Is Your Moisturizer With SPF Giving Enough Sun Protection?

Expert Advice

via Giphy

If your algorithm sends you on a journey into the world of skincare and SPF, there’s a good chance you’ve been exposed to an ongoing debate about whether an SPF moisturizer offers enough protection from the sun. In a nutshell, one side of the debate says that there’s zero chance it’s enough, while the other side argues that SPF products are, by their very nature, formulated effectively into moisturizers already. Both sides are compelling, TBH.

Because we’re skin-obsessed – and because we’re dedicated to giving you expert-backed answers to pressing conundrums – we’re jumping straight into the deep end to find the answer.

SPF Moisturizers & Sun Protection

OK, so what is it? Does your moisturizer SPF cut it when it comes to sun protection? Or are you unknowingly exposing yourself to the sun’s potent and damaging UV rays even when trying to do the right thing? You might not be happy with the answer because it’s not so black and white.

It all comes down to how much is being applied,” says Dr. Marisa Garshick of MDCS Dermatology. “When it comes to adequate sun protection, it’s important to use the equivalent of two finger lengths for the face, which is often more than what people use [when applying] moisturizer.

The SPF must also be 30 or greater, adds Dr. Debra Jaliman, a board-certified dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist, $16. She notes that many SPF moisturizers fall under this range, typically offering between 10 and 20 SPF.

Does SPF Moisturizer Really Protect Your Skin?

Your SPF moisturizer offers enough sun protection only when all the follow criteria are met:

It’s SPF 30 or higher.
You’re following the quantity rule of “two fingers worth” (or a raspberry-sized amount for your face).
You’re applying the sunscreen to all areas of your face, neck, and ears
You’re re-applying the appropriate amount every two to four hours versus just applying a thin second layer.

If your moisturizer with SPF is all you have – or the only way you will apply sun protection in the morning – then it is better than nothing,” notes Dr. Garshick.Regardless, it is important to apply enough of it to ensure adequate SPF protection.

P.S. All the above remains true whether you’re using a chemical or physical SPF formulation. Both have their pros and cons, and it’s ultimately a matter of what gets you to slather every day.

Why Sunscreen Is So Important

Not wearing sunscreen every day is the equivalent of throwing all your anti-aging goodies into the bin. Or like buying a house but skipping on the insurance. Skipping SPF also puts your literal health at risk, as skin cancer is the most common cancer in the entire world.

Some people only wear their sunscreen when they go to the beach, but we know that sun damage is cumulative. Five minutes [of sun exposure] every day will cause sun damage and can also cause skin cancer,” Dr. Jaliman says. “If you have sun damage, you will prematurely age your skin, which will include fine lines, deeper wrinkles, broken blood vessels, dark discoloration, white uneven color on the skin, and rough spots.

via Giphy

Challenge yourself to slather a broad-spectrum SPF 30+ every single day, no matter the weather or the destination (even if it’s curled up on your couch binging the latest and greatest Netflix series). And to ensure you’re getting adequate coverage – whether it’s a silky moisturizer formula or a traditional sunscreen – make sure you’re applying enough every time. The good news is that tons of new, elegant sunscreen formulations exist that nourish your skin, add glowiness, and that can actually make your makeup look better.

The Bottom Line: Unless your moisturizer is SPF 30 and you’re applying more than four times what you would usually use with a traditional moisturizer, chances are your SPF moisturizer isn’t cutting it. If you already own an SPF moisturizer, keep this as your option for when you’re at home and apply more than you usually would, and then invest in a stand-alone sunscreen that you can wear for any kind of outdoor activity (yes, driving to the office or grocery store counts).

BTW, these are our fave sunscreens that wear flawlessly under makeupAnd if you have oily skin, check out these 11 game-changing sunscreens for oily skin.

Disclaimer: Every product we review has been independently selected and tested without bias by our editorial team. Although some brands allow affiliate links, we never take payment to review products, so we may earn a commission if you purchase a product by clicking on one of our links.