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How Much SPF Do You Really Need?

By Amalah

After reading your column for ages, I dutifully bought myself moisturizer with sunscreen (Olay Complete All Day Moisture Lotion) and used it all winter. Now that it’s spring and the UV is cranking up, I started using a 70 SPF for my face (Neutrogena Dry Touch sunblock). I also have a tinted moisturizer that I use instead of foundation to smooth out my blotchy skin (Clinique Moisture Sheer Tint, which also has SPF 15 in it).
That seems like a lot of layers for my face every morning. Do I need all of it? Just the sunscreen and tinted stuff? In what order should I put it on? It seems strange to put sunscreen on top of makeup, but equally strange to put moisturizer on top of sunscreen.
Thanks for any advice you can give!!

If I were you, I’d probably drop the Olay stuff for the summer sunny months (triple-teaming on the SPF seems excessive, even to a sunblock diehard like me). Tinted moisturizers tend to be a little weak on the actual moisturizing sometimes, but should be fine in the summer when you won’t be prone to dry winter skin.
As for the order, have you tried mixing them together in your hand before applying? I have no idea how the consistency of these two particular products would combine, but I’ve definitely mixed straight sunscreen into moisturizers to speed up my morning. They end up all slathered in a help on your face anyway, so if you’re driving yourself crazy trying to figure out which should go on first, it’s worth a try to combine them in the first place.
If you find that doesn’t work for whatever reason, I’d just experiment to see what order I liked best. I do a moisturizer/sunblock/makeup routine, but could see how the putting the Neutrogena Dry-Touch on first could maybe impede the effectiveness of the moisture in your makeup. I don’t know, seems science-y. So I’d try the tinted moisturizer first, then sunscreen. Since sunscreen is designed to be reapplied as needed, I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t go over a very light makeup product with no problem.
If you start having a problem with dryness, add a moisturizer back in. Between the SPF in the Olay and the tint, I’m guessing you’ve got at least SPF 30 going on, so you could possibly skip the SPF 70 on days that you know you aren’t going to be spending significant chunks of time out in direct sunlight. (There’s actually a debate whether anything over SPF 30 actually provides that much more protection anyway, though I doubt those of us super-prone to burns would be willing to be the guinea pigs for this theory.)
The biggest reason to use a product like the Neutrogena on your face, however, is because it provides full-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB. To quote from The New York Times article linked above: SPF ratings apply only to UVB rays, and some sunscreens provide no protection at all against UVA rays, which penetrate the skin more deeply. For broad protection, look for sunscreens with avobenzone, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, all of which block UVA.
Your Olay moisturizer provides protection against both; the Clinique product does not make this claim, and (as usual with Clinique) I cannot find an ingredient list online anywhere to verify if it contains a broad-spectrum ingredient.


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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