SPF Makeup — Does It Work? Oct 29, 2019 / by Complete Family Dermatology Team
People are becoming much more keenly aware of the dangers of UV radiation thanks to recent scientific research. Skin damage from UV radiation is the number 1 cause of skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, rates of skin cancer over the past 40 years has risen more than 200 percent, more than breast, lung, colon, and prostate cancer combined. More than 5 million people are treated for skin cancer each year.
The knowledge of the dangers of sun exposure has caused a new trend in the cosmetics industry. Makeup manufacturers are now making makeup products containing SPF (Sun Protection Factor), which are meant to double as both cosmetics and sunscreen. SPF cosmetic products include primers, foundation, lipstick, and more, which promise to deliver protection from the sun.
So, there is a very real question for consumers: Do these makeup products containing SPF actually work? Moreover, can they function as a substitute for regular sunscreen?
Does SPF Makeup Actually Work?
Short Answer: No. Cosmetic products containing SPF do not do an adequate job of protecting your skin from the sun’s rays. When it comes to UV protection, there is no substitute for a dedicated sunscreen.
Longer Answer: Technically, yes, SPF makeup can protect against sun rays, but it is still not an effective means to protect your skin.
Let’s talk about sun rays. UV radiation comes in two forms, UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are normally seen as the UV rays that cause skin aging, while UVB rays are the UV rays that cause sunburn. UVA rays have a larger wavelength and are less energetic, while UVB rays have a shorter wavelength and are more energetic.
Both UVA and UVB rays can damage your skin, but evidence suggests that UVB ray exposure is most associated with the risk of developing skin cancers. Since UVB rays are very energetic, they can damage the DNA in your skin cells, causing them to multiply out of control, which creates the malignant tumors associated with skin cancer.
The fact of the matter is that most makeup products with SPF do not have the right amount of coverage to protect against both kinds of UV rays. While SPF makeups may be able to guard against some of the lower-energy UVA rays, they do not have the coverage to block UVB rays, the most dangerous ones. Makeup products hardly do a good job of guarding against UVA rays, either, as UVA rays make up about 95 percent of the UV radiation from the sun.
According to Dermatologist Leslie Bauman, you would need 7 times the normal amount of foundation and 14 times the normal amount of powder to get adequate SPF protection. Moreover, proper sun protection requires you to reapply sunscreen every one to two hours. Imagine applying a half-dollar coin-sized blob of foundation every two hours of the day. Your face would be perpetually caked in makeup if you did that. Makeup products simply are not applied with enough regularity or in high enough amounts to make them effective at protecting the skin from sun damage.
Further, the chemicals that make SPF sunscreen so effective, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are often left out of cosmetic products because they change the spread and wear of the products. Some cosmetics lines use these chemicals as the basis for their products, however they still wouldn’t provide the wanted level of protection.
So, if you are going out in the sun, there is no substitute for a dedicated sunscreen. Experts recommend sunscreen with at least SPF 50, which blocks about 95 percent of the sun’s rays.