My inbox is bulging with sunscreen press releases, I have over twenty emails gathered in a folder with the subject line ‘HEATWAVE’ (in caps), and while soaring spring temperatures appear to have cooled off, the new SPF innovations keep on rolling in, as they should- sun protection is a year round health essential, not a fleeting beauty trend or seasonal product to be filed away with the summery fake tan and foot scrapers .
Most of us have had the non-negotiable importance of wearing SPF in the sun drilled into us. I grew up in New Zealand, where sun hats with back flaps, rash vests at the beach and thick, coloured sunblock in the playground was de rigueur, but given that my job mainly involves me living a mole-like existence in a windowless office, with the odd scurry to Pret/ the bus stop, when it’s very often grey and rainy, can I get away with relying on SPF in my makeup?
In a recent Instagram post dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams bigged up the soul-cheering effect of sunshine while underlining the importance of protecting skin with an SPF product between 30 and 50, and in it she was wearing a foundation/ BB/ CC cream hybrid with broad spectrum protection of SPF 30. Given that we’re most often warned to slather ourselves in a dedicated SPF before even looking at a makeup brush, turning to foundation for protection seems controversial, but as Dr Stefanie clearly states, it’s all in the application and level of SPF offered - in principal, the fact that a product is layered ‘foundation’ shouldn’t matter:
“If it says eg SPF30 on the package, then that means SPF30, no matter how you happen to label the base formulation. Whether it's a sunscreen, a moisturiser or a foundation, an SPF30 is SPF 30 is SPF 30, as it has been tested.”
In short, if a product is labelled with SPF, it will undergo the same rigorous testing as any sunscreen out there, and the fact that it’s packaged and presented as makeup as opposed to beachy smelling sun lotion in a blue and yellow bottle is by the by. The caveat comes with the application, as Dr Stefanie highlights:
“If makeup has an SPF of at least 30 and you apply the same amount as you would a sunscreen, then this would be satisfactory protection.
“In order to maintain the stated SPF, however, any product needs to be applied every two hours and after sweating, so this would naturally also still be the case with your makeup.”
Obviously you would probably top up your foundation or tinted moisturiser when it becomes patchy at the end of the day anyway, but piling it on every two hours sounds like a recipe for cake face, particularly if you apply an ample amount in the first place as directed. So is SPF-charged base and the like totally pointless if it doesn’t tally with how we go about our business, or indeed how much makeup the average woman actually wears?
Makeup with SPF should be thought of as your second line of defence against UV rays, because two forms of sun protection are better than one
The NHS advises us to apply at least a teaspoon to the face and neck area at a time (add another teaspoon if you’re covering arms and shoulders too) before going out into sun, and the cost and inch-thick effect of replicating this with your full coverage foundation makes it a no go for the vast majority of us. A lighter textured high SPF CC cream could work, but the chances of you reapplying if you nip into the park at lunchtime are likely low. That said, wearing makeup with added SPF isn’t a futile exercise, as Dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk explains:
“Makeup with SPF should be thought of as your second line of defence against UV rays once you’ve already applied sunscreen because two forms of sun protection are better than one.
“After cleansing, apply a broad spectrum (UVA/ UVB) sun protection moisturiser with SPF 30 or higher to your face, ears, neck and chest. If you’re prone to breakouts, pick a non-comedogenic formulation that won’t clog your pores. Follow with an SPF-containing foundation or powder, depending on how much coverage you’re looking for. If you’re dashing in and out of the office during the day, especially between the hours of 11am and 3pm, remember to top up regularly.”
If you’ve meticulously applied your makeup first thing, the idea of smudging all of your hard work in the name of boosting your SPF might not fly in reality, which is where an SPF ‘topcoat’ could come in. SPF powders that can be layered over makeup to enhance sun protection are a good stopgap as long you apply them thoroughly, but again, it’s the rigorous layering that is often lacking according to Dr Kluk:
“The challenge with powders is applying enough to get adequate protection. They are certainly convenient for top-ups, particularly for those who don’t like to wear heavy makeup, or don’t want to layer sunscreen over makeup, plus they may also help to soak up sweat that can cause your SPF to wear off, but they shouldn’t be relied upon on their own.”
Kluk stresses the importance of sticking to reputable brands that have been subject to thorough scientific testing and to view SPF in makeup as a welcome booster, not your ‘safety’ base layer. Where makeup can particularly come in handy is in the form of SPF balms and lipsticks, as we often neglect to protect our lips in the sun, but otherwise don’t fuss too much about the name of product, be it a sun lotion, a moisturiser, a tint, a BB or a foundation- as long as you’re applying (and reapplying) your generous teaspoon, and it’s somewhere hovering in the SPF 30-50 range, you’re good. Here’s the SPF makeup that’s impressed us for sheer performance alone (the SPF addition is a bonus).