Is SPF 15 Enough to Give Your Skin Sun Protection?

Is a daily moisturizer with SPF 15 enough sun protection for your face? Patients in my dermatology practice ask me this all the time. They also ask if makeup with sunscreen will give enough sun protection to prevent sun damage.

If you plan to stay inside during the day then it may give you adequate sun protection for what little sun comes in windows (which will be UVA so you need broad spectrum protection), or bounces in from an open door.  If, however, you plan to be outside for more than a quick run to your car, then that daily moisturizer or makeup with SPF 15 is just giving you a false sense of sun protection security and your skin’s getting new sun damage!

The sun protection you get from sunscreen depends on putting enough product on your skin and reapplying every 2 hours.  You’re not going to do this with your SPF 15 facial moisturizer or your makeup because your goal is different with these products.

  • With a moisturizer you are looking to create the right hydration and feel to your skin.
  • With makeup, you are looking to get the right look. 

For adequate daily sun protection, the amount of SPF ingredients that you apply to your skin is THE critical step for sun protection.

When the sun is shining on your skin for a sustained period of time – in direct sun, reflecting off buildings or pavement or sand, and coming through windows – you need the right amount of sun protecting ingredients on your face!

Plus, when you’re using a product with chemical (also called ‘organic’) actives (which means anything other than zinc oxide or titanium dioxide), the 2-hour reapplication is really important.  That’s because UV rays break down these chemical actives when they hit them. Most daily moisturizers or foundations with SPF rely on chemical actives or a combination of chemical and titanium dioxide and have only the tiny amount sufficient to create an SPF 15 to begin with.  This means your sun protection runs out during the day and you’re unprotected!

Add to that the fact that when people use a daily moisturize or makeup that doubles as a sunscreen, they don’t usually do the first two important steps of sun protection: 1) put enough on, and 2) reapply SPF every 2 hours.

On the average day it’s unlikely that you’re going to reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours which means you have to be very careful about your morning SPF application.

The bottom line with relying on daily SPF 15 in moisturizer and makeup:

That daily moisturizer or foundation with SPF 15 is probably giving you a false sense of sun protection security; too many UV rays are reaching your skin and causing sun damage and skin pigment problems. 

I can help you figure out how to get better protection for your skin.

How can you get enough sun protection from the morning sunscreen application in your skin care routine? 

best moisturizer and sunscreen for dermatologist approved daily protection

What I tell my patients is that for their average work or school day, they need to use a really good quality moisturizer that keeps their skin hydrated all day and top their moisturizer with a real sunscreen that looks and feels great. This is why I created my Fort Knox for Your Face Kit – get a really great moisturizer fortified with ceramides and squalane with  a ‘real’ sunscreen that is pleasant to wear every day AND gives real protection. 

Solve the reapplication of sunscreen problem with Powder Sunscreen!

best sunscreen powder to reapply

You can easily and conveniently reapply SPF if you are out for more than 2 hours using my Sheer Strength Pure Physical SPF Refresh Powder. 

This strategy creates ideal skin care for healthy and glowing skin. – Dr. Bailey

What is a dermatologist-recommended ‘real’ sunscreen? 

Over my 30+ years of practice, I’ve seen what sunscreens work for my patients and what don’t because their skin shows the results. Here’s what you want in your daily SPF:

Why do I specifically recommend zinc oxide sunscreens

Zinc oxide is the most important ingredient in your sunscreen. It provides broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. It is also called a physical or ‘inorganic’ sunscreen ingredient. It is considered a physical block (UV filter) because it sits on the outer layers of your skin and works primarily by bouncing UV light rays off of your skin and back into the stratosphere. Titanium dioxide is also a physical UV filter but it does not give broad spectrum protection. It can be formulated with zinc oxide to increase the SPF, but you still need to see 5% or more zinc oxide listed as an ‘active ingredient’. 

Zinc oxide sunscreen technology has come a long way and now there are many transparent products. Pure mineral sunscreens with 5% or more zinc oxide with tinted matte finish are ideal for all skin types, including oily skin. They can also make a great makeup primer.

Pro tip for using mineral SPFs:

Rub your zinc oxide mineral SPF product onto your skin well to disperse the zinc particles evenly across your skin surface. You’ve just created a fine, invisible or imperceptible protective layer of mineral particles covering your skin and the UV bouncing is ready to begin for the day!

If you wear makeup with your sunscreen, when do you apply that?

Makeup goes on top of sunscreen and it ideally should be a mineral makeup which gives you even more physical sun protection by this same bouncing mechanism.

is your daily moisturizer with spf 15 good enough

Know that if you’re planning to really be out in the sun, you need a great hat and to try to aim for staying in the shade as much as possible.  (Of course, for extreme and sustained outdoor sun exposure, like a day at the beach, you must carefully reapply sunscreen on exposed skin every 2 hours.)

It takes some effort and planning but your skin will reward you by looking younger than you expect, and for years! As you’ve probably already heard, most of the undesirable skin changes we see with age like wrinkles, age spots and skin thinning are actually due to sun damage.  Who needs it!   And remember, you need sun protection all year round because even those winter UVA rays cause skin aging and skin cancer.

Daily sun protection is critically important for having strong and healthy skin as you age.


I have a lot of information on practical sun protection on my blog because it’s the single most important step a person can do for anti aging skin care and skin health.  I invite you to scroll through the Sun Protection article category listed on the top right of this article or visit my sun protection product pages for the highly scrutinized products that I use in my practice.  They are made by expert chemists; I personally use them every day and I’ve witnessed them protect thousands of my patients from our California sun.

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