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Does the SPF in cosmetics protect your skin?

If you’re someone who wears makeup and is conscious of protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays (as we all should be), then you’ve probably wondered whether the SPF in your makeup provides adequate protection.

To answer this, there are a few things that you need to consider:

What is the SPF?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is a measure of how well a sunscreen protects the skin from the ultraviolet rays of the sun.

If you’re looking for sunscreen at a pharmacy, you’ll likely see plenty of products labelled SPF30 and SPF50 . Conversely, many cosmetics contain SPF10 or SPF15.

According to Cancer Council, SPF50 filters out 98% of UVB radiation, while SPF30 bocks out 97.7% UVB.

The Cancer Council also recommends using sunscreen (with SPF30 or above) every day on days when the UV Index is forecast to be three or above. For many Australian cities, that’s about three quarters of the year.

Unless you are using makeup that has SPF30 or above, you will need to also use a high SPF sunscreen to adequately protect your skin from the suns rays.

How much are you applying to your face?

Many of us are simply not applying enough sunscreen. In fact, it’s recommended that adults use 35mls of sunscreen to cover their bodies, so a 100ml bottle of sunscreen should only provide enough product for around three applications. For the face, it’s recommended to use at least 5mls (approximately one teaspoon).

The same is true for our faces. A 2017 study found that on average, people missed 9.5% of their face when applying sunscreen. The skin around the eyes, the lips, and the tops of the ears are three of the places that most people miss with sunscreen.

In order to be fully protected from the sun, the entire face needs to be liberally covered with high-SPF sunscreen. Very few makeup products have sufficient SPF, and it’s very easy to miss areas of the face or to not apply enough product.

Another thing to consider is that makeup is often more expensive than sunscreen, so you may be tempted to use less in order to preserve the product.

How regularly are you applying it?

In order to be most effective, sunscreen should be applied at least 20 minutes before going outdoors. If you’re someone who rushes to get ready in the morning or applies your makeup on public transport, you run the risk of not being protected.

The real problem with relying on makeup for sun protection, however, is that it’s difficult to reapply. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours, or immediately after swimming, sport, sweating, and towel drying.

Often makeup can be time-consuming to apply, which makes it difficult to reapply throughout the day (and, as mentioned earlier, is likely to use up your products much faster). If you’re relying on multiple makeup products for sun protection, you will also need to carry these with you throughout the day.

Sunscreen, on the other hand, is easy to reapply and carry with you. Many sunscreens can be reapplied over makeup (with minor touch-ups if you desire), or you could select a clear-mist formula which you can spray over the face (being sure to avoid the eyes and choose the correct formula for your skin type).

Ultimately, this is a personal choice that you will need to make based on your lifestyle, taking into account your sun exposure and routine. However, given the issues presented with relying on makeup for sun protection (including convenience, cost, SPF and application), it makes sense to at least wear a layer of sunscreen underneath your makeup each day. If you’re concerned about the finish of the sunscreen, you may choose to wear a matte formula, or if you’re looking for more coverage, there are tinted formulations that add an additional layer.

Remember that the lips are especially prone to sunburn, and SPF products are easily worn away through things like eating and drinking. A lip balm with SPF is an easy way to protect your lips and can be easily thrown in your bag or kept at your desk for convenient application.

You may also be interested in the following:

Don’t be fooled by these 4 sunscreen myths

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Capital Chemist acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we operate, live and gather as employees, and recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.