A question I get asked a lot is: Does a moisturiser with SPF give your skin the same sun protection as a sunscreen with the same SPF?
The short answer is yes! All products with labelled SPF values, including moisturisers and foundations and powders, go through the same testing procedures as sunscreens to determine their sun protection ratings (the exact testing procedures depend on the countries in which the product is sold).
There are a few details to note though:
You have to still apply 2 mg per cm² (around 1/4 teaspoon) to achieve the protection stated on the product. This is a fair bit! Sunscreens are theoretically designed to be used at these amounts, although some implement this better than others – if you’ve tried enough sunscreens, you’ll know that weird moment when a sunscreen decides to come off your skin in rolls. Most moisturisers can be used at these amounts too without issues, and often they’ll even sink in better than sunscreens! On the other hand, products like powders and foundations may look ridiculous if you apply that much, in which case it’s better to top up your sun protection with another product.
Sunscreens are often certified as broad spectrum, meaning that they offer UVA protection, while many non-sunscreen products have SPF ratings only. There are exceptions to this – for example, many Asian BB creams have a measured UVA protection value, while a lot of sunscreens don’t.
Many sunscreens are designed and tested to be water resistant, whereas moisturisers and make-up are not. This means that if you’re doing an activity where you’ll sweat a lot or there’s a lot of rubbing against clothing, or if you’re immersed in water (swimming, exercising), a sunscreen may stay on your skin and protect you from UV while a different product may wear off, in which case you’ll want to opt for a waterproof sunscreen.
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