I Tried 3 Different Sunscreens Under My Makeup To See How They Affected The Look Of My Complexion

by Stephanie Montes
Stephanie Montes

I take really good care of my skin, but I'm a makeup junkie first and foremost. While I religiously indulge in at-home facials and am strict about washing my face before bed, my skincare routine comes second to a perfectly beat face. I always opt for non-greasy skincare formulas that won't interfere with my signature cat-eye liner, and though I'm not proud of it, I've even skipped wearing sunscreen as not to disturb my foundation shade. But because we're in the thick of summer, with time for more beach days on the horizon, I set out to find the best sunscreens to wear under makeup. Why? Straight up, the sun is dangerous. It can cause burns, pigmentation issues, early signs of aging, and in severe cases, cancer. Honestly, I appreciate a chiseled contour and a cut-crease eyeshadow look as much as the next makeup lover, but it's not worth skipping the SPF and risking you skin and your health.

To prove you can have bomb makeup and protect your skin at the same time, I took three sunscreens for a spin under my makeup. And because a really good makeup look requires a photo, I even tried the dreaded flash test with each one to make sure your complexion looks exactly the way you want it to — even with a white cream underneath. Here's how they all held up.

Avéne Mineral Sunscreen Fluid SPF 50+

What first drew me to this formula was the SPF 50+ label on the packaging. If I'm going to wear sunscreen, I want all the protection I can get. This broad-spectrum formula gives you up to 80 minutes of UVA and UVB protection and is water resistant. Plus, the added spring water (a staple in Avéne's products) hydrates and softens skin.

The Mineral Sunscreen Fluid comes in two shades: white and tinted. Figuring there's no way the tinted shade (there's only one) would match my skin, I opted for the classic white color. The white formula left that dreaded white-almost-purple cast on my skin. Although it absorbed and disappeared about 30 minutes later, I decided to wash my face and start all over with the tinted version instead. To my surprise, it actually blended in nicely with my skin tone, disappearing completely in seconds.

The product didn't feel sticky or greasy, and once it had absorbed, my skin felt smooth and hydrated. After applying a full face of makeup, I realized my complexion looked the same as it does without sunscreen. You'd never guess I'm wearing an SPF 50 under my contour and blush. Now, all that was left was the flash test:

Stephanie Montes

While I have my doubts on the white formula (although, this remains unconfirmed), the tinted version gave zero flashback.

Shiseido Clear Stick UV Protector WetForce SPF 50+ Sunscreen

Admittedly, this is the first product that taught me it's possible to wear sunscreen under makeup. Unlike other products that come in white and claim to go on transparent, this one actually starts out clear. It's so clear, in fact, you have to be methodical about how you apply it, otherwise you'll surely miss a spot.

When I used it, the Clear Stick UV Protector went on completely weightless, without an ounce of greasy residue. It melted right in and left a smooth, primer-like feeling on my face. Honestly, the only indication that I was wearing sunscreen is the smell, but it reminded me of summer, so it's cool. Plus, I was able to go about my day comfortably knowing my face was fully protected from harmful UVA and UVB rays for 80 minutes. And get this: It's not only water resistant, but it goes on overdrive when you go swimming or start sweating, thanks to the brand's WetForce technology.

Here's how this product held up in the flash test:

Stephanie Montes

Though the flash image shows a bit of shine, this sunscreen ultimately didn't affect the look of my complexion or the shade of my foundation too much.

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Great 8 Daily Defense Moisturizer Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 35

While this sunscreen actually claims a lower SPF count than the others, SPF 35 is technically the recommended amount for everyday wear. (While a higher number offers a longer time of protection, SPF 50 is usually reserved for days spent on the beach.) But what excites me the most about this sunscreen is the level of protection it provides your skin, even when you're not frolicking in the sunshine. Sure, it shields you from UVA and UVB rays, but it also protects you from blue light emission (from phones and computers that can cause inflammation and weakening of the skin), infrared rays (emitted from heat, that can cause pigmentation), and pollution (which can cause acne and exacerbate problems like rosacea). What's more, it promises to hydrate skin, control oil production, brighten skin, and eliminate free-radical damage.

When I pumped the Daily Defense Moisturizer Broad Spectrum Sunscreen out of the tube, it came out white, but when I massaged it into my skin, it totally transformed into a clear formula. It disappeared completely, leaving my skin feeling hydrated without looking greasy. Think: the lightweight texture and absorption power of your favorite water gel cream, making it perfect for summer.

And, here's how it stood up to the dreaded flash:

Stephanie Montes

Again, while a little shine showed up in my t-zone with a flash, the overall color and look of my complexion weren't drastically affected. My final flash test proves that, really, with so many amazing SPF formulas on the market today, there's no excuse to step out with your skin unprotected ever again.