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Sun protection 101: Do powder sunscreens work?

They may be convenient and portable—but powder sunscreens have their downsides.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 25, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
Sunlight Exposure
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 25, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Sunscreen is a vital product to safeguard your skin from the harmful effects of the sun—and it’s one that comes in several different kinds of formulas. Aside from liquid sunscreen, powder sunscreens have entered the market and have gained popularity for their convenience and portability. 

But the most important question is: Do they provide the necessary sun protection? Or are you better sticking with a more traditional liquid option? 

Here, Curology’s experts will explain the effectiveness of powder sunscreens and what you need to know before incorporating them into your sun protection routine.

What are powder sunscreens? 

Powder sunscreens are sunscreen formulations that—you guessed it—come in a powdered form. They’re designed to provide a convenient and lightweight alternative to traditional sunscreens. Powder sunscreens typically come in loose powder, pressed powder, or brush-on formats, allowing for precise application. They offer an easy way to incorporate sun protection into your skincare routine, providing a matte finish and minimizing the greasy or sticky feeling often associated with traditional sunscreens. Ultimately, at Curology, we generally don’t recommend powdered sunscreens—and we’ll explain why in a bit.

Are powdered sunscreens effective? 

Powdered sunscreens can be effective in providing sun protection when used properly. The effectiveness of powdered sunscreens primarily depends on factors such as the active ingredients, application technique, and coverage. 

Ingredients

When choosing sunscreen, look for products that contain mineral-based ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These ingredients act as physical blockers and work by reflecting and scattering UV rays away from your skin, providing effective protection against sun damage. Mineral-based ingredients are often preferred for their broad-spectrum coverage, as they can protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Additionally, mineral-based ingredients are generally considered gentle on your skin and are suitable for various skin types, including sensitive skin.¹

Advantages and considerations

Powdered sunscreens offer several advantages, including convenience and ease of application. They come in a portable form and can be quickly applied, making them great for on-the-go use. Additionally, powdered sunscreens provide a matte finish, helping to reduce shine and oiliness on your skin—beneficial for those with oily or combination skin types. 

However, there are considerations to keep in mind. Powdered sunscreen must be evenly and adequately applied to all exposed areas of your skin, as the powder form can result in a thinner application compared to traditional cream or lotion sunscreens. Multiple layers or touch-ups throughout the day may be needed to ensure proper sun protection. The efficacy of powdered sunscreens can vary depending on the formulation and individual factors. It's essential to choose a high-quality product with a high SPF and broad-spectrum protection to safeguard against both UVA and UVB rays. 

Precautions

Ultimately, powder and spray sunscreens are generally not recommended due to the potential inhalation of particles, which can be hazardous to your health. Research suggests caution in using powder and sprays sunscreens to minimize the risk of inhalation.² Opt for other forms of sunscreen, such as lotions or creams, which have a lower risk of inhalation. Safety should always be a top priority when selecting sun protection products, and following the guidance of healthcare professionals and dermatology providers is recommended.

Using sunscreen properly 

The proper use of sunscreen is essential for effective sun protection. Here are some key points to keep in mind:³

Choose Zinc and titanium-based sunscreens: Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide-based sunscreens are considered safer and more effective according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Look for sunscreens containing these ingredients for reliable sun protection.

Avoid powder and spray sunscreens: Powder and spray sunscreens should be avoided due to the risk of inhalation of particles. Opt for other forms of sunscreen, such as lotions or creams, to minimize this risk.

Regularly reapply sunscreenSunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, or more frequently if sweating, towel-drying, bathing, or swimming occurs. Under-application and failure to reapply are common reasons for sunscreen failure, so ensure you’re using an adequate amount and reapplying as needed.

Apply a sufficient amount: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends applying an ounce (approximately a shot glass full) of sunscreen on your body to maximize its benefits.⁴ This ensures adequate coverage and protection for your skin.

Curology, The Sunscreen

If you’re looking for a way to protect and nourish your skin, our sunscreen is a good place to start! Curology offers sunscreen as part of our skincare product line. Donna McIntyre, a nurse practitioner at Curology, says, “Our sunscreen is specifically formulated to provide broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays, helping to shield your skin from the harmful effects of sun exposure! Our sunscreen contains zinc oxide, which is known for its effectiveness in sun protection and is great for sensitive skin.”

Guarding your skin against the sun

Taking measures to guard your skin from the sun is crucial for maintaining its health. In addition to using sunscreen, the following tips should also be followed:⁵

  • Reduce the risk of sun damage by seeking shade under an umbrella, tree, or shelter when the sun's rays are strongest.

  • Opt for long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and skirts made from tightly woven fabric to provide UV protection to your skin.

  • Protect your face, ears, and neck by wearing a hat with a wide brim. Choose hats made from tightly woven fabric and avoid straw hats, as they may not provide sufficient sun protection.

  • Safeguard your eyes and the delicate skin around them by wearing sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays.

  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all exposed skin. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially after swimming, sweating, or towel drying. Apply a thick layer each time for better protection.

Look to avoid sun exposure between 10am and 3pm when UV radiation is highest. During these peak sun hours, utilizing sun protection measures like umbrellas and sun-protective clothing is recommended.⁶ By following these tips and incorporating them into your routine, you can minimize the risk of sun damage and maintain healthier skin.

Protect your skin from the sun with Curology 

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Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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Shield your skin from the harmful rays of the sun with Curology's sunscreen. Designed to provide effective sun protection, Curology's sunscreen is formulated with high-quality ingredients. Whether you're looking for broad-spectrum coverage, lightweight formulas, or products suitable for sensitive skin, Curology has you covered. With our expertly crafted sunscreen, you can step out into the sun knowing your skin is protected and nourished. Additionally, it is formulated without pore-clogging ingredients. Give it a try today! 

FAQs

Should I use powdered sunscreen?

Powdered sunscreens can help offer protection against the sun, and can be a good option if you have oily skin. However, powder sunscreen does come with the risk of inhaling particles.⁷ So, to stay on the safe side you may want to opt for other forms of sunscreen, such as lotions or creams.

What is the benefit of SPF powder?

The benefit of SPF powder is its versatility, as it can be applied directly on your skin or over makeup. It offers a non-greasy formula and has a fine powder texture that blends seamlessly into your skin. Additionally, it helps absorb excess oil and provides a matte finish, making it an appealing option for those with oily or combination skin.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework, so you don’t have to:

  1. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (JAAD). Design and testing of a physical sunscreen for use on sensitive skin. Photobiology, Phototherapy, and Photosensitivity Diseases. (April 2012) 

  2. Latha, M.S., et al. Sunscreening Agents: A Review. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. (January 2013).

  3. Latha, M.S., et al. Sunscreening Agents: A Review. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Sunscreen: How to Help Protect Your Skin from the Sun. (2023, May 24).

  5. Sambandan, DR. and Ratner D. Sunscreens: an overview and update. J Am Acad Dermatol. (April 2011)

  6. Latha, M.S., et al. Sunscreening Agents: A Review. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  7. Latha, M.S., et al. Sunscreening Agents: A Review. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

Donna McIntyre is a board-certified nurse practitioner at Curology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing at MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our thoughts on sun protection: *Sunscreen is only one part of UV protection—cute sun hats and shades are also recommended.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

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