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Should You Apply Sunscreen Before or After Moisturizer?

Should You Apply Sunscreen Before or After Moisturizer?

Education How-Tos Lifestyle & Wellness

Keeping a consistent skincare routine is essential for a healthy complexion, but did you know that the order in which you apply your products can help maximize results? From layering serums to applying sunscreen, order matters. In this article, we'll break down the right way to incorporate sun protection into your skincare routine, along with tips for how to simplify your regimen while maximizing results for healthy, protected skin.

So, where does sunscreen fit into my routine?

How to Navigate the Moisturizer & Sunscreen Ritual

We all know that our skin needs both moisture and SPF protection—they are essential to keeping your skin healthy. So let’s start with moisture—keeping your skin hydrated allows it to work properly. When the outermost layer of the skin has the moisture it needs, it can more effectively defend against toxins and carry nutrients to the skin's cells. Moisturizing creams and lotions help support and restore the skin's barrier, improving overall texture and softness. Of course, wearing sunscreen is a no-brainer, but if you need a quick refresher—using SPF (even on cloudy days) is vital to help protect us from the sun's damaging harmful UV rays, which can lead to skin cancer, discoloration, and aging over time.

Ok, so now that we are clear that we need both hydration and protection from UVA/UVB rays to maintain healthy skin, things start getting a bit tricky—and the questions arise. Do I need two separate skincare products to do this? If so, which one do I apply first? Does my skin type matter? Let’s tackle them once and for all.

Sunscreen, Moisturizer, or Both?

At this point, you have a skincare routine that works for your skin type—which is great. But what many people don’t understand is that the order of your skincare steps matters when it comes to getting the best results. 

So which comes first—sunscreen or moisturizer? This isn’t an easy answer. In fact, even dermatologists disagree with it. This issue is that your moisturizer can interfere with the effectiveness of your SPF. The concern is that when a serum or moisturizer is applied before sunscreen, it can create a barrier that prevents the sunscreen from fully penetrating your skin to protect it from sun exposure. However, when your moisturizer is applied after sunscreen, it can interfere with how the sunscreen interacts with the sun.

SPF Layering: Chemical vs. Physical Sunscreen

So what should you do? It depends on which type of sunscreen you choose—non-mineral (also known as chemical) or physical. A non-mineral sunscreen is recommended to be applied before your moisturizer. This is because non-mineral sunscreen needs to be absorbed into the skin to provide sun protection. One of our favorite formulas is COOLA’s classic SPF 50 face cream—perfect if you are going out for a run or if you'll be outside for longer. It is designed for long active days in the sun but feels light as a moisturizer. If you prefer to apply it after your moisturizer, make sure to wait until your moisturizer is fully absorbed first, so that the sunscreen can also be absorbed better.

However, a physical sunscreen (aka mineral sunscreen) should always be applied after your moisturizer. This is because a physical sunscreen sits on top of the skin—it never penetrates it—instead creating a barrier between your skin and UV rays, reflecting them away. Check out COOLA’s Mineral Organic Sunscreen Stick SPF 50—an easy, mess-free way to keep your face protected. Or opt for a sheer mineral face sunscreen—a perfect protective primer for the rest of your skincare layers. 

For a Simplified Routine

Looking to minimize your routine? Try a dual-purpose sunscreen product, like our nourishing SPF drops. This ultra-light, silky fluid can be applied as the SPF step (before your moisturizer) or blended* with your foundation or tinted moisturizer to simplify it as one skincare step. Formulated with a plant-derived BlueScreen™ Digital De-Stress™ technology, these lightweight drops do it all—provide broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection and help mitigate the effects of HEV light (aka blue light), infrared, and pollution.

*Note: Blending Sun Silk Drops with other products may decrease the claimed SPF value.

For Dry, Parched Skin

Want something that’s more moisturizing? For those that need extra moisture, try COOLA’s Refreshing Water Cream SPF 50 or Refreshing Water Hydration Stick SPF 50, which combines your daily moisturizer and powerful SPF protection in one step. In fact, it's the highest SPF available in an organic daily moisturizer. It contains Hyaluronic Acid and organic Aloe & Coconut Water to hydrate skin while protecting from sun damage. For easy SPF reapplication throughout the day, carry our lightweight hydration mist with SPF 18 in your purse or beach tote and refresh your sunscreen in a few quick sprays.

For Dull Skin Lacking a Healthy Glow

Finally, we’ve simplified your skincare routine even more with COOLA’s Dew Good Illuminating Serum SPF 30. It allows you to combine three steps into one. The organic serum hydrates, illuminates, and protects, and it can be applied directly after cleansing skin to serve as your serum, moisturizer, and SPF. A true multi-tasker!

Most importantly, remember that applying sunscreen (no matter which way you do it!) is better than not applying it at all. You never want to leave the house without at least SPF 30 or higher sunscreen. From incorporating an SPF-friendly moisturizer into your routine to learning whether to apply sunscreen before or after makeup, get dermatologist-approved tips and tricks to maintaining healthy, protected skin with COOLA.



National Library of Medicine. The Role of Moisturizers in Addressing Various Kinds of Dermatitis: A Review.

National Library of Medicine. Sunscreens.