Facial Moisturizer SPF 30, $21, Kiehls

If it feels like wearing moisturizer with SPF and sunscreen is a bit of an overkill, that's because it is. Realistically, you won't ever really need both at once, as long as you give yourself enough coverage with a single product. "Sunscreen will trump the moisturizer with SPF, which is lighter and thinner," says Dr. Cheung. "And you may not need a moisturizer with SPF, since your sunscreen will probably act as moisturizer anyway." Kiehl's facial sunscreen offers strong coverage and extra hydration, so is a great two-for-one option.

3. You Should Always Layer An Antioxidant Under Sunscreen

Glossier Vitamin C Super Glow Serum, $28, Glossier

Not so fast — just because you don't need moisturizer with SPF and sunscreen together doesn't mean your morning skincare routine is going to be getting any shorter. "What's more important [than layering moisturizer] is layering an antioxidant underneath your SPF," says Dr. Cheung. Opt for something hydrating, like a Vitamin C serum, that will soak into your skin under the sunscreen.

4. You Don't Actually Need Makeup With SPF

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Defense SPF 30, $34, Dermstore

Don't worry about kicking your favorite BB cream to the curb just because it doesn't have SPF in it — as long as you use another product to protect yourself, you'll be all good. "You don't have to use a makeup with SPF if you'll be applying a separate SPF product," says Dr. Cheung.

5. Choose The Right Kind Of Sunscreen To Use With Makeup

Sunforgettable Brush On Sunscreen SPF 50, $64, Colorscience

Obviously, rubbing greasy sunscreen over your perfectly-done face is going to leave you with droopy raccoon eyes and future zits. "You'll hear dermatologists telling you to reapply your sunscreen if you're sweating or at the beach," says Dr. Cheung. "But the trick is to pack the spray SPF formulations, or the powder sunscreens, so you don't mess up your makeup!"