Cosmetic Chemists Weigh In: Does Tinted SPF Foundation Provide Adequate Sun Protection?

Your one-stop guide to choosing safe and seamless SPF foundation coverage.

By Amelia Abraham | 5 Min. Read

February 5, 2023

If there is one thing dermatologists unanimously agree on, it’s the need to wear SPF daily to protect your skin from sun damage. Dermatologists refer to this by several names; photoaging, photodamage, sun damage and solar damage. These names describe the process of sunlight prematurely ageing the skin, which can lead to wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and skin cancer.

While it’s difficult to avoid the sun entirely, and some photodamage is natural, using a strong SPF daily will reduce the effects of photodamage. While many makeup foundation formulas include an SPF built in, dermatologists generally agree that this isn’t going to be adequate to protect your skin from the sun, unless you are choosing a top of the range SPF foundation.

With that in mind, use this guide for how to select the right SPF foundation, or else how to team your SPF foundation with clinically approved and sustainable SPF product for maximum protection.

What is an SPF-Foundation?

“SPF” is an abbreviation for “sun protection factor”. This is a clinical way of measuring the effectiveness of sunscreen products against sunburn. The SPF’s number indicated how long you can be exposed to UV rays before sunburn will start to occur, compared to the time it would take to burn when exposed to UV radiation if no sunscreen was applied.

Dermatologists, including SunsolveMD’s Dr Michele Henry MD, agree that factor 50 SPF should be worn daily in order to offer a high sun protection factor and premature ageing.

Some foundations contain a built-in SPF whereby sunscreen is added to the makeup formula in order to add UV protection. Similarly you may find that your powder or moisturiser offers an SPF number.

Does Tinted SPF Foundation Really Provide Adequate Sun Protection?

There are several reasons why an SPF foundation may not provide adequate foundation.


First, consider that sunscreen ratings tend to be based on standardised application of 2mg/cm2 of sunscreen. Depending on how thick you apply your foundation, you may not be achieving adequate coverage. Some dematologists estimate you would need 6 times the amount of foundation one tends to wear in order to reach the level of protection offered by a good sunscreen.


Furthermore, SPF foundation formulas are not always designed with sun protection first and foremost. They may therefore be less water resistant and rub resistant than typical SPFs. This means that SPF foundations are not suitable sun protection for water based activities or the beach. They also require more reapplication.

Depth of protection

Experts advise that SPF moisturiser, powder or foundation will only protect against small amounts of sun exposure. Not all SPFs protect against UVA rays as well as UVB rays. UVA refers to longer wavelength rays. A “broad spectrum” SPF is necessary to prevent against both type of rays, and ideally anti-oxident sunscreen, whereby the natural anti-inflammatory effects of antioxidants can weaken your skin's response to the sun and therefore add a layer of sunburn protection.

How to choose the right SPF Foundation

When looking for a foundation with SPF in it, look out for the following:

High protection

Look for a foundation that is factor 50 SPF plus. Other ZnO-only sunscreens on the market tend to achieve far below their claimed SPF benchmark due to degradation or migration of the ZnO particles overtime. However, the SunsolveMD Zinc Technology has beenproven to remain stable and effective at its SPF value all the way to its expiration date.

Built-in skincare

SunsolveMD AntiOxTintTM Mineral Shades SPF50: A lightweight, tinted mineral shield utilizing a synergistic cocktail of clinically-proven topical antioxidants.

No white cast

SunsolveMD has solved the environmental nanomaterial problem by spending 15 years behind the lab bench to create the thinnest zinc oxide to ever exist on the market. SunsolveMD’s first-of-its-kind patented zinc oxide particles are specifically engineered to be the thinnest configuration of micron-sized (instead of nano-sized) ZnO material in the world. While traditional micron-sized ZnO particles tend to impart the infamous white cast on the skin that’s associated with zinc, our team of scientists have defied the inherent properties of ZnO particles by developing the thinnest non-nano zinc oxide configuration in SPF formulas, ever.

When to pair SPF foundation with SPF sunscreen

Dermatologists advise that you can use a foundation with no SPF, but only if you couple this with factor 50 SPF on every use, for wear both inside and outside.

The FD has strict guidance on what constitutes a sunscreen so ensure that it is FDA approved as well as broad spectrum and mineral based.

First, apply a layer an adequate amount of sunscreen to your face and neck, then follow up with your foundation. Remember to reapply the sunscreen layer every one to to hours if you are in direct sunlight.

When do I need protection?

The World Health Organisation advises that “UV radiation is usually strongest for a few hours around noon and less strong during the early morning and the late afternoon/evening” [1] Scientists therefore conclude that this is the most important time to wear SPF to prevent photodamage.

While it's important and advisable to wear sun protection year-round, UV rays are far stronger during the hotter summer months, so conisder applying SPF more regularly during this time. Be ware that UV rating are usually higher closer to the equator. You can look up the UV index as part of the weather report to indicate the strength of the sun’s UV rays in a given time or place.

What about “SPF powders” and “SPF moisturisers”

The same advice for foundation is applicable for SPF moisurisers and powders, which also tend to provide a thin and inadequate layer of sun protection. However, touching up your makeup with a powder or setting spray that contains SPF can be a good way to ensure your SPF makeup stays on or add a small amount of extra protection to accompany your sunscreen.


Overall, it’s advisable to back up any SPF foundation you decide to use with a sunscreen that contains factor 50 SPF. While SPF-based foundation is an added benefit, dermatologists recommend that this is not the only source of sun protection you’re getting.


WHO, https://cancer-code-europe.iarc.fr/index.php/en/ecac-12-ways/sun-uv-exposure-recommendation/77-sun-strongest




Contributing Editor