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Sharp Health News

Are moisturizers with sunscreen effective?

Aug. 3, 2022

Woman putting moisturizer on her face

We all know sun protection is important, and that means any sunscreen is better than none at all. Sunscreen is now conveniently included in a variety of skin care products, including our daily moisturizer. The question is, are moisturizers with SPF actually effective?

Dr. Mona Mofid, a board-certified dermatologist affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital, answers your top questions about moisturizers and sunscreen.

What is the purpose of a moisturizer?
Moisturizers are meant to help hydrate and protect the skin. The skin is like a sponge and depending on the climate, that sponge can dry out.

What’s more, Dr. Mofid says that as we age, we lose the ability to retain moisture. “When your skin dries out, it becomes cracked and more vulnerable to external elements, including bacteria,” she says.

Your skin is the body’s largest organ and meant to provide a barrier of protection. If you have a crack or cut in the skin, you may have an increased risk of infection because infectious agents, such as viruses and bacteria, have an entryway into the body. The goal is to hydrate your skin so that it is plump, with no cracks.

Why do we need to wear sunscreen?
Sunscreen, either in spray or lotion form, helps protect the skin from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. These rays can cause skin damage and increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

According to Dr. Mofid, 20% of people in the U.S. will develop skin cancer during their lifetime. Therefore, regular sunscreen use — even if it is cloudy or raining outside — is important.

Does a moisturizer with a sunscreen work?
A moisturizer combined with a sunscreen is an effective and simple way to make sun protection a part of your daily skin care routine. However, all-in-one products may not provide as much sun protection as pure sunscreen. Check the label of your moisturizer to ensure it has an SPF of no less than 30.

What is the best way to apply moisturizer and sunscreen?
If you are using separate products, moisturizer should be applied first and sunscreen last. “Sunscreen should always be the last product in your skin care routine,” Dr. Mofid says. “Think of it as the gate around the property to protect you from the UV rays.”

If your face is oily, you do not need to apply a moisturizer. You should use anti-comedogenic, anti-acne or oil-free sun protection on the face to avoid clogging pores. These sunscreens are specially labeled for oily skin and are usually in a gel or powder-based formula.

What should you consider when choosing a sunscreen?
Mineral-based SPF ingredients, such as titanium and zinc, are preferable and better for the environment as well as coral reefs. Most of the minerals are reduced to an ultra-fine powder to avoid a white sheen or are tinted to blend in with the skin.

“The best sunscreen product is one you will actually use every day,” says Dr. Mofid. “It’s best to find a product that works for you, from how it feels and smells to its price.”

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