If you were told to rank your essentials, we could guess that both moisturizer and SPF rank at the top, and for good reason! Moisturizer and sunscreen are both key products for preserving youthful skin, but we need to address the question: does one use sunscreen before or after moisturizer?
The answer to this question alone might be straightforward. It will also lead you to several other questions, like what SPF to use, the different options for SPF, and when to apply it. We’ll break it all down for you below!
Why Both Steps Matter
Before we even consider the question regarding which product to use first, it should be acknowledged that it’s crucial that your skin use both of these products every day.
Moisturizing is one of the most basic steps in a skin care regimen, and is an excellent way to maintain the water retention levels your skin needs. Moisturizers also help to reinforce the skin barrier against foreign pathogens and free radicals. In other words, moisturizers ensure long term skin health.
On that note, we can never stop recommending the use of products that are organic, plant-based and cruelty free. Our Seaberry Moisturizer, for instance, is formulated with organic botanical ingredients like shea butter, honeysuckle extract, and sea buckthorn, which is known for its high antioxidant levels.
Meanwhile, sunscreen is no less important, because it protects our skin from UV radiation, and through the process of free radical damage, UV radiation can cause rapid signs of aging. Sunscreen protects the skin from this harmful radiation by using inorganic particles to reflect light.
While sunscreen is certainly useful, you won’t get too much fulfillment out of it if you’re applying it incorrectly. When using sunscreen, it’s important to use a product that’s suitable for you, as well as knowing how (and how often) to apply it.
Both of these products are crucial to the preservation of our skin, but again, there is a right and wrong way to do it.
The Proper Order
Now, to answer the question: what comes first, SPF or moisturizer?
The answer is that you should always use a moisturizer first, allowing it 30-90 seconds before adding the SPF second. Take a refresher course on how to moisturize your skin properly if you aren’t sure!
This order is important because applying moisturizer over SPF can dilute the formula, while also interfering with the overall absorption of most products.
A disrupted absorption is especially likely to happen if you use chemical sunscreen, although we don’t recommend the use of this type of SPF, and you will see why.
Using the Right SPF
Chemical sunscreens are quick and easy to apply, and are known for their fuss-free absorption while leaving no trace of film.
However, chemical sunscreens tend to contain rather dubious chemicals. In fact, the FDA pointed out that only two of the 16 active ingredients commonly used in commercial sunscreens – the mineral sunblocks, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are "generally recognized as safe and effective."
Moreover, the ingredients found in chemical sunscreen have been known to cause hormonal imbalances. According to the Environmental Working Group, some of the effects possibly attributed to these ingredients include delayed puberty, an altered thyroid, and disrupted sperm count in men.
Some examples of ingredients associated with chemical sunscreens include:
With this in mind, we recommend that you go with a mineral sunscreen instead, which will contain titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide. Preliminary studies found mineral sunscreens far less likely to penetrate any deeper than the dermal layer, deeming them safe than their chemical competition.
Of course, many would rather be spared that unsettlingly white film that comes with mineral sunscreen, especially when it gathers on the nose and gives you the classic look of your dad on vacation.
Luckily, nano sunscreens, also known as micronized sunscreens, are the answer to this issue. They use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in nanoparticle form, which results in the formula becoming less opaque. Nano SPF tends to be readily available in many BB and CC creams, as well as foundations labelled to contain SPF.
Using SPF Correctly
No matter what sunscreen you use, make sure to apply it to the skin 20-30 minutes before going outdoors, should you spend time in the sun for more than 30 minutes.
It’s also important, though, that you reapply your SPF, and this is a step that’s often skipped! Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, even if the product is labeled as “all day.”
Now, you might be wondering how to re-apply the SPF in your makeup, such as those nano SPF products we previously discussed.
Rest assured, we aren’t going to tell you to re-apply your makeup every two hours! Instead, we recommend that you simply touch up high-visibility areas, like the cheeks, forehead and nose, with sunscreen and a foundation brush.
Of course, there are additional ways to protect your skin from the sun, such as by wearing a hat, and when possible, stick to clothes that protect the chest and arms from the sun’s rays. One of the most effective measures you can take is to minimize daytime activity during the sun’s peak hours, which tend to be from 10 am to 2 pm.