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Can Moisturizers with SPF Really Protect Your Skin from the Sun?

We investigate.
Can Moisturizers with SPF Really Protect Your Skin from the Sun?
IMAGE Mark Buenaobra
We investigate.

As relentless advocates for sun protection (yup, we feel that strongly about it), we always recommend wearing sunscreen as the last step of your skincare. It's a dermatologist-approved way to make sure you'll be protected from the sun, with a literal veil of SPF on your skin.

But for those of you with sensitive skin or with a very minimal beauty routine, this extra layer might be a problem—a hassle, even. You might opt for foundation or moisturizer with SPF instead of applying actual sunscreen for the sake of convenience. While that choice is yours, we couldn't help but wonder how doing so compares to actually wearing sunscreen on its own, and more importantly, if dermatologists approve of this shortcut. That said, we asked Dr. Gaile Robredo-Vitas of BeautiqueMD what she thought and here's what she told us:

"Moisturizers are intended to hydrate the skin, and [those with SPF] may not contain a lot of sun-protective ingredients nor formulated to be water-resistant," she tells Preview. "Sunscreens, on the other hand, often contain a lot of active ingredients that provide sun protection (e.g. titanium dioxide, zinx oxide, etc.) and most are water-resistant."

Thus, according to the derm, this difference doesn't necessarily mean that non-sunscreens with SPF are powerless against UV rays. She clarifies that anything with SPF and broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) coverage does provide some kind of protection—even if it only says SPF five or 10. But is it reliable for everyday use? Dr. Gaile says, “Many find it convenient to use combination products especially for everyday use. In my opinion, this is okay, however if you intend to spend most of the day outdoors, it would be best to use a sunscreen.”

So there you have it, ladies. We don’t always have to be OC with your sunscreen (unless you want to, of course!). As long as you have some broad spectrum SPF on you, that's still 10 times better than no SPF at all.

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