Does a Tinted Moisturizer Provide More Sun Protection?

Personal/Inspirational, Skin Care

Thanks to requests from several readers, the FutureDerm daily question is back!

Here is today’s question:

Dear Nicki,

Does a tinted moisturizer provide more SPF than a non-tinted moisturizer?


Dear Sandra,

Honestly, yes, but the amount of sun protection gained is trivial.  The reason for the increase is that darker pigments will always absorb light somewhat.  This is why, for instance, those of African descent may have a natural SPF of up to 15 in their skin (The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2007).   The higher melanin (pigment) production within darker skin merits a higher natural amount of UV absorption.

Still, the amount of sun protection gained with a tinted moisturizer is minimal.  In the average nickel-sized application of moisturizer, most women are getting only about 60-80% the sun protection listed on the bottle. This is determined by the fact that most dermatologists recommend applying 1/4-1/3 a teaspoon of sunscreen (1.23-1.62 mL) to the face, but most foundation applications are approximately 1 mL. (For instance, there are an estimated 30 uses in a 30 mL bottle of foundation.)

So even if a full portion of a tinted moisturizer provided an SPF of 15 more than a non-tinted one (which it does not), you would only achieve an SPF of 9-11 from it anyway.  What’s more, the likely increase is more like an SPF of 1-2, which means you’re getting less than 1% more sun protection.

Hope this helps,

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Photo source:  e.l.f. Studio Face Swatches, originally uploaded by Mad Tofu.

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  • “Also, the pigments in foundation or tinted moisturizer can interfere with the products’ photostability, or their ability to remain effective once exposed to the sun, Dr. Cole says.” this was what the rticle said so may be they are just talking about foundations and moisturizers with spf instead of tinted sunscreens!!!
    thanks for clearing that up 🙂

  • @Swati – Thank you for your comment! That’s really interesting. In the United States, there are not a lot of strict FDA mandates on cosmetics, but there certainly are when it comes to sunscreen SPF ratings. Regardless of the “tint” or other chemicals in a sunscreen product or a moisturizer containing sunscreen, the manufacturer must guarantee that the product provides the SPF rating on the bottle when it is applied in the proper concentration. So any speculation otherwise is, I’m sorry to say, false.

  • hey Nicki…I found somewhere that the chemicals used in the tint actually decrease protection abilities of a product so it is actually better to use non-tinted ones unless they use minerals for their tints.

  • Lenita

    sprool, but given everything else the same/holding everything else constant, including the spf and the active ingredient therein, a lotion (sunscreen or moisturizer) with some tint will have higher uv protection (albeit small).

  • Sprool

    The conclusion is correct but the science is not – you infer that tinted moisturiser has similar pigments to African skin (ie: higher melanin content) and this is why a tinted moisturiser will give a bit more SPF. Melanin is present at higher levels in darker ethnic skin and melanin absorbs UV, but this has no relation to tinting of moisturisers. You could fill a moisturiser with zinc oxide or titanium oxide (ie: sunscreen) and less UV would get through to your skin, this would make it white and not darker. In fact some moisturisers contain UV-absorbing benzophenones & similar nowadays, same as used in sunscreens, and they therefore give a little more SPF protection though you need to ensure there is enough remaining on the skin surface to be effective.

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