Is Your Foundation Application Messing With Your Sunscreen?

by Gio
foundation application messing and removing sunscreen

Is your foundation application messing up your sunscreen?

I was guilty of this for years. I’d put on my sunscreen and then go in with foundation straight away, rubbing the colour evenly all over my skin until every little flaw disappeared.

Little did I know that as I was blending in the colour, I was blending away the sunscreen…

Does Foundation Compromise The Effectiveness Of Your Sunscreen?

It was John from The Triple Helixian who first pointed out the dangers of applying foundation over sunscreen mindlessly:

“I lightly stipple on my foundation. I never, EVER buff because that’ll risk moving or even removing the sunscreen underneath,” says John.

Makes sense. If you’re too rough or apply foundation in a way that causes it to move around, you’re leaving some areas of your face without sun protection.

How effective is your sunscreen? Sign up to the newsletter below to receive the “Sunscreen Audit” Worksheet and find out if your sunscreen is really up to the job:

How To Apply Foundation Without Messing Up Your Sunscreen

John suggests stippling on foundation. What the heck is stippling?

Stippling is an art technique that involves working on a surface with small dots of paint (or foundation, in this case). It gives your skin better coverage and that flawless, airbrushed finish.

You’ll need a stippling brush for this. A stippling brush has two sets of bristles. The white bristles pick up the foundation and apply it to your skin, while the denser black bristles at the base push it into your skin.

Here’s how stippling your foundation on works:

  • Pour a small amount of foundation to the back of your hand and dab your stippling brush in it to pick up the product.
  • Light pat the foundation all over your face.
  • Lightly swirl the brush in small circles, allowing the denser black bristles to blend in the foundation.

FYI, this technique doesn’t just work with foundation. You can use it with blushes and bronzers, too.

Sure, it takes more time. But then again, what’s the point of putting on sunscreen if you’re removing it straight afterwards?

WARNING! Not all foundations work well with the stippling technique. For daytime, choose one that doesn’t set too quickly and is not too thick – or you’ll have a lot of blending to do!

How Long Should You Wait To Apply Foundation After Sunscreen?

Ever wondered why your mum told you to apply sunscreen 20 minutes before heading to the beach?

Common sense says that’s because sunscreen needs to be activated by contact with the skin. 20 minutes is how long that reaction takes.

That’s a myth. Sunscreen doesn’t need to be activated. But it needs to dry.

Think of it as nail polish. If you accidentally touch your manicured nails before they’re completely dry, you’re gonna mess the whole thing up.

Same with sunscreen. It can protect you from the sun only if every inch is uniformly covered. If you touch your face before sunscreen has had the time to settle and form an even firm all over, you’re gonna rub it off here and there, compromising its sun protection.

How long do you need to wait to apply foundation after sunscreen? 15/20 minutes. Not a second sooner.

P.S. This rule doesn’t just apply to foundation (or primer, if you apply that before foundation). DON’T touch your face at all for 15/20 minutes.

Is your foundation application messing with your sunscreen? Let me know in the comments below.



Nikki December 5, 2012 - 3:36 am

Ah, great idea! I do feel that I mess up with my sunblock if I puff my foundation on top of it! What I usually do is just prep my hair and wait for the sunscreen to really settle down then gently apply foundation (liquid or powder) on top! 😀

beautifulwithbrains December 5, 2012 - 7:09 am

Nikki, you really have to be careful about what you apply on top of sunscreen, don’t you? Well done for using a gentle hand that won’t mess up your foundation. 🙂

Misha December 5, 2012 - 1:07 pm

I always apply my moisturizer before applying sunscreen. But don’t apply anything over that. I think it is more than enough. Do you think it is ok to put foundation over sunscreen?

beautifulwithbrains December 5, 2012 - 9:42 pm

Misha, yes, I think it’s ok to apply foundation over sunscreen, provided you do so carefully and with a light hand.

Also, if you use a chemical sunscreen, it would be better to apply that before moisturizer. If instead you use a physical one, you can apply it after moisturizer. You can find more info here:

shruti December 5, 2012 - 5:52 pm

I guess, I am using a wrong method. But what I do is, I mix my sunscreen and foundation on my palm and after some rubbing, I apply it on my face (just like we put some moisturizer). I feel may be I am messing up their properties or chemical formulation. It does not break me out, but then may be sunscreen would not be working properly. What do you suggest?

beautifulwithbrains December 5, 2012 - 9:46 pm

Shruti, you shouldn’t do that! Mixing sunscreen with foundation can seem like a good idea, but in reality you are just diluting the sunscreen and thus the level of protection it affords. That means that a SPF30 sunscreen, for instance, can become a SPF15 or less! Always apply sunscreen separately, and then both moisturizer and foundation on top of it. But gently and carefully. 🙂

shruti December 6, 2012 - 1:09 pm

Ok.. Thanks for clarifying my doubt. I was really confused, but then it never did any harm. So, I kept on using it. But, I will keep in mind from now on. Thanks once again. 🙂

beautifulwithbrains December 6, 2012 - 9:05 pm

You’re welcome. Sun damage is sneaky as it shows up after several years so you don’t notice straight away that something is wrong. Still, it was always better than not wearing sunscreen at all. 🙂

Sarah June 28, 2019 - 8:18 pm

Oh wow, sunscreen BEFORE moisturiser? I’ve always done it the other way around!!

Gio July 6, 2019 - 2:45 pm

Sarah, I now recommend using sunscreen AFTER moisturizer. The other way around isn’t wrong, but research I’ve seen lately suggests that sunscreen is better used as the last step in your skincare routine.

Janessa December 13, 2012 - 5:26 am

My foundation isn’t since I don’t wear any, but my moisturizers sometimes do! I’ve found some moisturizers that don’t disturb my sunscreen at all and so I use those during the day. If I let my sunscreen sink in or set a little by waiting at least fifteen minutes before applying my moisturizer, the moisturizer applies better. :]

beautifulwithbrains December 13, 2012 - 2:02 pm

Janessa, I’m glad that you’ve found some moisturizers that don’t mess with your sunscreen. And I agree that it’s better to wait a while to apply moisturizer after sunscreen. 🙂

Samantha April 3, 2013 - 2:26 am

I’m using Neutrogena ultra sheer spf45. It’s really good but it’s so thick and leaves a layer of white cast over my face! And I really dislike the white residue. I’m more inclined towards physical sunscreen which explains my dilemma. Is it alright if I just drop a single drop of foundation so that the sunscreen will look more natural. After which I apply my tinted moisturiser to completely cover the white cast? Thanks!

beautifulwithbrains April 3, 2013 - 9:10 pm

Samantha, I feel your pain. I prefer physical sunscreens too, but the white cast they leave isn’t attractive at all. When you say, drop a single drop of foundation, do you mean to mix it with the sunscreen? That’s not really recommend as that way you could dilute the sunscreen and thus reduce the level of protection it provides.

You can apply foundation on top to cover it, or you can look for a physical sunscreen that that doesn’t leave a white cast behind. I’ve recently discovered sunumbra which make physical sunscreens that are brownish in colour so they don’t leave a white residue on the skin. You can check out my review here:

Hope this helps.

H January 13, 2016 - 3:48 pm

The blog Viva Woman has some good recommendations for mineral sunscreens for the face. EWG has a sunscreen guide full of sunscreens they have tested to see how they rate for UVA protection, since the labels say “broad-spectrum” (they do it the same way that the FDA has companies test to make sure the sunscreen follows through with its claims. You can google how.). As stated before,this guide is a good place to see just how really your sunscreen is protection you and compare it with other sunscreens you have to find the strongest. The guide has thousands, from Keys to La Posey,Neutrogena, Mineral Fusion and Sunumbra! Highly recommended!

Gio January 13, 2016 - 7:53 pm

Thank you for your recommendations. I love Viva Woman blog too.

Roberta Cervantes Garcia October 25, 2016 - 3:48 pm

Hi! You were the one of the only other 3 articles I found on the internet addressing this issue. It’s SO important and no one really stops to think of it! You find rather “how to apply sunscreen without messing up my makeup”. Anyway, I’m using retinol at night so for me it’s suuuuuper important to know if I’m getting the right protection.

I gotta big question. You see this trend of using oval brushes (the Artis brush dupes) – I got a fabulous and cheap set. Application involves a bit of buffing and slighly rubbing. Do you think this affects sunscreen coverage?

Gio November 13, 2016 - 10:04 pm

Roberta, yes, I think there’s the chance that you’ll remove some sunscreen. Probably not much if you buff very, very gently, but it is a possibility indeed.

Geo55 June 29, 2019 - 2:37 am

Thanks for addressing this little discussed skin care issue. i try to apply any foundation or concealer, over my sunscreen with a very light hand. Sometimes if I feel like I rubbed too much, I will pat more sunscreen over whatever foundation or concealer I’ve applied. It helps if the makeup or tinted BB cream also has sunscreen in it. Then afterward and before I leave the house, I brush on some powder with spf in it.


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