If you’re Googling how to wear sunscreen over makeup, you’re already on the right track. But as for what type of sunscreen is best for reapplying throughout the day? The truth is, any sunscreen you already like will be the best sunscreen to wear over makeup for you — just make sure it has an SPF of at least 30. What’s more important is that you’re reapplying it at all, and using the right technique (more on that in a minute). If you’re still searching for that perfect sunscreen — whether to wear under makeup or over makeup or both — you’ll find nine great options to choose from, just ahead.
Before you start adding products to your cart, let’s go over some sunscreen basics. Every day, no matter the weather, you’ll want to apply a generous layer of sunscreen as the last step in your skin care routine. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirsch, who spoke to Bustle for this article, suggests applying half a teaspoon of sunscreen to your face and neck and giving it 10 to 15 minutes “to set into the even film needed for the stated protection. Not to work, that’s a myth, [sunscreen] starts working the second you put it on,” she explains.
If you’re wondering how often you should be reapplying sunscreen, both Dr. Ranella and board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jenny Liu agree that it depends on your circumstances, but suggest every few hours, typically. While Dr. Liu admits that every few hours is ideal, she tells Bustle that it “depends on what you're doing [...] Sweating and [being] outside may require more frequent [reapplication] than sitting inside,” she says. Dr. Ranella echoes this sentiment, saying, “Depends. If you are indoors and no direct sunlight, use judgement. Very different if you are sitting in front of a window driving or swimming or sweating outside. That’s cue for every two hours.”
Now, onto how to reapply sunscreen over makeup. Dr. Ranella suggests applying a cream or liquid sunscreen onto your face with a microfiber makeup sponge, and pressing it into your skin, rather than rubbing it in (she cites this video by digital creator and skin care expert, Hannah English, as a great tutorial). With this technique, “Pretty much any lotion can work,” Dr. Ranella says. Another option is a spray-on sunscreen; Dr. Ranella recommends Kate Somerville UncompliKated SPF Soft Focus Makeup Setting Spray in particular.
Dr. Liu agrees that applying sunscreen lotion with a makeup sponge is a great hack, though she also likes powder sunscreens and sunscreen compacts. Though “powder is easiest,” she admits, the jury’s still out as to whether or not powder sunscreens provide sufficient skin protection, so if you do choose to use a powder, make sure you’re being generous with the product.
Now that you’re informed on SPF 101, scroll on to shop nine of the best sunscreens to wear over (and under) makeup.
The Best Sunscreens To Wear Over Makeup, According To Dermatologists
1. Best Sunscreen Lotion With SPF 60
A lot of dermatologists, including Dr. Ranella, love La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios line of sunscreens. This specific formula has a high SPF of 60 and — being a fluid lotion, rather than a rich cream — feels lightweight and non-greasy on skin. It’s also great because it contains antioxidants for an added boost of skin protection, and it’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes. The matte-drying sunscreen is oil-free and fragrance-free, to boot. To apply on top of makeup, pat this into your skin with a dry makeup sponge like Dr. Ranella suggests.
2. Best Sunscreen Lotion With SPF 40
Dr. Ranella also recommends Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen. As its name suggests, it’s a great sunscreen for all skin types and tones because it’s barely perceptible on skin. The smooth formula glides on completely clear, and it feels lightweight and breathable, but still provides a nice base for your makeup to cling to. Like La Roche-Posay Anthelios, this is formulated with antioxidants, and is oil-free and scent-free as well. It can be applied on top of makeup with a makeup sponge, but since it’s so weightless, you could also pat it into your skin using a light touch with your fingers.
3. Best Sunscreen Spray
Kate Somerville UncompliKated SPF Soft Focus Makeup Setting Spray is another recommendation of Dr. Ranella’s. It’s pretty obvious why this spray is so well-suited to applying over makeup — you simply mist it over your face, et voila. This also has the added benefit of setting your makeup, so it can (and should!) be used as the last step in your makeup routine to lock everything in place. Not only does this spray have a high SPF of 50, but it’s also formulated with silicone powder to reduce shine and promote an overall softer, more matte-looking complexion.
4. Best Powder Sunscreen
Dr. Liu suggests using Colorescience’s sunscreen brushes for SPF touchups throughout the day. This is the Sheer Matte version, which is untinted and ideal for oily, acne-prone skin since it helps soak up excess oil, but it also comes in a tinted version for people with dry skin (Brush-On Shield SPF 50). Both are convenient options, but again, be sure not to skimp on the product since powder sunscreens tend not to be as effective as lotions and creams.
5. Best Mineral Sunscreen Stick
Another recommendation of Dr. Liu’s is this Cetaphil sunscreen stick. It’s water-resistant up to 80 minutes and formulated with an SPF of 50, courtesy of mineral blockers titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Note that most mineral sunscreens run the risk of leaving behind a white cast, though this should still be sheerer than most. To use on top of makeup, simply glide this over your face and rub it in gently to help it blend into your skin.
Here Are Some Other, Great Sunscreens To Consider:
6. Oars + Alps Go Stick Clear Sunscreen
Unlike the Cetaphil sunscreen stick, which is a mineral (or physical) sunscreen, the Oars + Alps Go Stick Clear Sunscreen uses chemical blockers to protect your skin from the sun. Both physical and chemical sunscreens are safe, effective choices — deciding which one to use simply comes down to personal preference (though note that chemical sunscreens don’t usually leave a white cast, so they tend to be better for darker skin). This SPF 35 sunscreen stick, which is water-resistant up to 80 minutes, goes on completely clear and is formulated with nourishing ingredients like jojoba oil and aloe to keep your skin moisturized. There’s also vitamin E in here to bolster the formula’s benefits and smooth, comfortable feel.
7. Make P:REM UV Defense Me Daily Sun Essence
It’s an undisputed fact that Asian sunscreens are superior to Western sunscreens — so let’s take a look at a few of the best. First up is this sun essence from MAKE P:REM — a severely underrated brand, in my opinion — which has the consistency of a smooth, thin gel. Since this is an essence, rather than a lotion or cream, it’s among the lightest-weight sunscreens you’ll find, hence why it works so nicely on top of makeup.
8. COSRX Aloe Soothing Cream
COSRX’s Aloe Soothing Sun Cream is something of a cult favorite among skin care obsessives. Thanks to its water-based formula that’s rich in glycerin and aloe, this feels more like a light, refreshing moisturizer than a thick sunscreen, but it still provides ample sun protection with an SPF of 50. This is an especially suitable choice for dry skin types since it’s so moisturizing, and it works nicely both under and over makeup.
9. ISNTREE Hyaluronic Acid Watery Sun Gel
Here’s one last amazing Asian sunscreen for your consideration. Another cult favorite, ISNTREE Hyaluronic Acid Watery Sun Gel is a refreshing, water-based gel with a truly weightless texture — it doesn’t leave behind a cast and it doesn’t feel greasy or heavy, but it does give your skin a dewy glow. Since this is so hydrating, it’s great for dry skin types, but because it’s so lightweight, it’d make a lovely choice for oily skin as well. The hydration comes courtesy of eight different types of hyaluronic acid and centella asiatica, while an SPF of 50 ensures your skin stays fully protected from the sun. And because it’s truly invisible, it can be reapplied easily over makeup without disrupting it.
Dr. Ranella Hirsch, M.D., F.A.A.D., board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of Atolla Skin Lab
Dr. Jenny Liu, M.D., F.A.A.D., board-certified dermatologist