Do Sunscreen Drops Provide Adequate Sun Protection?

by Gio
sunscreen drops do not provide adequate sun protection

Can we talk about sunscreen drops?

I totally get why women are falling for them. Sunscreen is a must. It’s also a HUGE pain. It’s thick. It’s greasy. It’s making you breakout. And giving you a rash. And why do you look like Caspar The Ghost, all of a sudden?


Why can’t you get the sun protection you need without dealing with all that crap? Sunscreen drops promise you just that. But, there’s a catch…

What The Heck Are Sunscreen Drops?

The name says it all. Sunscreen Drops are liquid products you’re supposed to mix with your fave moisturisers/serums to turn them into full-on sunscreens. One drop at a time.

The most famous example is Dr Barbara Sturm Sun Drops SPF 50. That’ll set you back a whooping $145.00! Coola, Dermalogica and Giorgio Armani have their own “dupes” – all under $65.00 (now, that’s more reasonable!).

None of them is worth your money – or the sun damage you’ll get. Here’s what I mean:

Problem #1: Sunscreen Drops Don’t Provide Adequate Sun Protection

Using sunscreen drops is no different from mixing your sunscreen with your fave moisturiser: you’re diluting the SPF.

SPF 50 (or whatever the packaging states) is what you get if you apply the drops alone and like a regular sunscreen, with 2 mg of product applied per square centimetre of skin.

The second you mix them with something else, the SPF levels drastically plummets. 

Sunscreen math sucks more than regular maths. Cos if you apply half the recommended amount, you don’t get half the SPF. You get its square root. 

Michelle of Lab Muffin has done the math for us. This is her estimate for her own facial measurements (check out her blog to read the whole post):

  • If the drops are mixed in equal proportions with a product, and half the proper sunscreen amount is applied: ¼ of the labelled SPF = SPF 12.5 for SPF 50 drops
  • “A few” drops mixed into a product (3 drops at 0.05 mL = 0.15 mL = 0.15 g = 0.39 mg/cm2): 0.195 (around ⅕) of the labelled SPF = SPF 9.75 for SPF 50 drops

That’s way lower than SPF 15, the minimum amount derms recommend. And, come summer, even that is too low!

Related: Why You Should NEVER Mix Your Sunscreen With Lotions

Problem #2: Mixing SPF Products Can Make Them Ineffective

In case that alone wasn’t enough to convince you sunscreen drops are NOT a good idea, hear this: mixing SPF with anything can make it useless.

I know we’re living in the era of “armchair chemists” where everyone is measuring the exact concentration of active ingredients and the pH of a product to determine if it’s actually going to do you any good.

That’s stuff is all important but… it’s only a small part of the puzzle. The effectiveness of a product also depends on what else is in the formula, how all the active and inactive ingredients interact with each other, how it distributes on the skin, etc…

Sunscreen is particularly tricky. UV filters are very delicate things and every ingredient in the formula must be carefully balanced to ensure their photostability (i.e., ensure they won’t degrade and become ineffective before you even put them on your skin).

Some of the oils and acids in your lotions and potions could inadvertently upset this balance, diluting the SPF.

(FYI, I’m not saying you can’t formulate a good sunscreen with oils. But that sunscreen needs to be tested to make sure the UV filters remain stable. That’s not something you can do at home.)

Problem #3: Uneven Distrubition

No, I’m done yet. There’s more.

Uneven distribution is another problem. You see, the reason why you need to wait 15-20 minutes before applying makeup or leaving the house is that sunscreen needs to settle and form a protective, EVEN film on the skin.

If the UV filters aren’t evenly distributed in the formula in the first place, there’s no way they’ll be evenly distributed on your skin. You’ll get some protection, but it’ll be patchy. A little more here, a little less there and none at all in some spots.

When you DIY, you have no way of knowing if the UV filters aren’t evenly distributed. Why take the risk?

Related: Mix And Match: The Skincare Ingredients You Should Never Use Together

The Bottom Line

Sunscreen drops sound like a genius idea that’ll save you time and hassle in the morning. But they don’t provide adequate sun protection. Don’t risk it!


Have you ever tried sunscreen drops? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Frances March 9, 2019 - 11:00 pm

I was really interested in this. I can’t find out from anyone whether the volume of sunscreen product you need differs by whether the sunscreen is in a lotion, cream or oil formulation – it seems to me that it might but no one seems to know. I am still trying to find out from the makers of this product how many ml they think you need for one application to your face, given that they sell some in 30ml bottles and 1/2 tablespoon would be 8 ml. Vita bay sundrops seller on amazon reckoned you only need 1-2 drops on your face to get the rated spf.

Gio March 16, 2019 - 12:21 pm

Frances, I don’t think the texture matters that much. When scientists test the SPF, they always use 2 mg of product applied per square centimetre of skin. And that translates to 1/4 of a teaspoon. So if you want to achieve the SPF stated on the label, that’s how much you need to apply. And yep, that means that you’ll run out of some products within a few short days!


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