When to Apply Sunscreen: Before or After Moisturizer?








by: J Benge

JAN 11, 2023


For some of our skinspan heroes, sunscreen application is as routine as brushing our teeth, but not all of us have developed such diligence in our healthy habits quite yet. Indeed, the rest of us tend to treat sunscreen application as a more optional step in our daily skin care regimen. If you fall into the latter bucket, it’s likely because regular use of sunscreen can be disruptive to daily life, especially given the recommendation to reapply every couple of hours.

Not to mention the added confusion of when to apply sunscreen - before or after moisturizer and makeup? Given the irrefutable data on the detrimental effects of sun damaged skin, we want to help clear up any confusion on sunscreen application to show you just how simple it is to wear sunscreen every day.

What are the effects of sun exposure on skin?

The sun’s UVA light can damage every layer of your skin, including its blood supply. Meanwhile, the sun’s UVB rays cause DNA and cellular damage on the outermost layer of your skin. Overexposure to these harmful UVA rays and UVB rays can increase your risk of developing wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, dryness, and even precancerous spots.

Unfortunately, the JEET Association for Support to Cancer Patients states that most skin damage due to frequent exposure to both types of sun rays occurs before the age of 20 but doesn't show visibly until many years later (1). As such, young people who are overexposed to the sun have an increased risk for the development of basal cell cancer later in life, which is the most common type of skin cancer. Fortunately, you can prevent these adverse effects with regular sunscreen use. Knowing when and how to apply sunscreen, especially as it relates to the order in which you apply your skin care regimen, is crucial to incorporating SPF into your daily routine.

Do you put sunscreen on before or after moisturizer?

It can be tricky to figure out what goes first between sunscreens and moisturizers. The answer here is that it depends on the type of sunscreen you’re using!

If you opt for a chemical-based sunscreen (look for active ingredients like avobenzone, octinoxate and oxybenzone), dermatologists recommend applying sunscreen as one of the earlier steps in your skin care routine. You can apply a chemical sunscreen before or after a peptide moisturizer, so long as the chemical sunscreen is able to absorb into the skin. Generally, the earlier you incorporate a product into your skin care routine, the better the active ingredients will absorb into your skin.

So if you use a serum or moisturizer with active ingredients that you want peak benefit from, you should apply those topical skin care products before your chemical sunscreen. Just be sure that your chemical sunscreen is applied at a stage in your routine where absorption into your skin will occur.

If you opt for a mineral-based sunscreen (look for active ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide), it is recommended that you apply your sunscreen after your moisturizer. That’s because the active compounds in mineral sunscreen work by forming a physical shield against UV rays on the top of your skin, therefore you don’t want to dilute that barrier by applying moisturizer on top of it.

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What do you need to know about chemical and mineral sunscreens?

Before we get into how to moisturize, let’s first address two frequently asked questions: how does sunscreen work and is sunscreen good for your skin? Mineral sunscreen products sit at the surface of your skin upon application, thus acting as a physical barrier against UV radiation. Chemical sunscreen products contain active ingredients that are absorbed by the skin and convert UV radiation into heat before they can reach and cause sun damage to skin cells.

Both types of sunscreens are effective. But if you’re using chemical sunscreens, doctors from Ottawa and Calgary warn against products that contain oxybenzone, avobenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule because they can accumulate within your blood when used regularly (2). Chemical sunscreens can also potentially cause contact dermatitis and photoallergic contact dermatitis and are known pollutants for our precious oceanic reefs.

Can you put moisturizer over sunscreen?

Yes, but only if you’re using a chemical sunscreen. For optimal effectiveness, you should allow your chemical sunscreen to absorb into your skin for up to fifteen minutes before applying another product on top.

If you’re using mineral sunscreen, you should apply your moisturizer before sunscreen, leaving your sunscreen as the last layer in your skin care routine.

How long should I wait to apply sunscreen after moisturizing?

You can apply chemical and mineral based sunscreens after moisturizing, but you should be sure to let the moisturizer fully absorb into your skin first, so as not to dilute the sunscreen. The good news is that it doesn’t take long. You simply need to wait for your moisturizer to be absorbed (a couple of minutes at most), before lathering your skin with a generous layer of sunscreen.

Do you apply sunscreen before or after moisturizer and makeup?

The prospect of distorting your carefully applied makeup look with sunscreen is a common hindrance from regular SPF reapplication. Indeed, it can be tricky to figure out when to apply your sunscreen when it comes to the added variable of makeup application.

As a rule of thumb, you should apply your first application of sunscreen for the day before your makeup.

Makeup can be applied after your skin care routine, including moisturizer and sunscreen. Just be sure that you've given your skin enough time to absorb the sunscreen and moisturizer before moving on to your makeup routine.

Can you put makeup on top of sunscreen?

According to Dr. Kiran Mian of the Hudson Dermatology & Laser Surgery in New York City, you should apply sunscreen before makeup (at least for the first application of the day) (3). The dermatologist suggests you give it at least two minutes to sink into your skin to prevent your makeup from diluting your sunscreen or interacting with its ingredients.

However, you should be sure to reapply your sunscreen every two hours and after activities that may disrupt your sunscreen, such as exercise and water exposure. Experts recommend that you reapply with a powder sunscreen, SPF setting spray, or sunscreen lotion to boost your level of sun protection while maintaining your makeup look.

Key Takeaways

  • The sun's UV lights can change the appearance, texture, and even the overall health of your skin, making it important for you to learn how to apply it in the right way.
  • If you're using a chemical-based sunscreen, it is recommended that you apply it early in your skin care routine so that it can be absorbed properly by your skin.
  • Those using a mineral-based sunscreen should apply the product after their moisturizer because the mineral ingredients act as a physical shield on the surface of skin against the sun.
  • You should allow your sunscreen to absorb into your skin for at least two minutes before going ahead with your makeup application.
Piece specially produced for oneskin.co
Produced by: J Benge

Sources:
  1. https://www.scribd.com/document/51532502/Skin-Cancer
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7759112/
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/article/sunscreen-makeup-spf.html

Reviewed by Alessandra Zonari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and Co-Founder of OneSkin

Alessandra earned her Master’s degree in stem cell biology, and her PhD in skin regeneration and tissue engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil in collaboration with the 3B’s Research Group in Portugal. Alessandra did a second post-doctoral at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. She is a co-inventor of three patents and has published 20 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals.

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