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How to Layer Sunscreen With Your Skincare

Sunscreen is probably the closest thing to a youth-preserving potion out there—and there’s research to back that up. Layer it with these skincare ingredients to get the best out of it.

By Adarsh Soni
21 Aug 2021

When it comes to skincare, one rule prevails above all: sunscreen is essential. While our body requires a healthy amount of Vitamin-D, it’s no secret that too much time in the sun can lead to several skin-related issues. Studies have also shown that sun damage is one of the primary catalysts for signs of ageing like wrinkles and dark spots, as well as more serious conditions like skin cancer. As a result, sunscreen is one of the foremost methods to protect your body, particularly the delicate skin of your face.

There are certain skincare ingredients that can make your SPF even more effective while others can make your skin sensitive, increasing its dependence on sunscreen. Let’s have a look at both of them.



Skincare ingredients that make sunscreen more powerful

Vitamin C

No matter what your skin type is, daily application of a Vitamin-C serum can help you achieve a noticeable glow. It brightens, firms, hydrates, and evens out texture and tone. Since Vitamin-C is a strong antioxidant, it also protects the skin against sun damage caused by free radicals. A study by Dr Lucy Chen, Dermatology Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, USA, states that free radicals are unpaired oxygen atoms that actively seek out any other atom to stabilise themselves. They’ll latch onto anything—your skin cells being a ready target—and cause a chain event of damage that leads to premature ageing. As their name implies, antioxidants are the “antidote to oxidation” and help to combat that damage directly. According to the American Institute of Dermatology, sunscreens block only fifty-five percent of the free radicals produced by UV exposure. To optimise UV protection, it is important to use sunscreens combined with a topical antioxidant. Under laboratory conditions, it has been shown that application of ten percent topical Vitamin-C showed a statistical reduction of UVB-induced erythema by fifty-two percent and sunburn cell formation by forty to sixty percent. Every morning, apply Vitamin-C to bare skin, let it absorb for a few minutes, then follow with a nourishing moisturiser and sunscreen at last.


Ferulic acid

We all know that SPF is important when you’re stepping out into the sun but so is packing in lots of moisture, because in addition to the harmful UV rays, water, dirt and wind can all be drying for the skin. While any good-quality moisturiser can provide the nourishment your skin needs, products rich in ferulic acid work more effectively when combined with sunscreen and other antioxidants. According to research by Dr Fu-Hsiung Lin, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, USA, ferulic acid has the potential to offer twice the amount of photoprotection when combined with SPF. Start with a layer of ferulic acid-rich face cream, wait a minute or two for it to absorb, then you’re ready to go in with your SPF.

Also note that you should never mix your moisturiser and sunscreen together. That dilutes the sunscreen’s protectiveness, rendering your face susceptible to sun damage. Always apply them as two separate layers.


Vitamin-E oil

There are two separate benefits of face oil, when used in conjunction with sunscreen, and they’re both poles apart. Let’s start with the AM routine. Similar to a Vitamin-C serum, face oils that are rich in antioxidants like Vitamin-E are known to make your morning dose of sunscreen even more potent. According to research by Dr K E Burke, Department of Medicine, Cabrini Medical Center, New York, USA, topical use of Vitamin-E oil can reduce acute and chronic skin damage caused by UV radiation. It’s also extremely moisturising so you can easily layer it between your Vitamin-C serum and sunscreen. Just make sure that you let your skin absorb the oil before applying sunscreen. Mineral sunscreen will also give you the added bonus of blurring out the oil you just applied to your face, removing any excessive shine.

The second benefit of using face oil is more about removal than application. Yes, face-oils and oil-based cleansers are perfect for removing the thick layers of SPF that you have been applying and reapplying all day. A lot of long-wearing products have an oil base, so you should take off all your oil-soluble products with an oil-based cleanser. Similarly, heavy-duty sunscreens also melt away with just a little bit of oil, leaving you with clean and healthy skin.


Skincare products that make your skin vulnerable to sun damage

While these skincare ingredients might not make your SPF more potent, dermatologists strongly recommend following them with a broad range sunscreen the next morning. The reason? They make your skin extra sensitive and ultimately more susceptible to sun damage.



Salicylic, glycolic, and lactic acids are all effective exfoliants that can improve skin texture, tone, and in the case of salicylic acid, treat acne. That being said, all three of these acids can dehydrate and irritate skin, leading to sunburn cell formation and redness even with minimum sun exposure. Which is why you should make it a rule to moisturise your skin immediately after using them and following it with a good quality mineral sunscreen. Avoid chemical sunscreen because that can irritate your skin even further.


Benzoyl peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is a common anti-acne ingredient that can either be used on its own as a serum or as an active ingredient in creams and cleansers. While it’s extremely effective in treating breakouts, there’s a downside. The application of benzoyl peroxide can dry your skin excessively and make it photosensitive, leading to itchy rashes or even minor blisters if not protected from UV exposure. However, this can be easily treated by following it with an ultra hydrating face cream and a broad range SPF to protect your vulnerable skin from sun damage.



Retinol is one of the most revered skincare ingredients that skin experts all over the world love to recommend. A Vitamin-A derivative, retinol is known to promote skin turnover and reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots and acne. However there is a catch—just like AHA, retinol can make your skin extremely sensitive, which is why it should only be applied during the PM. But its effect on your skin lasts way beyond the night hours and sun exposure can cause your skin to dry out and peel at an accelerated rate. Hence, you should make it a habit to apply sunscreen every single day when you’re using retinol.





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