Updated 5/23/23 We’re all busy these days, so who doesn’t love a product that can multi-task? Tinted SPF products, like tinted sunscreens and moisturizers, are an easy way to even out your complexion while protecting your skin from UV rays—or so it may seem.
While tinted sunscreen products seem easy to use and provide many benefits, many people aren’t getting the sun protection they think. This is leaving their skin vulnerable to damaging UV rays, which can eventually result in signs of aging like lines, wrinkles, and discoloration (not to mention problems with skin health). Keep reading to learn what might be going wrong and how to apply your tinted SPF products correctly.
Tinted Sunscreen Products and Their Benefits
The difference between tinted sunscreens and tinted moisturizers with SPF isn’t much more than marketing. At the end of the day, if a product is labeled with an SPF number, it’s undergone the rigorous sunscreen testing required by the FDA. This testing is extensive and is designed to ensure that the UV filters in a product remain stable and effective, especially when combined with the other ingredients in a formula or packaged in a certain material.
The UV protection provided by these tinted SPF products can come from either chemical or physical sunscreen filters (or, my personal preference, a combination of the two). Chemical filters include ingredients such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, and avobenzone. Physical filters, sometimes also referred to as mineral filters, are made of mineral oxides such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
But what about the “tinted” aspect of these sunscreen products? Where does the color come from? In general, cosmetic tints are made using some combination of mineral oxides (typically titanium dioxide for white and iron oxides for yellow, red, and black).
This combination of titanium dioxide and iron oxides is especially beneficial because it protects skin against blue light better than untinted sunscreen. Blue light is part of the visible light spectrum and is emitted by our screens, but the biggest source of blue light is the sun. There is evidence that blue light can contribute to visible skin aging and hyperpigmentation.
The Problem With Tinted SPF Products
This all sounds great, right? So, what’s the problem?
Like so many things in skincare, the problem comes down to user error. If you want your skin to be properly protected against UV rays, the absolute most important thing you can do is apply the proper amount of sunscreen. I always say a quarter-sized dollop for the face, and the same amount for the neck (or, if it’s easier to visualize, at least half a teaspoon for the face and neck combined). Many people also incorrectly assume that by using a product with a higher SPF number, you can get away with applying less. In reality, SPF 100 only provides you with about 2% more protection than SPF 30. It really comes down to applying enough of the product, otherwise, you’re leaving your skin open to damage.
The issue with tinted SPF products is that applying a full quarter teaspoon to the face can look really excessive (especially when first applied), so most people won’t use this much. And if you’re not using this much, it becomes more of a cosmetic product than a functional sunscreen.
How to Apply Tinted Sunscreen
If you really like your tinted sunscreen product or want to use one to reap the benefits of greater visible-light protection, there are ways to get around this.
This first is to simply get in the habit of measuring out your tinted sunscreen, at least for a while until you become accustomed to the amount. Apply an even layer to the entire face, and let it set for a few minutes. At this point, you can gently pat (don’t rub) to blend in the remaining tint.
If this seems too cumbersome or time-consuming, you can also try my layering method. Use a non-tinted sunscreen as your base, allow it to dry, then apply your tinted SPF product on top. This will give you all the benefits, but you won’t have to worry about applying too little.
Finally, you can still get blue-light protection by applying regular foundation makeup on top of your base sunscreen. Remember how both physical sunscreen filters and tinted products contain mineral oxides? This means that even if your foundation, tinted moisturizer, or concealer isn’t labeled with an SPF number, it’s still giving you some protection against UV rays and blue light. Of course, you never want to use makeup as your primary form of sun protection, but this is the reason I actually recommend people wear foundation makeup every day.
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Her hands-on experience as an esthetician and trusted skin care expert has created a real-world solution — products that are formulated for nine different types of skin so your face will get exactly what it needs to look and feel its best. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”