This is how to apply sun protection without ruining your make-up

If you follow the beauty rules by the book, you’ll know that you should be wearing SPF every day, come rain or shine. But as spring slowly awakens and we start to see the sun’s rays on a more regular basis, it’s time to really nail your sun protection routine, and figure out how best to stay topped up throughout the day.

The British Skin Foundation advises that sunscreen should be applied 20-30 minutes before going outside, and reapplied at least every two hours. Which is all well and good, until you take the time to apply foundation, concealer, powder et al, and want to keep them in tact throughout the day. Your make-up may even have SPF in it, but it’s usually not enough to offer an appropriate level of defence.

So, what should you do if you want to protect your face and your make-up in place?

how to apply SPF over make-up
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Are make-up sponges the answer?

Drug-research scientist and beauty blogger Hannah English, who is based in Australia, made waves last year when she shared her favourite tactic of dabbing sunscreen on with a make-up sponge – a method which kept her base in tact and left her with a surprisingly dewy finish.

‘I had to get ready for my birthday dinner and I couldn’t be bothered to take the day’s makeup off and start again, so I just went for it over the top,’ the Instagrammer, who has more than 18k followers, revealed to Allure when quizzed about the inspiration behind the trick. ‘Laziness, really. And it came out so beautiful!’

The idea is novel, and if you’re in a pinch and have a lightweight sunscreen to hand, it certainly couldn’t hurt to touch up your protection in this manner. However, when the publication reached out to dermatologist Shari Marchbein to ask her take, she applauded Hannah for her focus on sun safety, but added that it wasn’t a perfect solution.

‘The way she is applying it is certainly better than not reapplying it at all, but I would caution others that this technique is likely sufficient for short amounts of time outside — not for hours at the beach or pool,’ Shari said.

The expert’s advice

Dermatology nurse and aesthetician Emma Coleman says that she wouldn’t recommend applying sun protection over your make-up in general: ‘Letting sweat sit on your face for any prolonged amount of time can be problematic in itself, and if combined with SPF and heavy makeup products, it is a recipe for congestion and acne,’ she explains to

‘Sweat is a carrier of the grime which has built up in your pores and if it is left to settle back in to your skin it can cause breakouts, rashes and general irritation.’

However, if you know you’re going to wear make-up regardless and want to protect your skin as much as possible in the process, she proposes opting for a mist rather than a cream, which is ‘going to drag and look messy.’

‘If you insist on reapplying SPF over make-up, I would suggest using a sunscreen with a mist formula. By using an SPF mist, you can ensure that you apply enough product for you to be effectively protected, without needing to rub your face and disturb your make-up underneath.’

how to apply sun protection without ruining make-up
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Another key factor is frequency: ‘No doubt you will be applying less product than dermatologists recommend, which is a 2.5ml for a full face and neck application, so you should apply more frequently than the recommend 2 hour period,’ she continues.

‘Another alternative to this would be to touch up using a compact which contains SPF 50, ensuring that you reapply to the entire face for comprehensive coverage.’

‘Getting people to reapply is hard,’ Emma admits. ‘Applying over make-up may prevent users from reapplying often enough as without access to a mirror or their make-up bag for touch ups, they might not want to risk messing up their face.’

SPFs you can use over make-up

brush on block

SPF 30 Translucent, £34, Brush on Block

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Anti-Shine Sun Protection Invisible SPF50+ Face Mist, £14, Lookfantastic


Sunforgettable Brush On Shield SPF 50, £46.50, Colorscience

Clarins Sun Care Water Mist SPF 50, £22, Clarins

pixi sun mist

Pixi Sun Mist SPF30, £18, Lookfantastic

No matter which solution you choose, be sure to treat your complexion to a proper deep cleanse when you eventually remove your make-up to counteract any side-effects like clogged pores. Emma advocates a double cleanse, which is usually done with an oil-based product first, followed by a water-based cleanser to remove any remaining impurities.