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Is a combination sunscreen and moisturizer a good idea?

Iammao inquires…I typically use a separate SPF product to have better control of my skincare routine and reliable SPF coverage. However, due to recent changes in my schedule I have been tempted to use day creams with integrated SPF for convenience. I have started with La Roche Posay’s Hydraphase Intense UV which claims to have SPF20. Additionally, I practice all other sun safety measures. My main concern is, how do I know how much to use? Do I dispense the same recommended quantity as sunscreens? Is it safe to use the same amount I would use for a moisturiser? Is this form of sun protection reliable at all?

The Beauty Brains respond:

When it comes to sunscreen, size matters. The size of the dollop of lotion that you apply to your face, that is.

If you’re relying on a foundation to provide sun protection then you need to apply just as much of this product as if you were applying a regular sunscreen. And, according to reliable sources like Skincancer.org, that means about a nickel-sized dollop to the face alone. As you noted, using separate products gives you better control and makes it easier to ensure you’re getting to the proper SPF. Using a combination product almost ALWAYS involves compromise. In this case,  there’s not much downside because the worst that can happen is that your skin will end up too greasy. But if you were to use a combination sunscreen and foundation, you might find that you’re applying way too much pigment to your face in order to get the required SFP.

La Roche Posay’s Hydraphase Intense UV ingredients

Active: Avobenzone (3%), Octisalate (5%), Octocrylene (7%), Other: Water, Isononyl Isononanoate, Glycerin, Dimethicone, Diisopropyl Sebacate, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Sucrose Tristearate, Polysorbate 61, Zea Mays (Corn) Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Sodium Hyaluronate, PEG-12 Dimethicone, Triethanolamine, Dimethiconol, Panthenol, Xanthan Gum, Caprylyl Glycol, Carbomer, Passiflora Edulis Seed Oil, Disodium EDTA, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Tocopherol, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Methylparaben, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance



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  • Christina May 19, 2014, 11:06 am

    I love this topic! Thanks for posting this. It is a message more consumers need to hear.

    One seldom gets the full SPF benefit from moisturizers or foundations. A nickel size in those products is just too much emolience or pigment for one face to handle and not..well, frankly look insane.

    If you just want a little bit of sunscreen (mainly combined products are just marketing offering the combined alternative) and are okay with knowing it will give you limited protection, continue combining.

    Otherwise, listen to Randy ladies! You will get the best results with separating your sunscreen from your moisturizer or foundation for the best look and full efficiency.

  • Eileen May 19, 2014, 11:45 am

    I enthusiastically second everything you have said. SPF in foundations, BB creams, and moisturizers is basically a marketing gimmick and lulls people into thinking they’re doing something to protect their skin while not really doing much at all. People who rely on a combination product simply aren’t going to use enough of it to achieve the advertised level of SPF. It’s certainly better than nothing, especially for those people who are in denial when it comes to the necessity of protecting their skin from harmful rays. For those of us, though, who accept the importance of wearing sunscreen daily, a dedicated product is the only way to go. There’s an abundance of wonderful sunscreens available to meet varying skin needs so there is no reason for anyone to say they can’t find a good product.

  • PinkyPriss May 19, 2014, 5:46 pm

    I am glad you posted this too. First, I am glad to know now to use a quarter size amount of sunscreen on my face and neck. Second, I don’t think enough consumers realize that most makeup containing an SPF doesn’t actually provide adequate sun protection, unless you use a ton of it.

  • amy May 20, 2014, 6:57 pm

    I feel like the original question wasn’t addressed. she wanted to know if a sunscreen/moisturizer combo is effective (rather than applying sunscreen on top of a moisturizer). she wasn’t asking about foundation.

    I’ve been using daytime moisturizers with SPF for over 20 years now. mine have worked for me. now that I’m 38, I get compliments on my youthful skin all the time. the main brand I’ve been using for the most part is Olay Complete – spf 30 in the summer, and 15 for all other seasons.

    • Randy Schueller May 21, 2014, 6:53 am

      Amy – you raise a good point. Let me try and clarify…

      Whether you’re using a stand alone sunscreen product followed by a moisturizer or a sunscreen/moisturizer combo you should get good UV protection as long as you’re applying enough product.

      Other combo products (like makeup with SPF) aren’t as effective because they’re not designed to applied as heavily to your skin.

      Hopefully that helps!

  • Angela August 11, 2014, 11:46 am

    Ugh, I constantly fall victim to the combo offering of SPF and moisturizer. In fact, I look for moisturizers with as high spf as I can (which is a disappointing 25 SPF, max). Thanks for this posting; I will now apply both (sometimes I’m lazy, hence the combo cream). I’m a bit late to the party so I’m not sure this is the best place to ask, but my husband recently read an article (from Australia, but I can’t remember the source now) claiming that we shouldn’t be using sunscreens. I think the basis of the article was that many people are vitamin D deficient, and that applying sunscreen prevents the production of vitamin D. It suggested that the risk of skin cancer was low compared to the vast benefits of vitamin D. In all your experience/ readings, is there any truth to that or can I continue preaching the virtues of sunscreen to my outdoor loving hubbie?

    And if I were to stop using all sunscreen, wouldn’t I look like an old leather shoe as I age?

    • Randy Schueller August 11, 2014, 1:45 pm

      Great question, Angela, and one that nobody as asked us before. The quick answer is KEEP USING SUNSCREEN but I’ll pull some specific facts from the scientific literature and I’ll post the answer on the blog next week.

  • Sallyanna Boggs November 30, 2017, 6:31 pm

    I know super late to the party, but wanted to ask about a zinc based sunscreen with moisturiser? I suffer from acne…which started from when I started using moisturiser and then sunscreen on top of it. Finally with this product my skin is settling down (yay). It does make a white cast…but I’m pretty white so I don’t mind. The brand is ASAP SPF50+
    Is it okay to use? I want sun protection but too many layers of products and my skin just freaks out.