Sorry, But SPF-Infused Makeup Doesn't Work—Here's What to Do Instead



I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but there's something we need to talk about. I know it seems convenient to use makeup-skincare hybrids that provide both sun protection and complexion-enhancing benefits, but these kinds SPF-infused products may not be all they're cracked up to be.

According to Azadeh Shirazi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, makeup with SPF in it should be helpful, but it doesn't provide much protection in reality. "You need about seven times the amount of traditional sunscreen when you are counting your makeup as sun protection," she says. "This means you would have to apply a ton of makeup to get the appropriate amount for [proper] sun protection. In reality, people are not going to apply anywhere close to that much foundation. It’s important to keep in mind that the FDA also has a very strict criteria when it comes to what represents sunscreen. Although makeup may be formulated with sun protective ingredients, it doesn't actually qualify as sunscreen unless it meets FDA standards to back up that claim."

Snehal Amin, co-founder and surgical director of MDCS Dermatology, adds that you'll also need something with a stronger SPF. "You also need to use an SPF 30 or greater with broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection to get the anti-aging benefits and skin cancer protection. Another thing to consider is that SPFs commonly used in makeup are chemical sunscreens, such as oxybenzones, which have been shown to be absorbed in the bloodstream. The long-term effects are not known. Chemical sunscreens also need to be applied 20 minutes before exposure to UV rays," he shares.

So what can you do instead? Well, the answer is a bit tricky. You can start by trying an SPF face mist, but there are still a few things to keep in mind. "I find SPF mists most helpful for hard to reach places. SPF mists will protect your skin from damaging UV rays, but only if you apply enough. If you spray an SPF 40 for two to three seconds, you only end up with an SPF 10 protection. Although spray sunscreens are easy to apply, it’s hard to know if you're using an adequate amount to truly protect your skin," says Shirazi. As long as you're aware of the pitfalls, it can still be helpful to use an SPF mist for a little extra protection—especially if you'd like to preserve your makeup. Keep scrolling for a few great SPF face mist options to wear over your day's look and a couple other derm-recommended alternatives.

"This is a sheer nourishing formula with aloe extract, green tea leaf, hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, E, and bisabolol to smooth and hydrate the skin while protecting and defending against UV damage."—Shirazi

"Neutrogena's Invisible Daily Defense is a fast-absorbing and fast-drying formula with antioxidants to help repair and protect the skin from UV and environmental damage. Use caution as it can irritate the eyelid skin when sprayed onto the face."

"This is a great non-sticky light texture, broad spectrum SPF 50 with Xylitol to help maintain skin hydration."

Hydropeptide's formula can be used on both your face and body. It contains ultra-nourishing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and aloe vera to calm any redness and provide extra moisture.

If a makeup setting spray with SPF is more your speed, try Honest Beauty's Save Face spray. Although a setting spray with sun protection can be appealing in some ways, keep in mind that you'll have to use a lot of it and reapply often if you'll be spending time outdoors.

Public Goods' sunscreen mist is free of homosalate, a common ingredient used in sunscreens that can be harmful to the environment. It also contains avocado oil and aloe to keep skin extra hydrated.

This glow mist from Naked Sundays features SPF 50, botanical extracts, hyaluronic acid, and other antioxidants to boost your complexion, set makeup, and provide extra sun protection.  

Habit's cult-loved facial sunscreen mist has cucumber in it for a refreshing daily spritz of SPF 38. Now, keep in mind, SPF 38 isn't very high on its own, and like Shirazi says, you'll need to reapply this often if out in the sun. But it's still a great option for light UV protection if you'll be indoors most of the day.

This lightly citrus-scented option from Pacific acts as an SPF 45, hydrating facial mist, and makeup setting spray in one. It has vitamin C to brighten and other sea minerals to give the skin an extra boost.

Sun Bum's SPF 45 mist also contains witch hazel to soothe sensitive skin and relieve minor irritations.  



Not only is this a makeup setting spray with SPF, but it also exfoliates and improves the appearance of large pores. It also has a matte finish and can be reapplied if you'd like a bit of extra oil control.

Don't worry—everyone's favorite affordable French skincare brand makes an SPF mist, too. This mist is an SPF 60 and is great for days you'll need a bit of extra protection.

Other Derm-Approved Sunscreens to Wear Over Makeup

"I find SPF powders to be better and safer than facial mists for easy application over makeup," Shirazi says. So if you're really not into the idea of a mist, you can opt for an SPF powder like Colorescience's Sunforgettable Sunscreen Brush. This can at least be lightly dusted over your makeup without upending the look.

Another great option from Supergoop! is the brand's Setting 100% Mineral Powder Sunscreen. It acts as both a setting powder and shield against harmful UV rays.

I love that this SPF option from Physicians Formula is talc-free and provides an airbrush finish to you makeup. It also helps reduce the appearance of pores and fine lines.