Is Your Foundation Application Messing With Your Sunscreen?

I never step out of the house without sunscreen on and rarely without makeup. That means that I often wear foundation or tinted moisturizer over my sunscreen. I just grab a brush (or use my finger if in a hurry) and start putting it on. I’ve never really used a special technique but I just apply it and blend until everything looks even and flawless. But a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a post over at The Triple Helixian blog (a very informative skincare blog run by John, an aspiring dermatologist) that made me realize the way foundation is applied is more important than I thought.

How to apply foundation correctly

“I lightly stipple on my foundation. I never, EVER buff because that’ll risk moving or even removing the sunscreen underneath,” says John. That makes sense. If you’re too rough or apply foundation in a way that causes it to move around, then some areas of your face may be left unprotected against the sun rays. Applying foundation the way John suggests takes more time, but it’s worth it. After all, what’s the point of spending time applying your sunscreen correctly if the next product you’re going to apply is gonna mess up with it? Not all foundations will work well with this method, though. John suggests picking one that doesn’t set too quickly and is not too thick or you’ll have to rub it around a lot, which, as we’ve seen, will only ruin your sunscreen.

Do you apply moisturizer before foundation?

If you use a chemical sunscreen (or one that has both chemical and physical sunscreen ingredients), you should apply it before moisturizer because the sunscreen agents in it need to get in contact with the skin to get activated and do their job. Although John doesn’t mention moisturizer in his post, I do think that if you apply it after sunscreen, you’ll have to apply it gently as well so as to make sure the sunscreen will remain intact (the same would apply to powder too). Physical sunscreens (those with only Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Dioxide), can instead be applied after moisturizer because they work straight away and so you’ll only have to pay attention to the way in which you apply your foundation (and powder).

Is your foundation application messing with your sunscreen?

SOURCE: Image courtesy of Ohmega1982 /
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  1. says

    Ah, great idea! I do feel that I mess up with my sunblock if I puff my foundation on top of it! What I usually do is just prep my hair and wait for the sunscreen to really settle down then gently apply foundation (liquid or powder) on top! 😀

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Nikki, you really have to be careful about what you apply on top of sunscreen, don’t you? Well done for using a gentle hand that won’t mess up your foundation. :)

  2. says

    I guess, I am using a wrong method. But what I do is, I mix my sunscreen and foundation on my palm and after some rubbing, I apply it on my face (just like we put some moisturizer). I feel may be I am messing up their properties or chemical formulation. It does not break me out, but then may be sunscreen would not be working properly. What do you suggest?
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    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Shruti, you shouldn’t do that! Mixing sunscreen with foundation can seem like a good idea, but in reality you are just diluting the sunscreen and thus the level of protection it affords. That means that a SPF30 sunscreen, for instance, can become a SPF15 or less! Always apply sunscreen separately, and then both moisturizer and foundation on top of it. But gently and carefully. :)

        • beautifulwithbrains says

          You’re welcome. Sun damage is sneaky as it shows up after several years so you don’t notice straight away that something is wrong. Still, it was always better than not wearing sunscreen at all. :)

  3. Janessa says

    My foundation isn’t since I don’t wear any, but my moisturizers sometimes do! I’ve found some moisturizers that don’t disturb my sunscreen at all and so I use those during the day. If I let my sunscreen sink in or set a little by waiting at least fifteen minutes before applying my moisturizer, the moisturizer applies better. :]

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Janessa, I’m glad that you’ve found some moisturizers that don’t mess with your sunscreen. And I agree that it’s better to wait a while to apply moisturizer after sunscreen. :)

  4. Samantha says

    I’m using Neutrogena ultra sheer spf45. It’s really good but it’s so thick and leaves a layer of white cast over my face! And I really dislike the white residue. I’m more inclined towards physical sunscreen which explains my dilemma. Is it alright if I just drop a single drop of foundation so that the sunscreen will look more natural. After which I apply my tinted moisturiser to completely cover the white cast? Thanks!

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Samantha, I feel your pain. I prefer physical sunscreens too, but the white cast they leave isn’t attractive at all. When you say, drop a single drop of foundation, do you mean to mix it with the sunscreen? That’s not really recommend as that way you could dilute the sunscreen and thus reduce the level of protection it provides.

      You can apply foundation on top to cover it, or you can look for a physical sunscreen that that doesn’t leave a white cast behind. I’ve recently discovered sunumbra which make physical sunscreens that are brownish in colour so they don’t leave a white residue on the skin. You can check out my review here:

      Hope this helps.

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