Sunscreen should be an important part of your daily beauty regime. A good, broad spectrum sunscreen will help to protect your skin from burning (caused by UVB radiation) and decrease the risk of melanoma (caused by UVA radiation). When used diligently, sunscreen also has the ability to slow wrinkle development and skin sagging. This makes protecting yourself from the sun’s harmful radiation a beauty treatment in itself!
A lot of modern sunscreens (including all of the products listed here) are more than capable of working to protect your skin without interfering with the makeup you use by forming a base that is absorbed into the skin before makeup application takes place. This means there’s no excuse not to include it in your day-to-day routine.
Isn’t wearing makeup enough to protect your skin?
Makeup does create a physical barrier between sunlight and your skin. However, this doesn’t mean it offers any UV protection. The protection it offers will depend on the ingredients of the makeup, but it’s more than likely that this physical barrier provides very minimal, if any, protection.
What about SPF rated moisturizers and foundations?
Although an SPF rated moisturizer and/or foundation is better than nothing, specialists recommend the use of a facial sunscreen to provide adequate protection.
This is because moisturisers and foundations that have an SPF rating do not go through the same rigorous testing and do not have to meet the same standards. This means they are likely not as effective as sunscreens, don’t protect you for the same amount of time, and don’t cover as much of the dangerous UV spectrum as a quality broad spectrum sunscreen.
A common myth is that, when combined, the SPF ratings of these products accumulate. If you wear an SPF 15 moisturiser under your SPF 15 foundation, you are not getting SPF 30 protection. You’re getting SPF 15 at best. This is because the moisturizer and/or foundation are not at the same standard as sunscreens and likely aren’t applied as required to reach their maximum level of protection.
So now you know that a makeup compatible sunscreen is vital to protect you on a daily basis, which sunscreen should you choose?
After thorough research into requirements for sunscreen to be effective with makeup and ways to prevent sunscreen from interfering with cosmetics, SimplySunSafe recommends EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 as the best sunscreen for under makeup. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 sunscreens for makeup.
For a sunscreen to both provide effective protection from the sun and be able to form a base for makeup without interfering with the cosmetics you use, it must have a number of factors:
Broad spectrum protection
For a sunscreen to provide effective protection, it must be broad spectrum. Sunscreens that don’t offer this feature only protect you from UVB radiation which is responsible for sunburn. Protection from UVA is just as important. UVA radiation can increase the rate of photodermatitis, increase your risk of melanoma by affecting the DNA of deep skin cells, and contribute to wrinkle development – all without the visible signs of sunburn.
Leaving your skin vulnerable to UVA exposure is dangerous and for this reason, you should only be using broad spectrum products that protect you against as much of the nasty UV spectrum as possible.
Best SPF for Under Makeup
Although widespread and well-known, SPF isn’t a well-understood indicator of sunscreen effectiveness. You’ve probably bought sunscreen with a specific SPF only knowing that a higher number offers better protection. That’s true, but it’s not the whole story.
SPF indicates the amount of time you can spend exposed to the sun before you begin to burn. But this time varies from person to person because it’s based on how photosensitive your skin is naturally. So if you take 1 minute to burn without sunscreen, an SPF 15 sunscreen will stop you from burning for 15 minutes. If you take 10 minutes to burn naturally, the same sunscreen will offer 150 minutes of protection. Unless you know exactly how long you take to burn, this doesn’t provide you with much information.
This definition can also give people the wrong idea about how long sunscreen works after application. If you’re resilient to the sun (20 minutes to burn naturally) and have an SPF 50 sunscreen, you’d go away thinking you won’t burn for 1000 minutes (over 16 hours). But in reality, sunscreens usually last for no more than 2 hours, regardless of the SPF. This is why sunscreen packaging emphasises the importance of reapplication, wearing uv-protecting clothing, and seeking shade.
There are a few other problems with SPF:
- SPF only relates to UVB radiation. That’s why you should also be looking for key active ingredients (more on this below) to ensure you get adequate UVA protection.
- The above SPF time calculation is even less accurate when you consider that sunlight intensity and sunscreen application thickness are extra variables. This makes it almost impossible to calculate accurately and means it provides you with little information.
- The numbering system leads people to think an SPF 30 sunscreen offers twice the protection of an SPF 15 sunscreen and this simply isn’t true.
To get a clearer picture of what an SPF rating means, let’s just look at the protection it offers from UVB radiation.
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
This information clears things up. We can see that a higher SPF is indeed better. We can also see that once you get to SPF 30, there’s not much radiation left to block, especially considering no sunscreen can block 100%. This is why the FDA has imposed a 50+ cap on SPF ratings. Before the cap SPF ratings were getting ridiculous and those tricky marketers weren’t worried that people didn’t understand that the extra protection was negligible.
So which SPF should you choose and use? Most dermatologists recommend anything with SPF 30 or higher. This provides all the protection you’ll need for hours in the sun when reapplying frequently. So don’t feel obligated to spend extra money on a higher SPF product as it’s not helping that much more than a standard SPF 30 sunscreen.
Physical not chemical
Physical sunscreens use active ingredients to reflect sunlight. Chemical sunscreens use active ingredients to absorb sunlight before it gets to your skin.
SimplySunSafe recommends physical sunscreens for use under makeup as they:
- stop more visible light and UV radiation from reaching the skin
- last longer on the skin (unless liquid interference occurs e.g. sweat, water)
- are less likely to cause irritation
- start to work immediately
- have a longer shelf life
On top of this, chemical sunscreens often contain ingredients thought to be endocrine disruptors (things that mess with with your hormones). One ingredient to avoid altogether is oxybenzone.
Physical sunscreens will usually be labeled as ‘physical’. If you can’t find a ‘physical’ or ‘mineral’ label, look for high levels zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide (the two most common physical sunscreen active ingredients).
Zinc oxide preferable to titanium dioxide
Studies show that zinc oxide is a more effective active ingredient than titanium dioxide in physical sunscreens. This is because zinc oxide provides protection against more of the damaging UVA spectrum.
If you are prone to breakouts, physical sunscreens with zinc oxide are less likely to cause breakouts than chemical sunscreens and physical sunscreens with titanium dioxide.
Suitable for the face and daily use
Sunscreens for under makeup will be used almost daily on the face. For this reason all of the products featured here are gentle enough to be used on sensitive face skin everyday.
I have also included products labeled as hypoallergenic, non comedogenic, non-greasy and light. These features are important if you’re particularly susceptible to breakouts as they reduce the chances of this occurring.
Matte finish and absorbs well (doesn’t leave a white cast)
Your chosen product will be worn daily on the the most visible area of your body. The products recommended here were chosen because they have a matte finish. When applied properly and absorbed completely, they won’t whiten the skin, leave a cast or appear as greasy. You won’t have to worry about adjusting your existing makeup and can just use it as a base as soon as it arrives.
Although the product you choose will have specific instructions, a good rule of thumb is to apply the sunscreen about 20 minutes before makeup is applied to ensure it is effectively absorbed before you continue with your beauty routine.
Best Sunscreen for Under Makeup Comparison
|EltaMD UV Clear||CōTZ Face Natural Skin Tone||La Roche-Posay Anthelios||Suntegrity|
|MDSolar Sciences Mineral Crème|
|Active Ingredient||Zinc Oxide (9%)||Titanium Dioxide (8%) & Zinc Oxide (3.8%)||Titanium Dioxide (11%)||Zinc Oxide (20%)||Zinc Oxide (17%) & Titanium Dioxide (1.5%)|
5 Best Sunscreens for Under Makeup
After thorough research that combined discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, and participating in cosmetics forums SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best sunscreens for makeup. All of these sunscreens provide broad spectrum, physical protection with SPF 30 or more, and are suitable for daily use and compatible with makeup products.
EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 is the best sunscreen for under makeup because it convincingly ticks all of the required boxes. It’s a lightweight, broad spectrum, physical sunscreen that uses zinc oxide as its main active ingredient. Specifically formulated for sensitive skin (those prone to acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation), EltaMD UV Clear is gentle enough for everyday use, yet strong enough to offer the protection necessary for these skin types.
EltaMD UV Clear is oil, paraben, and fragrance free and the zinc oxide used is transparent. This means it offers all of the required protection while maintaining a matte finish that’s perfect for use as a base for other cosmetics. It contains hyaluronic acid to moisturize the skin, has a light texture that blends smoothly into the skin, and leaves no white cast when applied properly.
One of the most popular sunscreens on the market, EltaMD UV Clear is widely recommended by dermatologists and easily takes the number one spot on this list!
Recent reviews of this product have complained about a change in the bottle’s pump nozzle shape which is affecting the effectiveness of the dispenser. This is a minor inconvenience compared to the quality of the product and should hopefully be fixed soon.
- High SPF
- Light texture
- No white cast
- Low levels of active ingredient
CōTZ Face Natural Skin Tone SPF 40 is a physical sunscreen that takes advantage of both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to offer broad spectrum protection. This is one of the more cosmetically designed sunscreens on this list, which makes it very suitable for use under makeup.
CōTZ Face Natural Skin Tone has a silky texture that absorbs quickly and goes on smoothly during application. When properly applied you end up with a matte finish that means this sunscreen works well as a daily makeup primer.
This product is free of preservatives, oils, and chemical sunscreens. If you check out the ingredients list, you’ll see it’s quite short. This is a great feature of this product as a lack of unnecessary chemicals often added to other sunscreens makes it gentle enough for everyday use and suitable for more sensitive skin types.
A point of difference for CōTZ Face Natural Skin Tone is that it’s lightly-tinted. This makes the sunscreen less noticeable when used under makeup. The ‘natural skin tone’ referred to in the product’s title is any skin tone from a reasonable level of tan through to darker skin types. If you use a light foundation (e.g. ivory or porcelain) you should consider CōTZ Face Lighter Skin Tone SPF 40. It’s an identical product, just without the tint.
There are two slight drawbacks to this product. The first is that it could have a higher concentration of zinc oxide. This would make it more effective against UVA radiation which would ultimately make it a better product to prevent sun-induced signs of aging. The second is that is uses ‘micronized’ active ingredients. This is a fancy way of saying it contains small particles. Although not conclusive, there is some evidence to suggest these products are harmful to the environment, something you may want to consider before purchasing.
- Tinted to match skin tone
- Light texture
- Matte finish
- Low levels of active ingredient
La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral Tinted Ultra-Light Sunscreen is a physical sunscreen that provides broad spectrum protection using titanium dioxide. Similar to CōTZ Face Natural Skin Tone, La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 was designed with cosmetics in mind. It doesn’t compromise on its role as a sunscreen, yet has an array of features that make it perfect for use with makeup.
La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 is a paraben and fragrance free formulation tested on sensitive skin and suitable for daily use. It has a silky smooth texture that makes it easy to apply and absorbs well, leaving no visible signs of application, greasy shine, or sticky texture. This product has a light tint that allows it to blend more effectively with tanned and darker skin tones, making it less noticeable under makeup. Don’t be put off by the look of the liquid out of the bottle, when applied properly and absorbed completely it won’t affect the color of your other cosmetics and will blend seamlessly.
This product is on the more expensive side for a sunscreen. However, if you read through customer feedback, you begin to understand that the pricing is justified based on the fantastic results it provides.
If you have a fairer complexion, the light tint in this product may interfere with your lighter makeup. Luckily, La Roche-Posay make a version without the tint that has the same amazing features.
Why isn’t La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 higher on the list?
La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 ranks so highly on this list because of its amazing features and the fact that it is so highly recommended by both dermatologists and customers.
However, we can’t just ignore the fact that studies show zinc oxide is more effective across a greater proportion of the UVA spectrum than titanium dioxide. If this product had some zinc oxide it may well have come in at number one. It still warrants a mention in this list and your consideration, but it can’t go any higher because of this flaw.
- Lightly tinted
- High SPF
- Great texture and finish
- No zinc oxide
Suntegrity 5-in-1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen is a physical, broad spectrum sunscreen that uses zinc oxide as its active ingredient. This is the most ‘natural’ and environmentally-friendly product featured in this list and is the only product listed that is suitable for vegans. The ingredient list reads like a healthfood store shopping list (organic aloe vera, coconut oil extract, organic jojoba seed oil, organic sunflower seed oil, and organic green tea extract) and it is cruelty free as certified by PETA and Leaping Bunny.
The natural ingredients make it great for people with sensitive skin and conditions like rosacea, eczema, and dermatitis. It doesn’t itch, tingle, or burn and maintains a light feel. Plus, at 20% zinc oxide, this product arguably offers the most protection against the damaging and age-inducing UVA end of the radiation spectrum on this list.
The five (in one) things claimed by Suntegrity are that it treats, hydrates, protects, primes, and covers the skin. It is ‘supercharged’ with antioxidants that soothe and calm the skin, works effectively as a moisturizer, and primes well. However, I don’t think it does enough to replace a foundation. Luckily, it still works as a great base and using your other cosmetics over the top will be fine.
Suntegrity 5-in-1 comes in four tints – fair, light, golden light, and medium. This allows customers to tailor their purchase to their skin tone which helps eliminate guess work and prevents you from buying a product that won’t fit into your routine immediately. Suntegrity provides a celebrity-based guide to ensure you know what you’re getting:
This is by far the most expensive product featured here. This is because of the natural ingredients and cruelty-free status. If these features are important/necessary for you, this is the best sunscreen for makeup for you. If not, the price point might understandably be a bit too high.
- 4 tint options
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Perfect for use with cosmetics
MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen is a physical sunscreen that uses a combination of zinc oxide (17%) and titanium dioxide (1.5%) to provide broad spectrum protection to its users. Featuring the maximum marketable SPF rating of 50, MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème won’t disappoint in terms of shielding you from the UV spectrum.
This product has a silky texture that goes on smoothly and absorbs quickly. It feels light on the skin and has a matte finish that doesn’t leave a white cast. This makes it great to wear under makeup without interference.
MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème is paraben, oil, and fragrance free, hypoallergenic and is non-comedogenic (less likely to cause breakouts). This makes it gentle enough to use everyday as part of your beauty routine and particularly appropriate for people with acne-prone skin and/or allergies.
This is a non-tinted version designed for lighter skin tones. If you have tan skin or a darker complexion, check out the tinted version of this product. The only key difference is that the tinted version is SPF 30 instead of 50. However, if this sunscreen works for you, that won’t make a noticeable difference for your normal, everyday use.
MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème is the last recommended product as it does have some mixed reviews that lead me to believe it might not work well for everyone. Plus, it’s a little pricey considering the features and the quality of the other sunscreens featured here. However, they also have a 4oz version that’s much better value for money.
- High concentration of active ingredients
- Silky texture
- Tinted and non-tinted versions
- A little pricey
I hope this summary of the best sunscreens for under makeup has helped you make a choice on which sunscreen to buy and furthered your understanding of the important features of a quality sunscreen.
SimplySunSafe recommends EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 for use under makeup, however, all 5 will provide the required protection without interfering with the cosmetics you use over the top. It’s a good idea to test a few of these products and choose a keeper based on your personal preferences so you find the perfect product for your own skin.
If you already use a great product for under makeup and it’s not on the list, please let me know in the comments and I’ll take a look and consider adding it to this guide.