Are SPF moisturisers effective?

Are SPF Moisturisers just as Effective as a Sunscreen?

Should You Be Using Moisturisers with Added SPF?

Many day moisturisers combine SPF to protect the skin from sun damage. Using moisturisers with added sun protection seems like the rational option to go for when it comes to daily skincare routines. A moisturiser that can simultaneously keep your skin moisturised whilst protecting you from sun damage with its incorporation of SPF seems like a win. You can find a wide range of daily moisturisers that are combined with all types of skin-loving ingredients like niacinamide and collagen.

The Study Into The Effectiveness of SPF Moisturisers:

There is a general debate as to whether these moisturisers are as effective as a solid sunscreen. A study conducted by students from the University of Liverpool into the ‘Application of SPF moisturisers is inferior to sunscreens in coverage of facial and eyelid regions’ used UV sensitive photography to understand if these products protect the skin equally.

In this study a moisturiser with SPF 30 and a sunscreen with SPF 30 were given to 84 participants. The participants were instructed to come in on two separate days to apply on the two different products. When given the products, the participants were told to “please apply this as you normally would”. Each of the participants were photographed before and after, so that results could be compared.

The Findings:

The study found a great visible difference between the amount of UV rays blocked by the two products. When the SPF 30 sunscreen was applied, the images were darker which indicates that more UV rays were being blocked compared to when they used an SPF 30 moisturiser.

These two products should be providing the same amount of UV protection considering they both had SPF 30. This suggests that an insufficient amount of product is being used in the application of SPF moisturisers for them to have the same effect as a sunscreen.

Are Foundations With SPF Effective?

Using a foundation with SPF will not to the amount of sun protection you would receive from wearing a sole form of sun protection. Considering the findings of the study conducted at the University of Liverpool, you would have to wear a very thick layer of foundation to give you some adequate amount of UV protection, which would still not match the level of protection from a sunscreen.

Can You Layer Different Forms of SPF?

Yes, if you use moisturisers or makeup products that contain SPF, then layering it with a solid SPF will ensure that you are getting the right amount of UVA/UVB protection.

The Sunscreen Formulation:

Depending on the formulation of your sunscreen, you may or may not want to layer two different products. There are two types of sunscreens:

  • Chemical Sunscreen: Chemical sunscreens contains active ingredients like include oxybenzone, octinoxate, and homosalate which penetrate into your skin and allows the skin to dissipate the sun’s rays. These formulations are typically a lot lighter in consistency.
  • Physical/Mineral Sunscreen: Contains ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide which create a physical barrier against the sun’s UV rays. For this reason, these formulations can leave a white-cast and have a thicker consistency.

Layering two types of physical sunscreens or two types of chemical sunscreens is not going to cause any harm. However, layering a chemical and physical sunscreen could actually dilute the formulas as reduce the effectiveness they both have in protecting your skin.

Can Layering Different SPF’s Increase Sun Protection?

Unfortunately, you cannot add up SPF. Mixing different SPF formulations like SPF 30 and SPF 50 will not give you SPF 80 protection. The amount of sun protection you are receiving will depend on the product that has the highest amount of SPF.


  • If you are going to use moisturisers or makeup product containing SPF, you will need a great amount of product for it to be able to give you an adequate amount of protection.
  • Research indicates that in general, people do not apply anywhere near as much sun protection as they should be. The FDA has stated that sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours.

By Rhysa Phommachanh, BA (Hons) Specialist Skincare and Media Makeup Expert