Are SPF Moisturisers As Effective As We Think?


Young woman reflection in mirror applying cream in bathroom. Caucasian female doing beauty treatment on her face at home.
Young woman reflection in mirror applying cream in bathroom. Caucasian female doing beauty treatment on her face at home.
New research has emerged, at the British Association of Dermatologists' annual conference, that moisturisers containing SPF are often not used properly, bringing into question whether they provide effective sun protection.

It always feels satisfying when you can use a product that kills two birds with one stone, halving not only the time but the money spent on the product. It also makes for a compact staple that is easy to take with you wherever you go.

For many of us, a moisturiser containing SPF is our go-to when it comes to our morning beauty routine, ticking off both sunscreen and moisturiser is one foul swoop. All it takes is popping one layer under your makeup and you can go out into the day feeling as if your good deed has already been done.

However, a new study has unveiled that this two-in-one combo may not be the most effective way of protecting your skin from the sun.

Using a specially modified camera that only sees UV light, researchers at the University of Liverpool found photographic evidence that moisturisers with SPF were less efficient at blocking UV rays compared to conventional sunscreens. Their analysis of this finding was that it happens because individuals don’t tend to take as much care when applying moisturisers as they would sunscreen, slathering on a thinner layer that is, of course, less effective.

The study looked at participants on two occasions; after they had applied sunscreen and also after using an SPF moisturiser. In the photos that they took, using a UV camera, it found that the images were noticeably lighter when the individuals were wearing the moisturiser compared to sunscreen. This suggests that individuals were less protected from UV rays when they were using the SPF moisturiser.

Before you start to panic about the effectiveness of your SPF moisturiser, relax. Scientists suggested that the lack of UV protection wasn’t because of what was in the moisturiser, but rather because it is often applied a lot less liberally than a layer of sunscreen. As a result, this compromises the perceived level of SPF protection people receive.

Furthermore, the study revealed that when applying SPF moisturiser, people are much more likely to miss areas of their face than they are with sunscreen, leaving them more vulnerable to skin cancer and premature ageing. Eyelids, a common site for skin cancer, were found to be often missed, left unprotected.

The moral of the story is that SPF moisturisers aren’t bad – they’re actually very good. But in order to get full SPF protection, they have to be applied as liberally as sunscreen. It doesn’t mean your face has to be caked with cream, but it is important that you spread a decent layer of moisturiser over your skin, making sure you cover the whole surface of the skin well.


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