How To Re-Apply Sunscreen Over Your Makeup

You don't have to smear off your foundation to stay protected from the sun.
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Michelle Villett
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You don't have to smear off your foundation to stay protected from the sun.

One of the most annoying things about sunscreen is that it only lasts a few hours before you have to put it on all over again. 

That's because many formulas start to degrade in sunlight, losing their promised level of protection. Even our own natural sebum can cause sunscreens to break down. So depending on how much UV exposure you're getting, and how much oil your skin produces, that SPF number on the label might only be reliable for a couple of hours. 

The only way around this is to re-apply, re-apply, re-apply, say dermatologists. Which is easy if you're on a beach somewhere, or in your backyard. It's not so practical for the average, busy, makeup-wearing woman with places to go and people to see. 

I'm not about to put on sunscreen and makeup in the morning, and then have to wash my face and repeat the whole process every time I pop back outside throughout the day. Nor am I just going to add more greasy sunscreen on top of my makeup. It would wreck my carefully-applied foundation and concealer, leaving me with visible redness, blemishes and a shiny finish. 

Fortunately, there are some excellent solutions to this common sunscreen conundrum!

How to apply sunscreen over makeup

These products are perfect for sunscreen touch-ups throughout the day.

A few products exist that are perfect for sunscreen touch-ups. You can carry one in your handbag or have one in your office desk drawer. When you need that extra bit of sun protection, they're easy to apply right on top of your makeup, without having to do your face all over again.

I still suggest you start your mornings with a good application of your favourite broad-spectrum sunscreen. The products I'm recommending here should not be replacements for that, but add-ons—for, say, a quick midday coffee run or your walk home from work. 

If you KNOW you're going to be outdoors in direct sunlight for any significant amount of time during peak hours (10am to 4pm), I would still stick with a traditional sunscreen you trust and re-apply it very thoroughly every two hours—makeup be damned. Better safe than sorry, in that case!

Otherwise, here are the products I love for everyday sunscreen re-application:

1. Clear Sunscreen Spray

Coppertone Clearly Sheer Sunscreen Spray SPF 30

Coppertone Clearly Sheer Sunscreen Spray SPF 30.

You usually hear about spray-on sunscreen for the body. But if you can find one that's lightweight and goes on clear, it actually makes a great format for your face, on top of makeup. This couldn't be easier to apply—you simply mist on and wait a few moments for it to dry down.

2. Powder Sunscreen

Colorescience Sunforgettable Mineral Sunscreen Brush SPF 50

Colorescience Sunforgettable Mineral Sunscreen Brush SPF 50.

Powder sunscreen goes on like any face powder, except it contains the same mineral ingredients that are in mineral sunscreens: titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Also known as "dry sunscreen," it's the least likely option to muck up your makeup. Bonus: Most come in a handy portable format, so you don't need to carry around a separate brush. I always keep one of these in my purse in the summertime.

  • Colorescience Sunforgettable Mineral Sunscreen Brush SPF 50: I think this was the original powder sunscreen; it has a high level of protection and comes in four tints. At Sephora, Amazon.com and SkinCareRx
  • Éminence Sun Defense Minerals SPF 30: I also use this product, which is available in translucent along with five tints. At Amazon.com and SkinCareRx.
  • Jane Iredale Powder-Me Dry Sunscreen SPF 30: This has a sponge applicator instead of a brush; there are three shades, including translucent. At Nordstrom, Beauty.com, Amazon.com and SkinStore.
  • Peter Thomas Roth Oily Problem Skin Instant Mineral SPF 30: Not only does the matte, transparent powder absorb oil, it also has salicylic acid to fight breakouts. At Sephora, ULTA Beauty and Amazon.com.
  • Arcona Sunsations Mineral Makeup SPF 25: There are a whopping 13 shades of this brush-on sunscreen powder. At Nordstrom, Beauty.com and SkinStore

3. Tinted Sunscreen Lotion

Skinceuticals Physical Matte UV Defense SPF 50

SkinCeuticals Physical Matte UV Defense SPF 50.

If you're one of those people whose skin "eats" your makeup as the day goes on, then a tinted sunscreen or BB cream can work double-duty. It'll not only top up your protection, but you'll also get some extra coverage from the tint, to make your skin look more even and perfected.

  • SkinCeuticals Physical Matte UV Defense SPF 50: A great choice for oily skin, this mineral sunscreen absorbs excess sebum and has a universal tint. At Amazon.comSkinStore and Amazon.ca.
  • Consonant The Perfect Sunscreen SPF 30: Another mineral option; this is 100 percent natural and has a medium sheer tint. At Sephora and Well.ca.
  • L'Oréal Sublime Sun Silky Sheer BB SPF 50: This one has a similar look and feel to the SkinCeuticals, but at a drugstore price (although it's not mineral). At Amazon.ca and Well.ca.
  • MDSolarSciences MD Crème Mineral Beauty Balm SPF 50: Available in two finishes, this high-SPF, mineral-based BB covers minor redness and discolourations. At SephoraNordstrom and Beauty.com.

4. Sunscreen Foundation

Shiseido UV Protective Stick Foundation SPF 37

Shiseido UV Protective Stick Foundation SPF 37.

Need more camouflage than a tinted sunscreen can give? Consider looking in the foundation section instead. Cream-textured products with an SPF of at least 30 can be pressed on top of your previous makeup, as long as you're careful to apply enough over your entire face. (Tip: If you find you need powder in between applications, go for a pure silica such as RMS "Un" Powder or Make Up For Ever HD Microfinish Powder—it's buildable and won't go cakey.)

  • Shiseido UV Protective Stick Foundation SPF 37: This is an oldie but a goodie! I bought this for my purse many years ago; it swipes on with a blendable, creamy texture and there are four shades. At NordstromSephora, Hudson's Bay, Saks Fifth AvenueNeiman Marcus and Amazon.com.
  • AmorePacific Color Control Cushion Compact SPF 50+: The original cushion compact, this will keep your skin protected and hydrated, with buildable dewy coverage in five shades. At NordstromSephora and Net-a-Porter.
  • Clinique Super City Block BB Cushion Compact SPF 50: Another cushion with high-level SPF, this one leaves more of a matte finish than the AmorePacific, and has four shades. At Nordstrom, Hudson's Bay, Saks Fifth Avenue and ULTA Beauty.

5. Sunscreen Makeup-Setting Spray

COOLA Makeup Setting Spray SPF 30

COOLA Makeup Setting Spray SPF 30.

Last up is a new-ish category in the sunscreen aisle: setting spray. You might be familiar with makeup-setting sprays already, which mist on over finished makeup to help lock it in place for hours. But now they come in sunscreen versions that protect from UV rays while keeping your makeup looking fresh. They're similar to the clear sunscreen sprays, but with more skin benefits and a matte finish.

Conclusion

How to apply sunscreen over makeup

Stay on top of your sunscreen re-application with these products.

Hopefully, I've given you some ideas for how to stay vigiliant with your sun protection this summer—without having to give up a flawless makeup look! The two CAN coexist if you've got the right products, such as these sprays, powders and lotions that don't require washing off your previously-applied makeup.

Again, I'm not advocating for these to replace your regular favourite sunscreen (which you're diligently applying each morning—right?). They're for keeping in your handbag or at the office so you can touch-up your SPF and stay protected throughout the day. No foundation-smearing required!

Do you re-apply sunscreen throughout the day?
What's your favourite sunscreen for touch-ups?
Have you tried any of these products?