The SPF Ratings Your Moisturizer Should Have

While many people consider sunscreens an absolute must for a day at the beach, they are often not considered for daily use as a skin care product.

The often messy application and greasy sheen left behind by sunscreen products discourages most people from making these products a part of their everyday skin care routine. No one wants to walk around looking like a glazed donut, right?

Unfortunately, skipping the sunscreen may result in detrimental effects on the skin over the long term, such as the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and in some cases, skin cancer.

In response to this pattern of thought, skin care companies have developed easy-to-apply “multifunctional cosmetics” that are designed to offer a multitude of benefits in a single bottle. These products allow people to reap the benefits of sun protection, without sacrificing their comfort. Common multifunctional cosmetic products include moisturizers and foundations that contain sunscreens.

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Moisturizers that contain sunscreen provide essential hydration to the skin by preventing excess transepidermal water loss (TEWL). These products can also provide effective protection from harmful ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA) light. Anti-aging benefits can also be achieved by the inclusion of active ingredients such as retinol, niacinamide, and green tea, which can help reverse oxidative damage.

In essence, a single bottle can help hydrate the skin, repair the skin’s barrier function, prevent sun damage such as sunburn and skin cancer, minimize photoaging, and potentially reverse damage caused by free radicals.

When choosing a sunscreen-containing moisturizer look for one with a 30 SPF rating. Products with a SPF 30 rating must contain both UVB and UVA photoprotective ingredients, which makes them a preferred choice. In addition, these formulations offer a good compromise between sun protection and comfort. Once the SPF exceeds 30, the product will often become thick and sticky. Considering most effective sunscreen filters, such as octocrylene, are thick oils, higher concentrations of these ingredients in the final formulation can lead to poor aesthetics.1 For daily casual sun exposure, a sunscreen with a SPF 30 rating will provide sufficient protection against UVA and UVB light.2

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Another category of multifunctional cosmetics helpful in encouraging sun protection compliance are facial foundations.

Facial foundations are designed to color, blend, and camouflage the underlying skin, which improves the appearance of an individuals complexion. A foundation’s “coverage” is measured by its ability to conceal or cover the underlying skin. Higher coverage products typically provide better protection than lower coverage products.

The photoprotection in these products is due to inorganic filters in the formulation, which commonly include titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, talc, kaolin and precipitated chalk. Coloring agents, such as iron oxide, can function as inorganic filters.

Liquid formulations are the most popular because they are the easiest to apply, provide sheer to moderate coverage, and create a natural appearance. They contain mainly water, oils, and titanium dioxide. Sheer coverage foundations have a minimal amount of titanium dioxide and are almost transparent. They have an SPF around 2, while moderate coverage foundations are translucent and have an SPF rating between 4 and 5.

Cream foundations have the additional ingredient of wax, which makes an occlusive, more moisturizing formula. These formulations typically offer better photoprotection than liquids. Thicker, waterproof cream facial foundations completely cover the underlying skin, providing a total physical block, which in turn gives them an unlimited SPF.

Some of the newest sun protective cosmetics are mineral makeups. They are powdery formulations that can be dusted onto the face, and easily dusted off. This type of makeup is not water resistant, making it better suited for day wear with casual sun exposure. In addition, the powder is unable to provide an even film over the face, resulting in uneven photoprotection.

For people who need the maximum amount of sun protection, it is best to apply a sunscreen-containing moisturizer followed by a mineral makeup. The moisturizer permits the powder to remain in place and offers increased photoprotection due to layering.

With the widespread emergence and increased popularity of sunscreen-containing cosmetics, it’s apparent that the cosmeceutical industry has embraced the importance of photoprotection. These multifunctional products have the strong potential to encourage the inclusion of sunscreen use into a persons daily skin care regiment, without adding any extra steps into their routine or compromising their comfort.


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1. Draelos ZD. Photoprotection in colored cosmetics. In: Lim HW, Draelos ZD (eds). Clinical guide to sunscreens and photoprotection. New York: Informa Healthcare USA, (2008).
2. Draelos ZD. Sunscreens and hair photoprotection. Dermatol Clin 24(1): 81-4 (2006 Jan).