The Ugly Truth about Makeup and Moisturizers with SPF!

Skin Care

Everyday, we make the conscious choice to trust all kinds of people, places, and things. We trust our best friend with our deepest, darkest secrets. We don’t second-guess that our bus or car or plane will get us to our destination safely. But when it comes to our beauty products, one time we should be skeptical when we are not is with makeup and moisturizers that contain sunscreen. It turns out that your average SPF 15 powder is giving you a true SPF of 1.1, and your SPF 15 moisturizer is giving you actual protection of SPF 8 to 10 with average application!

What is SPF?

SPF is the universal Sun Protection Factor. It is determined through a regimented process with strict standards that demand 2 mg of formula is applied to 600 cm2 of skin. The SPF itself is a measure of how many UVB rays get through.

SPF itself is determined by a ratio of the time it takes sunscreen-treated skin to burn divided by the amount of time it takes unprotected skin to burn.  It is a measure of skin barrier efficiency.

A good rule of thumb is the 1/SPF rule.  For instance, an SPF 15 formula lets about 6.7% of rays through, or 1/15. An SPF 50 formula allows 2.0% of rays through, or 1/50.

However, this is only the amount of protection you get when 2 mg of formula is applied to 600 cm2 of skin. When less is applied, you get less protection. So if you apply half of the standard amount of an SPF 15 formula, 13.4% of rays will get through – twice the amount you desire!

Why SPF Powders Aren’t Giving You the Protection You Think

Any powder product requires about 14 times the amount of normal powder application to receive the SPF listed on the package.

You see, the average face is about 600cm2 (although that varies from person to person, of course). This means the average woman needs to apply about 1.2g of facial powder to get the SPF stated on the product’s label. However, most women only apply about 0.085g of powder at a time – fourteen times less than you need to get the SPF listed on the package!

Why SPF Moisturizers Leave You Susceptible To Sun Damage Too

The problem is not as significant with moisturizers, but still alarming. Most women are getting about 60-80% the sun protection listed on the bottle. This is because 1/4-1/3 a teaspoon of sunscreen is needed for the face (1.23-1.62 mL), but average moisturizer applications are approximately 1 mL. So we are getting about 60-80% of the sun protection listed on the bottle.

What To Do?

I’m happy to report that I’m coming out with a sunscreen dosing system this summer! Still, until that time comes, I recommend either a.) using more product, or b.) boosting up your SPF protection with formulas like LaRoche Posay Anthelios Ultra Light Sunscreen SPF 60 ($21.88, and Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen SPF 100 ($21.12,

I also think it is worth mentioning if you do not get much (if any) sunscreen-free UV exposure, it is important to take a vitamin D3 supplement like GNC Vitamin D3 ($9.99, daily to maintain strong bones and a healthy immune system.

Bottom Line

Never, ever depend on your makeup or moisturizer for adequate SPF protection.

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Image source: Makeup related naval gazing, a photo by berthacrowley on Flickr.

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