3 Ways to Layer Skin Care with Sunscreen

Written by: the Editors of goop


Updated on: April 1, 2021

woman in the sun

There exists a miracle youth-preserving skin-care elixir—and it is mineral sunscreen. As long as you’re careful to maintain healthy vitamin D levels (sunscreen blocks the rays that help our bodies produce vitamin D), no other face serum or cream comes close to its power to preserve your skin’s glow, texture, tone, smoothness, and elasticity. So if you’re investing in skin care, layer it with sunscreen every single day, whether you’re running errands or just working inside all day (windows let the sun’s rays right in).

Mineral sunscreens (the active ingredient box should list only zinc, titanium dioxide, or both) work by sitting on top of skin to physically block UVA and UVB rays; chemical sunscreens, on the other hand (there are many, but common ones are oxybenzone, octinoxate or octyl methoxycinnamate, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, and avobenzone), absorb the sun’s rays rather than deflecting them. They can be among the most potent skin irritants in the beauty industry, while mineral sunscreen ingredients can be soothing to skin. (Chemical sunscreens can also disrupt our hormones, cause allergies, and even kill coral.)

Because they sit on top of skin, mineral sunscreen should generally be your last step, sealing in all your hardworking serums and moisturizers and creating a physical barrier from the sun. (Protocols involving putting sunscreen on as a first layer are for chemical sunscreens, because they need to absorb deeply in order to deflect the sun’s rays.)

These three easy routines—one for the beach, one for makeup-free days, and a more-pulled-together one for a meeting or even a date—show you exactly how to do it right.

For Makeup-Free Great Skin

For a noticeable glow both immediately and longer-term, vitamin C is the best first step, no matter what your skin type. It brightens, firms, hydrates, and evens out texture and tone. It’s also been shown to have a mild sun-protective effect, though it’s no substitute for sunscreen. Apply vitamin C to bare skin, let it absorb for a few minutes, then follow with moisturizer: Dr. Macrene Alexiades’s formula contains over fifty active ingredients. On top, the tinted face sunscreen from Unsun sinks in all but invisibly—it’s super nourishing, works on all skin tones, and leaves your skin so soft.


Best glow secret: vitamin C

This new daily glow serum combines two skin-care powerhouses, L-ascorbic acid (proven in research to be the purest, best-for-skin form of the antioxidant vitamin C) and moisturizing hyaluronic acid (a hydrator that’s naturally present in the body). The unique two-part design maximizes potency and freshness, delivering a serum that stays active all the way through its use. Before your first use, mix the super potent 20% vitamin C powder with the hyaluronic acid serum. (There are three different molecular sizes of hyaluronic acid present to penetrate different layers of the skin, as well as the antioxidant superfruit Australian kakadu plum.) The ingredients work synergistically to help brighten the appearance of the skin, significantly improving its firmness, tone, texture, and hydration and leaving it looking radiant, luminous, and healthy.


face cream

This bestselling cream from top New York dermatologist Macrene Alexiades is supercharged with over fifty plant-derived active ingredients—it’s just amazing for your skin. With three Harvard degrees, a Fulbright, and countless dermatological honors to her name, Dr. Alexiades first developed the cream for her patients, “so they could see me less!” she laughs. Superhydrators like olive oil, purslane, and hyaluronic acid; research-backed peptides; red and blue algae; fatty acids; and stable forms of powerful antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, work synergistically to reduce the appearance of fine lines, redness, sun damage, dryness, and dullness while fighting free radicals and working to refresh and rejuvenate skin.


Smooths-right-in SPF 30

This beautifully textured everyday mineral sunscreen blends like an absolute dream on skin, and it comes in two super wearable shades: The medium/dark blends with skin tones from olive to dark chocolate, while the light/medium works for tones from very light to light sprinkled with freckles. Created by Katonya Breaux (fun fact: She’s singer Frank Ocean’s mom), who was frustrated at not being able to find clean, environmentally friendly sunscreen options for women of color, it’s made with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to block both UVA and UVB rays, as well as skin-coddling aloe and shea butter. It’s reef-safe and great on its own or under makeup, and we love the finish: glowy, protected, natural-looking skin, with absolutely no whitish cast left behind.

For an Important Zoom Call

For bright, wide-awake eyes that look amazing in person (and especially over a screen), smooth on Jillian Dempsey’s new gel eye masks for about fifteen minutes beforehand; if you’re feeling advanced, put on serum or face oil before the masks. Use Dempsey’s vibrating gold wand to push in all the nourishing skin care (she recommends massaging your face with it for ten minutes for optimum lifting and smoothing). Follow with a layer of ILIA’s lightweight SPF 40 tinted moisturizer. The combination of the gels and the roller smooths, plumps, and lifts, while the ILIA gives an even, radiant, imperfection-blurring finish that translates perfectly over video.


Does-it-all serum

It’s not surprising that this oil has a cult following: It’s an infusion of twenty-two active organic botanicals mixed with powerful essential oils. Phytonutrients and minerals help balance skin; phytoceramides, nourishing fatty acids, and antioxidants stimulate and brighten dull complexions. The revolutionary formula beautifully sinks in, leaving skin smooth and glowy.


Depuffing eye masks

There’s nothing like these cooling, smoothing, depuffing, ultrahydrating prebiotic eye sheet masks for waking your whole face right up. Leave them on for fifteen minutes or so in the morning and go through the day a brighter, more luminous version of yourself. Or use them just before a big night out (or, these days, a big night in) for sparkling, wide-awake eyes. “The masks are made of biocellulose, which has a skinlike texture, so they’re pliable and don’t feel like anything on—and they bathe your skin in a milky serum that’s smoothing and firming and doesn’t drip,” says Dempsey, who created them for prepping her red-carpet clients and realized they work to make anyone look subtly (but significantly) more rested and fresh. A blend of hyaluronic acid and almond and camelina oils saturates the masks to hydrate, calm, and nourish skin, leaving the undereye area supple and glowy. To use them, simply unpeel the paper on both sides and stick one under each eye. And for the ultimate experience, put on the masks and use Dempsey’s brilliant vibrating roller over the top.


Lifting and Sculpting Bar

Dempsey discovered this brilliant, face-smoothing gold bar on a job in Japan, and immediately started using it on her clients. Made with twenty-four-karat gold, it uses subtle vibrations to make the face appear more sculpted; it feels amazing, like a firm massage. Dempsey uses it to get her clients ready for the red carpet, but she recommends using it daily for ten to fifteen minutes for optimum results. The effects last for the better part of a day or night.


Skin-smoothing tinted moisturizer with SPF 40

Subtly blur imperfections, smooth skin tone, hydrate, protect, and boost glow with this incredible SPF 40 tinted moisturizer. Powerful skin-care ingredients including niacinamide, plant-based squalane, and hyaluronic acid combine with non-nano zinc oxide to protect, nourish, and deeply hydrate skin, and natural pigments leave the dewiest your-skin-but-better finish. Best of all: It comes in thirty shades.

For a Day at the Beach

SPF 50 is essential if you’re going to be in full sun. But so is packing in lots of moisture—in addition to the UV rays, water, sand, and wind can all be incredibly drying for skin. Start with a layer of rich face cream, wait a minute or two for it to absorb, then, if you tend toward drier skin, add a moisturizing face oil on top. Wait a few minutes, then you’re ready to go in with an ultrablendable (and incredibly moisturizing) sunscreen, like the one from The Organic Pharmacy (and bring the tube with you to the beach).


The ultimate
nourishing face cream

This luxuriously rich all-in-one supercream significantly improves firmness, elasticity, glow, the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and brightness after just four weeks.1 Its unique whipped texture melts into skin; a single application leaves skin deeply nourished, firmer-looking, and moisturized for forty-eight hours.2 The clinically tested formula is made with a megadose of plant-based ceramides, squalane, and seven highly active botanicals—including Schisandra fruit, illipe butter, and caviar lime—that work synergistically to leave skin ultramoisturized, soft, supple, smooth, firm, and even-toned.


Powerful face oil

This luxurious active botanical face oil gives results that will blow you away. It’s clinically proven to help diminish the appearance of lines and wrinkles, improve skin firmness, smooth skin texture, and increase glow, as well as soften, nourish, and moisturize. Made with nine powerful nutrient-dense oils (including the retinol alternative bakuchiol, vitamin-A-rich cacay, and organic amla, a vitamin C superfood), it’s a restorative daily treatment with real results: After four weeks of use, 100 percent of women showed significant improvement in skin texture, and 97 percent showed significant improvement in the reduction of fine lines and wrinkles.3


The cushiest SPF 50

This hydrating light SPF 50 cream smooths right into skin, and it’s brilliant for face or body. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide block both UVA and UVB rays, while shea butter, aloe, rose hip, and calendula nourish skin.

1Based on an eight-week third-party consumer-perception and clinical study conducted on thirty-three women ages thirty-five to sixty-five.

2Based on an eight-week third-party consumer-perception and clinical study conducted on thirty-three women ages thirty-five to sixty-five.

3Based on an eight-week third-party consumer-perception and clinical study conducted on thirty-three women ages thirty-five to sixty-five.