When to Apply Sunscreen: Before or After Moisturizer
By now you should know that wearing sunscreen is a must to age gracefully, as it is arguably the most important part of any skincare routine. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on anti-aging retinol and vitamin C, if you’re not applying sun protection, you’re throwing away your money. The next step to that process is knowing when to apply it and it can get tricky if you want to make the best of it. According to Dr. Heather Rogers, a board-certified Dermatologist and Dermatologic Surgeon, applying your skincare products in the proper order ensure that your skin receives the full benefits of each product.
Figuring out when to layer sunscreen into your beauty routine, though, can get a little confusing. “The order of application is incredibly important,” says Dr. Rogers. “The skin’s job is to keep things out, but many of the skincare products we use have ingredients we want to get in. Only a very small amount of these key ingredients can penetrate the skin, even when perfectly formulated and perfectly applied. If you don’t apply products in the correct order, you will not see the best results from your skincare regimen.”
Because of how moisturizer (or any other skincare product for that matter) can interfere with the effectiveness of your sun protectant, the main concern is that when moisturizer is applied under sunscreen, it can create a barrier that prevents the sunscreen from penetrating the skin. However, when moisturizer is placed over sunscreen, it can interfere with how the sunscreen interacts with the sun. It all comes down to the type of sunscreen you’re using and there are two: Chemical and Physical (Mineral) Keep in mind that putting sunscreen on before or after moisturizer is better than not putting it on at all. You never want to leave the house without sunscreen that contains at least SPF 30 or higher.
CHEMICAL VS PHYSICAL SUNSCREEN
Moisturizer First, Mineral Sunscreen Second:
Physical sunscreens can be applied on top of moisturizers because they act as more of a shield and do not need to be absorbed into the skin to work. If you’re using a mineral-based sunscreen or sunblock, you should always apply your moisturizer first, then your sunscreen. When physical sunscreen goes on last, it can work its magic without any interference. This type of product contains minerals like zinc and titanium dioxide that deflect harmful UV rays before they reach your skin.
Because sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can be a little bit drying, if you add your moisturizer first, you won’t be left with sticky or gritty residue. If you’re using a powder sunscreen, it can be applied on top of makeup, much like a finishing powder. A benefit to powders is that they can be easily reapplied throughout the day, without worrying about smudging or rubbing off your makeup.
Chemical Sunscreen First, Moisturizer Second:
Chemical sunscreen, on the other hand, tends to be more effective when it has a chance to absorb into your skin. Think of chemical sunscreens like a sponge, once these formulas sink into the skin, they absorb the sun’s rays and break them down so that your skin stays protected. As the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) explains, active ingredients such as avobenzone, homosalate, oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, and octocrylene work by soaking up the UV rays, converting that energy into heat, and releasing it before it can penetrate your skin.
If this is your preferred type of sunscreen, you’ll want to reach for it first before moisturizing. Dr. Rogers explains: “Chemical sunscreens have to be absorbed into the skin to be effective, so applying after your moisturizer will delay and hinder that.” If you mix it in with your moisturizer, you’re diluting your sunscreen and its ability to protect. If you apply your chemical sunscreen before your moisturizer, your moisturizer will not work as well either because the skin is coated with chemical sunscreen. As for those who like using chemical sunscreens, try to look for a formula that offers moisturizing benefits so you can get your daily hydration needs while protecting your skin.
How do I know which one is right for me?
As far as whether to choose chemical or mineral SPF for your own routine, it’s mostly up to personal preference. Dermatologists consistently say that the best sunscreen around is the one that you’ll wear consistently. If you can’t remember when to apply which product, combination products such as a multitasking moisturizer can simplify this process. Many morning facial moisturizers are formulated with sunscreen in them.
Having both moisturizer and sunscreen in your skincare routine is important because they both serve different purposes, it’s like asking if you need to use a cleanser and eye cream. While some sunscreens do have hydrating properties, they usually aren’t considered a substitute for a moisturizer—especially in the dryer months. The same goes for a moisturizer with SPF. It usually isn’t considered an adequate substitute because it either doesn’t have the ideal amount of SPF or it isn’t applied as thoroughly as it should be. This is especially true for sensitive areas that are prone to aging like the under eyes.
Now that we’ve answered whether you apply sunscreen before or after moisturizer you’re probably wondering where sunscreen fits into your overall skincare routine. When it comes to breaking down your skincare routine, that means that cleanser, toner, serums, moisturizer, and eye cream should all go on before sunscreen. As we mentioned earlier, it’s important when using mineral sunscreen that you apply all other products first, so it can be your outer layer of protection against the sun. If you’re going to wear chemical sunscreen, make sure to put sunscreen on before your moisturizer. Remember to wear sunscreen with SPF 30 daily or higher over your moisturizer for adequate sun protection, and don’t forget that even if your makeup has SPF, you should still wear sunscreen.