With Memorial Day right around the corner, I thought it would be a great idea to discuss sunscreen. May is also melanoma awareness month so we all need to be vigilant. There are tons of sunscreens on the market and some confusion over whether to use them before or after moisturizer so today, I’m sharing what order to apply sunscreen in your skincare regime.

I had melanoma on my leg around 20 years ago which has made me hypervigilant about wearing sunscreen.

La Roche Posay and Australian Gold sunscreens

For the sake of conversation, sunscreens can be broken into physical and chemical. People always wonder which is better…chemical or physical sunscreens? The one you will use…use enough of…and apply consistently, is the best sunscreen for you. It’s that simple.

Physical Sunscreens

The physical sunscreens are Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, which are both inorganic compounds that sit on the surface of your skin. They get applied after your serums and moisturizers to create a shield (block) from the sun. They can also go over your foundation but I prefer to put them on before, so the foundation can help knock down any potential white cast left by the sunscreen.

Australian Gold tinted review on A Well Styled Life

Since zinc and titanium dioxide work by blocking the sun’s rays, they often leave a white cast so people often don’t use enough of these products to adequately protect their skin.

Also see-How Much Sunscreen Do You Need?

Sheer zinc is popular now but I find they still leave a white cast so I rely on tinted formulas to prevent the white glow. Tinted physical sunscreens also contain iron oxides which give extra protection against the UVA rays and blue light we are exposed to with our screens and devices.

tinted physical sunscreen

These are my current favorite tinted sunscreens. The Australian Gold is lightweight and absorbs easily. It comes in a light or dark tint. The MDSolarSciences is really lovely but I want a higher sunscreen so always feel the need to add to it. The ColorScience Face Shield comes in many formulas and variations of tint…I find this “Classic” version is perfect for my fair complexion. There are many days I use just this and skip foundation.

collection of physical sunscreens

Here is a small sampling of the sunscreens I have and rotate in and out of my routine. My husband uses the CeraVe…the rest are mine. Yes, I am obsessed with protecting my skin from the sun.

Pros and cons of physical sunscreen

  • tend to leave a white cast
  • thicker and heavier
  • may rub off so needs to be reapplied
  • may not be as water-resistant as chemical sunscreens so you have to be diligent to reapply after swimming
  • is ideal for sensitive skin


Chemical Sunscreens

These need to be absorbed by your skin to work. These chemicals absorb UV rays, convert the rays into heat before your skin absorbs them, and releases them from your body. They must be applied at least 30 minutes before sun exposure and before your moisturizer.

chemcial sunscreen

The Food and Drug Administration has decided to classify sunscreens as drugs which has seriously limited the ones allowed to be sold in the US. This La Roche Posay Anthelios UVMUNE 400 was sent to me from France and it is nothing short of amazing. It contains a host of incredibly effective UVA sunscreens including Tinosorb S, Uvinul T 150, Mexoryl 400, Unvinul A Plus, Mexoryl XL, and Mexoryl SX Ecamsule. Many of these are not available in the US or Canada but have a proven track record of providing superior protection in Europe and other parts of the world.

The Elta MD UV Clear is a cult favorite with many women that’s a combination of physical and chemical sunscreen. It goes on invisibly and is seamless under your foundation.

Pros and cons of chemical sunscreen

  • must be applied 30 minutes before it works
  • can irritate sensitive skin
  • some chemicals can cause harm to coral reefs and wildlife
  • can be detected in the blood and skin weeks after use and some are known to be endocrine disruptors

This article explains the issue with our FDA and why Europe has better sunscreens than we do.

Additional thoughts on sunscreen

hand on steering wheel

Adding an SPF 30 on top of a moisturizer with an SPF 30 does not equal SPF 6o. The protection you get is only as strong as the highest SPF you apply. There is some concern with layering sunscreens that contain Avobenzone which is unstable and so they suggest you layer products with similar ingredients or the same product, which is what I prefer to do. I slather on, let dry completely, then slather on a second layer.

I wear hats, carry parasols, and wear clothes with zinc in the fabric that gives additional sun protection. But my biggest tool against melanoma is the consistent use of a broad spectrum, sunscreen with high SPF.

What is your favorite sunscreen?

Thanks for reading ladies and please wear sunscreen!


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