If you’re serious about looking after your skin health and avoiding wrinkles for as long as humanly possible then sun protection is a must. 10 years ago when we wandered down the drugstore aisles it was simples. There was only 1 aisle that used words like SPF and sun protection. ‘N it usually attracted us with gorgeously beachy scenes and a palm tree or 2 (in picture form obvs’ *winks*)!
As you might’ve realised, those phrases of SPF and sun protection have recently been ‘networking’ with some of our other skincare ‘go-to’s’. You’ve now probably seen phrases like SPF on bottles of foundation, BB creams and even bog-standard moisturisers.
What’s a’happening here? Can we now switch those ‘sometimes leaves me looking like casper the ghost and takes a while to rub in’ sun protection products for a beautifully silky moisturiser or our usual go-to foundation? If it’s winter and you’re not outside so much anyhows, can you safely rely on foundation with SPF for protection?
My friend, today you’re going to learn the answers…
What is SPF?
First up, it’s probably helpful to revisit that acronym of SPF. SPF is shorthand for ‘sun protection factor’ and it’s usually the only kinda sun protection rating you’ll see on foundations, moisturisers or BB creams.
The ‘sun protection factor’ is what tells us how well a suntan lotion will defend you against 1 of the 2 types of UV rays that effect skin – UVB rays.
UVB rays are the ones that will give you the ‘lobster’ sunburn effect. They cause damage mostly within the top layers of the skin and this is where they also cause skin cancers. The other type of UV light – UVA, is most responsible for photo-aging like wrinkles and sagging of the skin.
It’s good to remember that SPF only protects from UVB.
… so what does the number that follows the fancy SPF anonym actually mean? Great question, my friend!
The SPF number tells you how much longer you can stay in the sun without risk of burning, compared to if you had no suncream on at all. If you’d burn after 5 minutes in midday sunshine and you use an SPF30, that means you could safely stay out for 150 minutes (that’s 5 times 30).
SPF30 is generally the minimum SPF recommended by dermatologists and skincare professionals to maintain a ‘gold-standard’ defence against UVB damage.
There are a load more of these sun protection ratings, which are super important to choosing sun protection that effectively guards away wrinkles. To get clued up download my 1-page guide to sun protection terminology by clicking below.
How Much Sun Protection do You Need to Use?
This is super important to answering today’s question, ‘Is foundation with SPF effective?’. The answer to this question throws me back to ‘food technology’ class at school (does that even exist anymore?). It was one of those laugh-out-loud moments when the joker of our class asked our super-serious teacher if he could eat 5 grapes and still ‘cash-in’ for his 5 fruit and veg each day!
Of course we got a super serious answer *winks*…
When it comes to sun protection, the amount you use is crazy important. Not using enough is like eating 5 grapes a day and joking you’ve made your 5 fruit ‘n veg allowance *smiles*.
See, when those fancy SPF numbers were first made, there were scientific tests completed on real life people. Those tests told us exactly how the average person’s skin is defended from UV rays by using a suncream. Like with anything science-y, everything needs to be controlled, to be sure you can replicate it again. It’s like following a bread making recipe. You need just the right amount of yeast or bicarbonate each ‘n every time to avoid ending up with ‘rock-cakes’ *winks*.
Part of controlling those experiments was to put the same amount of suncream on every person that was tested. It makes sense right? If you used more hairspray than your best bud, then you’ve got a better chance at your ‘up-do’ staying put for the whole night. It’s exactly the same for sun protection… Quantity matters.
Nowadays instead of getting a new group of volunteers each time a skincare company wants to develop a new SPF claim, the rating is determined in the lab. That means a fancy UV measuring device is coated with an exact quantity of suncream and then it’s blasted with UV light. The UV measuring gizmo then tells us, exactly how much UV light the suncream prevented from reaching it.
Suncream is the one time when that saying of ‘its quality not quantity that matters’ is wrong. This time around its both quality and quantity that matters.
When suncreams get tested in the lab, that fancy UV measuring device gets coated in a layer of cream that is 2mg/cm2, that doesn’t mean much ‘eh! ‘N there’s definitely not enough space in my beach bag for a pair of scales every time I’m hitting the beach *winks*.
Let’s make this more ‘user friendly ‘eh. To guarantee your SPF, you need to use roughly 1 full shot glass of suncream for a whole body application. When it’s day to day and you’re skin’s mostly protected by clothing you can drop that to a half teaspoon or the size of a small grape for face and neck protection.
Is Foundation with SPF effective?
I reckon you’ve read to about here and are already starting to twig why moisturiser, BB cream or foundation with SPF may not be effective. Whether your foundation with SPF is effective depends on how much you use. #1grape
The foundation itself gets vetted through that same test that a suncream would. Which means the quantity thing is also super important.
So if you’ve been asking yourself, ‘Do I need to use a separate SPF if my foundation already has SPF in it?’, then you can answer that question by thinking back to how much you use. Do you use a half teaspoon of that foundation? If the answer to that question is yes, then nope, no extra SPF is needed to get the SPF rating on the bottle.
If you don’t use a half teaspoon of foundation then you my friend are on the 1-grape-a-day step and will need to either up the amount of foundation you use, or opt for regular use of an SPF under your foundation.
The last important point in answering the question of, ‘Is foundation with SPF effective?’ is about time. #ticktock
If you think back to the last time you were on the beach, next to Daniel Craig in those ‘budgie smugglers’ (… opps sorry that part’s in my dreams *winks*), then you’ll probably remember topping up a couple of times with sunscreen.
That’s because you subconsciously know that sunscream gets ‘used-up’. It literally does. All those UV rays zap the sunscreen battery down like you were being attacked in a video game. To ‘re-boot’ you have to reapply.
The thing about foundation with SPF is that you’re not very likely to re-apply through your day. #caking
This means that foundation with SPF can make you feel ‘protected’ even though, after a couple of hours you might not be anymore. While that doesn’t mean foundation with SPF is not effective, it does mean you might ‘over-rely’ on it when your foundation SPF battery has actually been zapped.
The important part to remember if you do use foundation with SPF is that SPF is time dependant and UV rays can still get through window glass. That means even if you are indoors, SPF is still important and you might even need a top-up. #PayAsYouGo
Do you use foundation with SPF? What’s it’s SPF rating? (the strangest I’ve seen was SPF13, I think they musta just missed the SPF15 mark ‘eh *winks*)
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.