Should I Be Layering My SPFs?


Is it just us, or is every beauty staple packing a little something extra these days? SPF, that is. Every other moisturizer, primer, foundation, even eyeshadow comes factory-installed with SPF. And if you layer them all you'll be extra protected, right? Not right? Once and for all, here's the answer.

“Unfortunately, the protection you get when layering SPF products such as primer, moisturizer, sunscreen, and foundation is not additive,” says Dr. Caroline Robinson, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Tone Dermatology. In other words, layering SPF products doesn’t help you block more rays. If you layer three products with SPF 30, it’s the same thing as applying one layer of SPF 30 sunscreen. When products have different SPF levels, you’ll be left with the protection level of whichever you used the most of. (As Dr. Robson points out, “Some of us tend to use makeup more sparingly, and skip certain areas like the ears and chest,” which is why she doesn’t recommend relying on makeup for sun protection.) And if you apply the same amount of all the products you layer, your net SPF still won’t be greater than the highest individual SPF in the bunch. “The most important thing to remember when layering,” she explains, “is that one product should provide you with adequate protection independent of the other layers you apply.”

It’s kind of like how, if you eat a big spinach salad every day, a vitamin C supplement won’t change your life. Does it help to layer SPFs? No, though it won’t hurt either. As long as you don’t carry the false sense that you’re extra protected, which may cause you to skimp on actual sunscreen, layer away. And continue the search for a “broad spectrum, water resistant SPF 30+” (doctor’s orders!) you don’t mind using a lot of. Still looking for the one? Dr. Robinson suggests Hero’s new Force Shield Superlight Sunscreen, which is lightweight, mineral, fragrance-free, and comes with redness-reducing green tint. She also likes Isdin’s Ageless Sunscreen for a matte finish that repairs while it protects, and Mele’s No Shade Sunscreen Oil for a day at the beach.

Photo via ITG