Is the SPF in my foundation enough to protect my face from sun damage?

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Dermatologists, skin care specialists and beauty editors alike have been preaching the importance of effective sunscreen for decades, and with two in three Australians being diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they’re 70, sun protection has never been more crucial for our long-term health.  

Although most of us think we have SPF down pat, in a country where the ozone layer is dangerously thin (thanks, global warming) we need to be extremely cautious of the sun’s damaging rays every single day

A seemingly easy way to get some sun protection into your routine is through a foundation with SPF…. Or is it? 

Here, we speak to Lucy Kuper, a Dermal Specialist and Biologi’s Managing Director, to get the insider intel on just how useful foundation really is for sun protection…

How much foundation would you have to put on for the SPF in the product to be effective?

“The short answer is a lot! Roughly you would need to use about seven times the thickness you would normally use for liquid foundations, and 14 times the amount if it’s a powder foundation,” says Lucy. 

As most people typically wear one pump of foundation, we decided to test out seven pumps, to see how it would actually look if we were to wear the amount needed to make it an effective sun protectant.

Image: The amount of foundation bh’s Jess would usually use vs the amount needed for sun protection

“I prefer a more natural foundation look (as seen in the before photo), so the thick, mask-like finish the seven pumps of foundation gave me was not something I’d want to wear every day (… or ever),” says bh’s Jess. “I’m not sure if the photo even does it justice, but it felt about as heavy as wearing a clay mask, while looking about as subtle as a sledgehammer.”

Does wearing sunscreen under your foundation clog your pores?

A major reason people steer clear of sunscreens is that they’re scared they’ll cause breakouts and clog their pores. 

“Unfortunately, it’s true that sunscreen can clog your pores, so look for ones that say ‘non-comedogenic,” says Lucy.

Non-comedogenic is basically a fancy way of saying the formulation typically won’t cause comedones (aka pore blockages).

bh loves: La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Ultra Light SPF50+, Avène Sunscreen Spray SPF 50+, Dermalogica MediBac Clearing Oil Free Matte SPF30.  

So is wearing a foundation with SPF 30+ better than wearing no SPF at all?

For those of you thinking, “well, foundation with SPF is better than no SPF”, Lucy says you’re right – but with one big caveat. 

“The key thing to remember is that SPF needs to be reapplied throughout the day and most people don’t do that with foundation! Thankfully, it does provide a better level of protection than nothing at all”. 

Is the SPF in moisturiser as effective as regular sunscreen?

Now we’ve covered foundations, what about other SPF hybrids?

Turns out SPF moisturisers are lacking in protection too. “Even if it is at the same SPF level, it is essentially diluted with the other ingredients in the moisturiser,” says Lucy. So all in all, it’s better to opt for a dedicated sunscreen.

“A regular sunscreen with a high SPF is going to be the best protection compared to a moisturiser or foundation version,” says Lucy. “And remember that sun protection should also go beyond that – at the risk of sounding like a school teacher, the best protection is when you slip, slop, slap and wrap!”

“So, slip on some clothes, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat and wrap on some sunglasses. I think the slogan from the Cancer Council has progressed even further these days so it is important to not forget the basics in sun protection”. 

What about tinted sunscreens?

Sadly, not a loophole either. It’s the same story – mixing anything with your sunscreen dilutes the amount of protection the product gives. Lucy says, “They do work, however similar to moisturisers or foundation, it is a diluted sunscreen in which you might not get as potent coverage”.

If the SPF in your foundation isn’t high enough to provide protection, why is it allowed to be included as though it is?

Australia is known to be very strict with its SPF guidelines, so it’s strange that foundations seem to be exempt from these regulations. Lucy says “Unfortunately in Australia, the skincare and cosmetics industry is largely unregulated so that’s why it’s important to be very diligent and know what you’re buying and the effects it can have. When it comes to SPF in products, many brands import their products from overseas where there are different rules and standards”.

What are some of your favourite sunscreens?

Clearly, Lucy knows a tonne about sun protection, so who could be more qualified to choose our next favourite SPF? “Simple as That (simpleasthat.com.au, $29.95) sell a great 100 per cent natural sunscreen and Ultra Violette’s SPF 30 Mattifying Mineral Sunscreen (ultraviolette.com.au, $42) is great too!”

Are you using enough sunscreen?

Image credit: @kimkardashian

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Comments 60

  1. Well, I was deficient in many things during my second pregnancy, the baby sucked it from me so I had to do a blood test every other week.
    It does work, I was on the highest dosage but I recommend taking the liquid one called Maltofer as the tablets causes constipation.
    I was less tired and not foggy.

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