How to Sunscreen

(A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Guide)

By now, anyone who has read this blog– or, truly, ANY blog, ever!, probably? — knows that you should be wearing sunscreen. On your face, especially. Every day. Even when it’s cloudy. 

But during the summer, we tend to think about our sunscreen even more. We spend more time outside, we go to places like beaches and pools, we feel (and see!) the sun’s more immediate effects much more quickly and drastically.

So. Given that we have to wear sunscreen, how do we? Like, how does this work on a daily basis? Do we wear it alone? Instead of makeup? Or under makeup? Or what if we don’t wear makeup– how do we wear sunscreen then? What if it makes our faces shiny or leaves a white cast?  How do we keep it looking natural and polished in the hot weather? 

Yes, these are all popular and common questions, ones that run through my mind almost daily as I try to decide what sunscreen to wear, and where to put it, and in what order, with what other products! It’s kind of an ordeal, isn’t it?!

I’m going to break it down for you so you can choose your own [sunscreen] adventure! Play along, or read straight through for maximum absorption (see what I did there?).

Chapter 1

You’re a human. Hello, and congrats on being born, growing up, and learning to read (not necessarily in that order!). Seems like you need some sunscreen, since you probably have skin! Let’s get started!

  • If you want a tinted sunscreen, skip to Chapter 2. 
  • If you want a foundation with SPF, skip to Chapter 3.
  • If you want an un-tinted sunscreen, stay right here and keep reading!

UNTINTED Sunscreens for face:

If you don’t wear makeup, or wear makeup that doesn’t include SPF and want to wear sunscreen underneath it, you’ve come to the right place. These basic SPF options are anything but basic; they are skincare plus suncare plus moisturizer all in one. 

We love Ursa Major’s newly-reformulated SPF! It’s almost a brand-new product– the brand’s previous sunscreen was only SPF 18, while this new one is a full SPF 30. In addition to boasting more protection, this one has NO white cast to it.  It’s so moisturizing you can wear it on its own OR over a serum/moisturizer (see Chapter 3, below!), and is of course 100% clean, 100% mineral-based, and plant-derived. It provides full-spectrum protection from UVA & UVB rays, blue light, and environmental pollution. This improved formula is smoother and dreamier than ever, blending into skin and leaving nothing behind. Swoon!

We also LOVE:

Chapter 2

So you want to wear TINTED sunscreen, do you? Great! Let’s do it!

The options are many, but here are my FAVES:

My number one go-to in this category is the Josh Rosebrook Tinted Nutrient Day Cream, which also doubles as makeup primer if you wear makeup, and offers a more satin finish than some other options.

You can also make your own tinted sunscreen by adding (M)anasi 7 Skin Enhancer to any non-tinted sunscreen, OR add it to a tinted sunscreen for an extra oomph!

Okay! You’re ready to go on to Chapter 5 now for some setting powder.

Chapter 3

You wear foundation daily and you think it should just cut to the chase already and have SPF in it! Same! Here’s how I do it.

(BUT if you want to wear a primer under your SPF makeup, go to Chapter 4.)

First you’re going to want some kind of moisturizer or serum. In the morning, splash your face with water, wipe clean with a washcloth, spray on a toner (I’m currently loving One Love Organics Vitamin D Moisture Mist and Indie Lee CoQ-10 Toner) and then apply your serum/moisturizer of choice.


  • MŪN Aknari Serum: Founder Munemi once told us that this oil serum works well as a makeup primer, and when we tried it, the whole Integrity Botanicals team agreed! In addition to creating MŪN, Munemi is a makeup artist, so we knew this tip would be good. 


If you prefer more of a cream moisturizer under your SPF, here are my picks:

Now, finally, on to SPF Foundation!

  • Lily Lolo Mineral Foundation with SPF 15 might not be enough SPF protection if you’re planning on being outside all day, but it certainly helps – every bit of protection counts. I love to pair this with an un-tinted SPF like Ursa Major’s Force Field for top-notch SPF and radiant color coverage. (And then you can skip Chapter 5 and go right to Chapter 6 for the rest of your makeup!)

OR, if you like a cream foundation with SPF, read on:

  • HAN CC Serum with SPF provides a nice, buildable amount of coverage with eight shades to choose from. This multi-tasker waterless formula is infused with a cocktail of nourishing oils including Virgin Coconut, Organic Jojoba, Rosehip and Vitamin E, and other skin-loving ingredients, and, of course, SPF 30. (You can get samples here to color match!)

Now skip to Chapter 5! You’re good to go on to Powder.

Chapter 4

Prime and glow!

If you’re concerned about hot weather and makeup or SPF sliding off your face, a primer is probably a great idea for you. 

Here are some we like for this purpose:

  • Graydon Face Glow is a two-in-one (or three in one, possibly!) because it offers a gorgeous, glowy layer AND works as a primer. The third part is that, while not officially rated with a SPF rating, it *does* contain zinc oxide, which is the ingredient most of these products utilize for sun protection. So I wouldn’t bank on it solely to keep from getting burned, but it would be great to combine with an SPF product for extra oomph and glow! If it’s being used as an illuminating makeup primer, SPF would be applied before Face Glow. But if it’s being used as a tinted moisturizer, SPF would be applied after Face Glow.
  • 100% Pure Luminous Primer is, indeed, luminous, thanks to light-reflective pigments. That, plus the bouncy, vitamin-infused moisture in the primer ensure that lines appear less visible and blemishes are disguised. It creates a smooth place to apply your SPF on. (Now head to Chapter 3 for a foundation with SPF, or back to Chapter 2 for a tinted SPF).
  • Hynt Beauty’s Sun Prep is a primer AND an SPF, which we love because it feeds two birds with one scone. Use it with or without foundation, and continue on to Chapter 5 feeling protected, primed, and ready for anything.

Chapter 5

Now you need powder!

Not only does powder dull the shine some SPF and moisturizers might leave behind, but it can help “set” your SPF, which means keep it in place, make it last longer, and stop it from sliding off your face (ew!). You can choose if you want the powder to be matte or sheer or glowy or light (after all, this is a choose-your-own adventure, right?! It’s all about the choices!)

Here are my picks!

  • Ere Perez Corn Setting Powder is super-milled and light weight. I love this for that invisible, barely-there finish. It comes in a sustainable alluminum container.

Apply these with a fluffy brush like this one from RMS, and don’t be afraid to buff it in a little bit.

Chapter 6 

Makeup time!

Water resistant mascara is key in the summer– sweat, swim, and surf will all leave your mascara running down your cheeks if you’re not careful. (Again: ew!)

Most people will tell you that clean beauty means your mascara is destined to smudge or flake, but I disagree. There are THREE great options for water resistant mascara that I like to recommend:

Do you want to “fake it till you make it” with that tanned look? I recommend bronzer!

Want to look sunkissed? You need blush.

  • We continue to be obsessed with this one from RMS, which doubles nicely as a highlighter thanks to the glowy-not-glittery radiant colors.

Chapter 7

Alternate endings!
Do you have a body? Cool. Same. You need body sunscreen. 

  • Solara Suncare Glow Getter Illuminating Sunscreen has a tiny bit of shimmer (from responsibly sourced mica) to it which gives your whole body a nice glow while soothing, protecting, and moisturizing. Plus it’s naturally scented with plant extracts! 

Do you prefer to use a self tanner? Awesome!

There you have it! That’s The End of our Choose Your Own Adventure novel of sun care. You’re off on your next adventure. At least we know it won’t include sunburn!

… But… 

… since accidents happen, you might want to keep some after-sun soothing care on hand just in case.

Good luck and enjoy all the adventures summertime brings!

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Emily Barth Isler

About Emily Barth Isler

Emily Barth Isler is a writer whose work appears on,, Organic Spa Magazine, and She is also the author of 3 books for young adults and co-creator of the natural beauty blog, Product Junkies Rehab. She loves coffee and podcasts, and is so good at watching TV it should be considered a skill. Emily lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two children. Find her on Instagram @emilybarthisler for skincare and book recommendations and pictures from her favorite California hikes.