Home Makeup Tips Should Primer Go on Before or After Sunscreen?
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Should Primer Go on Before or After Sunscreen?

by Sandy Taylor

Sunscreen should be the last step of your skincare routine and primer should be the first step of your makeup routine. Therefore, primer should go on after you apply sunscreen.

To understand why, let’s look at these 2 products in detail:

Makeup Primers – Makeup primers are used to create a smoothing effect on your skin. They are designed to fill in cracks, wrinkles and other uneven surfaces on your skin.  A smooth surface makes your skin look flawless and allows you to apply makeup easier. Makeup primers are also designed to help your makeup stick on your face better and making them last longer.

Sunscreen – Sunscreens are designed to protect your skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays by absorbing or reflecting sunlight. Many sunscreens have a sun protection factor (SPF) number that measures how well it can protect against a UVB rays. Generally, the higher this number, the better the sunscreen can protect your skin against sunburn and sun damage.

Why You Should Apply Sunscreen First

Most sunscreens are tested on bare skin and are designed to be applied on top of bare skin. If you wear primer under the sunscreen, the sunscreen won’t be able to do its job of protecting your skin. Makeup that you apply on top of your sunscreen would not stick well and will eventually separate throughout the day.

For best results, apply your sunscreen at least 15 – 30 minutes before your primer. This allows the sunscreen to settle or absorb onto your skin and less likely to interfere with your primer. If you are low on time, it’s a good idea to choose a primer that has sunscreen built-in. This is not a substitute for skipping sunscreen for your skincare routine but it’s better than not wearing any sunscreen at all.

What Are Chemical and Physical Sunscreens and When to Apply Moisturizer and Primer

Depending on whether you have a chemical or physical sunscreen, you will need to add a moisturizer before or after applying the sunscreen.

Chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin and usually contain chemicals such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, homosalate and octocrylene. Since this type of sunscreen needs to be absorbed into the skin in order for it to be effective, it needs to be applied first.

If you are using a chemical sunscreen, apply your sunscreen first, then moisturizer and then primer.

A great chemical sunscreen to try is the innisfree UV SPF Sunscreen Broad Spectrum Sunscreen. This sunscreen is infused with green tea (anti-inflammatory), sunflower seed oil (soothes irritated skin) and cica (reduces moisture loss). It has a broad spectrum SPF 36 sun protection and the water-based formula keeps it light-weight when applied. 

Physical sunscreens contain natural minerals. When applied to the skin, they sit on top to reflect UV rays and do not absorb into the skin. The usually contain ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Since this type of sunscreen does not need to be absorbed into the skin for it to be effective, it can be added last.

If you are using a physical sunscreen, apply your moisturizer, then sunscreen and then primer.

A great physical sunscreen to try is the EltaMD UV Sport Sunscreen. This is a zinc oxide sunscreen with 50 SPF broad spectrum UV protection. It is mineral based and water-resistant. This sunscreen won’t clog your pores. It is fragrance-free, paraben-free and dermatologist tested safe for sensitive skin.

Why You Should Use the Same Based Sunscreen, Moisturizer and Primer

Products with the same base works better together and has a less chance of separating when used together.  Since your sunscreen will be in direct contact with your primer or moisturizer, make sure their main ingredients are the same.

For example, if you opt for a silicone-based primer, choose a silicone-based sunscreen and silicone-based moisturizer. To do this, look for common silicones like Dimethicone in both your primer, sunscreen and moisturizer. Similarly, if your sunscreen does not contain any silicone, look for a silicone-free primer or silicone free moisturizer.

The same rule applies to your foundation. I have covered this topic in-depth in my guide on silicone-based foundations. Check it out if you have time.

Should You Mix Sunscreen and Moisturizer Together Before Applying Primer?

It’s not a good idea to mix your sunscreen and moisturizer together before applying your primer. Mixing your sunscreen together with your moisturizer lessens the efficacy of the sunscreen and reduces the ability for it to protect your skin. Sunscreen works best when it’s in direct contract with your skin, this is the reason why it needs to be layered.

Should You Use a Primer with Sunscreen Built-In or Sunscreen with Primer Built-In?

For best results, always use a separate primer, sunscreen or moisturizer layer them. Use sunscreen first before primer).

Hybrid products, such as primers with built-in sunscreen or sunscreens with built-in primers are not substitutes for using primers and sunscreens separate. There are several reasons for this:

Less Efficacy: The SPF protection in most primers is usually not very effective. They provide some protection but no where near the benefits you would get with a sunscreen.

Less Coverage: Depending on the coverage you require; you may not want to apply primer all over your face. However, you may need to do so if you rely on your primer to also act as a sunscreen.

Less Options: Hybrid products have less color options and you may find it hard to find a good match for your skin.

Due to these reasons, it’s recommended to use layer these products separately.

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