Can You Layer Sunscreen?
The short answer is, yes, you can and we highly recommend it for many reasons. The primary benefit? Layering SPF-rated products ensures you are applying enough sunscreen to protect your skin from sun damage!
Sun protection is a beautiful thing for skin. Not only does it prevent signs of premature aging, skin discolorations, and wrinkles, it can help prevent skin cancer! No other skincare product in the world can legitimately make all those claims!
BUT to achieve those benefits you must apply sunscreen 365 days a year rain or shine, it must be rated SPF 30 or greater, it must be the last skincare product you apply during the day (you never want to dilute the SPF), AND you must apply it LIBERALLY! These are the four absolute basic requirements to get the protection you need.
This is why we have so many sunscreen options from anti-aging moisturizers with SPF 30 to a primer with SPF 30. Each one is formulated to be used with any of our other SPF-rated products, allowing you to take complete care of your skin.
What Kind of Products with Sunscreen Should You Use?
When it comes to sun protection, you have a decision to make: Should you use an anti-aging moisturizer with SPF? A foundation with SPF? Concealer with SPF? Primer with SPF? Beach-style sunscreen? Or some or all of them at the same time?
The answer is yes, you can apply one or all of them as long as one of those products is rated SPF 30 or greater and you apply it liberally (see what we mean by “liberal” and how to apply sunscreen here). Other than that rule, there’s nothing wrong with applying more than one sunscreen product; in fact, we encourage doing just that because it adds up to better results as we explain below.
What about makeup with sunscreen? A foundation, BB cream, or tinted moisturizer with SPF 30 is great for facial sun protection if you apply it liberally (though there aren’t many foundations with SPF 30 out there). But if you don’t like that much coverage or how that might feel on your skin, then stick with a daytime moisturizer rated SPF 30 or greater that you like and apply liberally. Follow with a foundation with any SPF number over that to get added protection.
How to Layer Sunscreen
Layering sunscreens is surprisingly easy. There are no rules such as sunscreens with one group of actives should be applied before those with another type. Rather, the key is simply getting more sunscreen on your face, neck, and other exposed areas.
The trick is to layer by texture of the SPF-rated products in your routine and choose those suitable for your skin type. If you have oily skin, a lightweight, matte finish moisturizer with SPF 30 can go on first, followed by a primer with sunscreen and then a liquid foundation or face powder with sunscreen. If you want to add an eye cream with sunscreen to the mix, apply that after your facial moisturizer with sunscreen and follow with makeup.
How Does Layering Sunscreen Help Your Skin?
Study after study has shown that people don’t apply enough sunscreen. This fact lead to the FDA guidelines that people should reapply sunscreen every two hours. By doing this, you make sure you get enough on your skin knowing you didn’t when you first applied it.
Since then dozens of studies have shown that anything you can do to get more sunscreen on your skin means you will be better protected! So, just like reapplying the same SPF product two hours later gives you more protection (and makes up for the sunscreen becoming less effective from ongoing sun exposure), layering more than one SPF product gets you greater protection before you even leave the house!
There’s one caveat: Exactly how much added protection you get from layering is not a clear science. Because of this unknown, make sure that one of the SPF products you’re applying is rated at least SPF 30 and that you apply it evenly and liberally.
Applying an anti-aging moisturizer with SPF 30, and then a primer with SPF 20, and then a foundation with 15 doesn’t add up to SPF 65 but it does exponentially add sun protection and that’s what matters.
Wondering about applying makeup without sunscreen over your moisturizer with sunscreen? What about exactly when in your skincare routine sunscreen should be applied? We answer those questions and more in our article, “How to Apply Sunscreen.”
References for this information:
Science, February 2015, pages 842-847
Photodermatology, Photoimmunology, and Photomedicine, April-June 2014, pages 96-101
Annals of Internal Medicine, June 2013, pages 781-790
Cutis, December 2012, pages 321-326
Clinical Experimental Dermatology, December 2012, pages 904-908
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, March 2012, pages 1220-1227; February 2010, pages 218-222; and December 2001, pages 882-885
British Journal of Dermatology, February 2010, pages 415-419; and April 2007, pages 716-719
Photochemistry and Photobiology, April 2003, pages 453-457
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About the Experts
Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:
The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!