Sunscreen Rotation

September 16, 2015

I’ve been testing a number of sunscreens all summer long to see which ones hold up to heat, humidity and also are suitable for my ultra sensitive skin. I know a sunscreen roundup would have been more appropriate earlier in the summer – but it’s recommended you wear sunscreen all year round, not just in warm sunny weather. Here in Southern California we have sunny weather 90% of the year. I used to think sunscreen wasn’t necessary for everyday – especially for those who work indoors for the vast majority of the day. However, in a good portion of work places there are windows where your skin can still be exposed to sunlight. These days I’ve put extra effort on applying sunscreen regularly. I am not the most disciplined at re-applying but am trying to be better. I’ve split my testing into three categories: Face, Body and Men’s.

Face Sunscreens – Many of my moisturizers or foundations already have SPF in them so I used to not pay much attention to applying sunscreen as an additional step. These days I prefer moisturizers and foundations that don’t have SPF – it’s not something I actively look for, it’s just a coincidence that most of the foundations I really like do not have any SPF. The highest SPF foundation I own is the Chanel CC Cream (all shades swatched here) which comes with an SPF 50. For days where I don’t wear this I do layer on sunscreen over moisturizer.

Four I’ve tested over the summer:

  • Clarins UV Plus Anti-Pollution Multi-Protection Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen ($42 for 50 ml/1.7 fl oz) is a new formula that replaced the original UV Plus HP. I prefer the original version because it had a thinner formula and even though the liquid was white, it didn’t leave a noticeable white cast on the skin. The new one has a higher SPF of 50 versus 40. It’s also slightly thicker and more creamy – it does the job at covering the face and protecting it – I found it too heavy for my skin. It does have a lightweight feel but the formula covered so much of my skin it felt like it couldn’t breathe underneath. If you have dry skin this one will probably be ok for your skin type.
  • Tatcha Pore Perfecting Sunscreen ($68 for 60 ml/2 fl oz) was launched in August. I had been waiting for this one for months ever since a reader e-mailed me with news that she saw a preview of this. This one comes with SPF 35 and is the one facial sunscreen to rule them all (at least all the ones I’ve tried). It’s a pore perfecting formula which really does smooth and blur out imperfections without making the face look matte or white. Many blurring products have a white or pink cast which makes my olive skin look ashy, powdery or flat. The Tatcha sunscreen is white but it blends out to an invisible finish. It makes the perfect primer for foundation too. It is on the pricey side, they have a Travel Size option for $13 to try. It helps control oil, it doesn’t break out my face, it covers the skin completely but allows the skin to breathe. It doesn’t clog pores and it doesn’t feel greasy. (PS, there is a promo with code CLEAN20 to receive a complimentary travel-size Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil ($12 value) on any order over $20, offer expires 9/30/2015.)
  • Chanel UV Essentiel Anti-Pollution Broad Spectrum SPF 50 ($55 for 1 fl oz/30 ml) has been a go-to for years. It used to come in a more rectangular bottle with a different formula. I loved the original and love the new one. It’s an ultra lightweight formula that is a white liquid but disappears on the skin. What I love about this one is that it doesn’t break me out and also layers beautifully over moisturizer and under foundation (I’ve tried it with Chanel, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, By Terry, NARS, Laura Mercier to name a few). Many sunscreens have a heavy greasy feel and don’t work well with foundations, this is the one I’ve repurchased a number of times. My husband likes to use it for day. For working out or running though it’s not sweat proof. It runs into both of our eyes and stings. This one works for my sensitive skin but one of my friends found it created tiny little bumps on her cheeks.
  • First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Pure Mineral Sunscreen Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 40 ($30 for 2 oz) is one of the few moisturizer + sunscreen products that I like. It has a creamy texture and white color but doesn’t leave a white cast on the skin. This one is free of skin-irritating chemicals and has a soothing feel. It dries to a semi-matte finish and works really well alone or under makeup. For my ultra sensitive skin this is one of the most gentle sunscreens I’ve tried. I gave one tube to a friend (same one who broke out from Chanel) and she is completely obsessed with the First Aid Beauty sunscreen. It’s lightweight and has a silky finish.

Body Sunscreens are something I test with dread. I get irritation and red blotches from so many it’s really quite ridiculous. My husband can use any body sunscreen without any issues. His main concern is about texture. If it feels greasy or oily and doesn’t dry down then he doesn’t like it. Four we’ve tested over the summer below that passed my sensitivity test.

  • Supergoop! Sun Defying Sunscreen Oil with Meadowfoam SPF 50 ($34 for 5 oz) is something I’ve been obsessed with all summer long. I bought in the mini size and brought with me to Europe in June. It’s an oil that absorbs quickly into the skin and makes the body glow but doesn’t feel greasy. If you’re not a fan of thick cream sunscreens this is a great alternative. It does a good job at preventing burns and when I use this I don’t get much of a tan. This is for face and body but I wasn’t brave enough to try it on my face.
  • Supergoop! Everyday SPF 50 with Cellular Response Technology is something I received from Birchbox ($32 for 7.5 oz). I didn’t think I would like it because it has a white cream lotion texture. This one is even better than the oil and even though I have sensitive skin and both work for me, I think this has a more gentle feel. I tried this on the face and it stayed put, didn’t sting my eyes with sweat and didn’t get oily. This is hands down one of the best body sunscreens I’ve tried. It’s easy to apply and absorbs quickly into the skin. It has a lightweight non-sunscreen scent that fades after a few minutes. One of my biggest gripes about body sunscreen is the sunscreen smell. This one doesn’t smell like the usual.
  • Coola Sport Continuous Sunscreen Spray SPF 30 in Tropical Coconut ($30 for the small 3 oz size) smells so amazing. I couldn’t find this one instores (my local stores had the unscented versions). It does have alcohol in it and you can smell it when you spray it on the skin, but the scent disappears and you’re left with the coconut scent. It’s lightweight and gives an even spritz of mist in a continuous spray. I like this one because it’s easy to apply all over – you can sunscreen your back easily and reapply quickly. It’s non-drying and non-irritating. I love that it’s not messy like creams or oils can be.
  • Korres Sunscreen Face and Body with SPF 50 is made with Greek Yogurt. You can’t find this one in the US unfortunately – we bought this in Athens and loved it. It’s a liquid spray but applies like a lotion. It’s creamy and soothing and completely covered the skin. There were a couple times we saw a dramatic difference on our skin on spots we missed. Areas covered with this sunscreen didn’t get dark or tan.

Last but not least, three men’s sunscreens my husband has liked enough to repurchase. He’s been a long-time Jack Black user. The one facial moisturizer he uses regularly is the Double Duty Face Moisturizer with SPF 20. He uses this almost daily – if he’s going to be indoors at his office most of the day he will use this alone. He likes the lightweight texture and it keeps his skin soft and prevents it from getting oily. On days he think he will be on the road or outdoors, he will layer on the Jack Black Sun Guard Very Water Resistant SPF 45 on top. This one is light enough that it doesn’t feel heavy. With sweat or water it doesn’t sting his eyes. He likes this for the body as well – it prevents burns when he’s been at the beach. Another one he likes is the Kiehl’s Facial Fuel UV Guard Sunscreen with SPF 50. This is his preference for high SPF – it’s lightweight and doesn’t leave a white cast on the skin. It’s similar to the Chanel UV Essentiel in terms of texture, but this one works better for his skin. It doesn’t bead up when he sweats.

I hope you found this roundup helpful. My top picks: Tatcha and First Aid Beauty for the face, Supergoop! Everyday Sunscreen (white tube) and Korres for the body. What are your favorite sunscreens? I’m always open to recommendations – I often learn about awesome skincare items from my readers.

Press samples include items from Clarins, Tatcha, First Aid Beauty and Supergoop! Everyday SPF50. All others purchased by me.

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  • Joan Lee September 16, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    I really enjoy Atopita's Moisture UV Cream for the face (I have very dry skin) and the Nivea Sun Protect Water Super Gel for the body. The first is a moisturizing cream w/o alcohol and using only physical filters, so good for sensitive skin, the second is kind of a tossup – it has alcohol and chemical filters so I'm not sure you'd like it. But it feels like nothing on the skin!

  • Tequila Mockingbird September 16, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    The Tatcha Pore Perfecting Sunscreen sounds like the next potential member of my sunscreen wardrobe — I've searched high and low and can't find anything on the market (at least in the US) like it.

    BTW, I've used the Supergoop! Suncreen Oil on my face before primer by spraying one or two spritzes into my palm, rubbing palms together, and massaging it into my face before putting on primer. It truly IS non-greasy, so for those with normal, slightly oily, or combo skin like myself, one can just skip the moisturizer step in a morning skin care routine. I typically use Make Up For Ever pore filling primer in the grey tube, and applying the sunscreen oil first did NOT affect how the primer applied nor did it affect the staying power of primer + makeup.

    Oh yeah, Do you plan on trying the Supergoop! Forever Young Hand Cream in the future?

    Thanks for showing us your sunscreen wardrobe!

  • AnneK September 16, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    I am dying to try the Tatcha! And while US$60 is expensive, it is a 2oz product – so many SS now come as 1oz so the price can be comparable to others. The one thing that bothers me is in the video on the website, they show the model applying the smallest amount – no where near the amount advised by dermatologists to get full protection. So of course it won't be whitening! I wish they would show her applying the correct amount so consumers could properly judge the effect on the skin.

    Have you ever tried the Algenist? Similar to the Chanel one, but its significantly cheaper… I love that one, its one of my favorites!

  • Amy September 17, 2015 at 2:02 am

    Elta MD UV Clear is by far my favorite sunscreen. It comes in tinted and untinted, SPF 46. I've tried tons of sunscreens (I live in Colorado at high altitude – 9000 ft), so I need something that works well and is moisturizing without causing breakouts. It's fragrance free and sinks in like a moisturizer instead of that icky feeling you get from so many sunscreens. If I'm going on a hike, or skiing, I always top it with Colorescience Sunforgettable powder SPF 30 for a little extra protection.

  • Anonymous September 17, 2015 at 3:05 am

    As a sunscreen snob myself I would recommend two products – both highly rated by customers/reviewers etc. and winners of several magazine beauty awards if you care.

    The first one is Shiseido Wetforce Lotion for Body and Face (not the one marketed for the face only). SPF 50+ if I am not mistaken. In general Japanese brands have some of the best sunscreens around, apparently sunscreen is big in Japan. Shiseido is readily available in the US. It protects really well, is very tenacious, absolutely does not run into your eyes – even if you sweat like a horse. And it is cosmetically elegant. Previous incarnations were even better, but the current version is still much nicer than most of the sunscreen around. Just rub it in and give it 5 minutes or so. Initially it feels slightly slippery, but dries down to barely there skin perfecting primer like texture. Fab under makeup. Plus very reasonably priced ($40 for 3.4 oz).

    My other recommendation would be Elta MD UV Clear SPF 46. This is more like a facial moisturizer with sunscreen. Great for office days. Oil free and not water resistant. It is very lightweight and contains 3-4% of niacinamide a really good for skin ingredient. It has proven benefits for acne but also for dry skin (shown to significantly increase skins moisture holding capability). Costs around $30 for 1.7 oz.

    • Anonymous September 17, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      Elta MD absolutely makes the best sunscreen! I have tried so many (although I have yet to try Tatcha; I've got it on order), and I found the Elta MD is good for sensitive skin, layers beautifully under makeup, and does not have that silicone slip that most other sunscreens leave behind (which usually makes my face feel oily after I apply makeup). I would recommend the "Elta MD lightly tinted for Extra Senstive or Post Procedure Skin."

  • Unknown September 17, 2015 at 10:06 am

    My favs. For the face Chanel but i prefer the older one..which i still have and Shiseido for the body and hair. Love their best and living in Florida i have tried many.

  • Prettiful Blog September 17, 2015 at 10:30 am

    The Avene face sunscreen is pretty amazing too! And the kids spray sunscreen from them is great for body too

  • Robin September 17, 2015 at 11:08 am

    The Tatcha sounds great but how does it perform on the sun?

  • Mary Steele Lawler September 17, 2015 at 11:46 am

    Obagi Medical Sun Shield Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Matte Sunscreen Lotion is a good one. It's about 27.00 from Amazon. Melts greaselessly into the skin and does not interfere with makeup application. Lasts in the humidity of Mississippi. I'm on my third tube ,which is a rarity, and will buy again.

  • Becky M September 17, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    I tried a sample size of the Supergoop and loved it!! I only wish it weren't so expensive!

  • Van Nguyen September 18, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    Oh I love this! I'm always on the search for better sunscreens as well.

    I'm very picky when it comes to sunscreens and I prefer mineral formulas over chemical. I'm going to try some the the body sunscreens you've mentioned it (I might have trouble with supergoop in canada).

    As for face, I think TarteGuard is pretty good. It's a physical sunscreen and it comes in a cream formula. So it's not watery like the old Clarins or Chanel. Overall it blends pretty well. One thing I'll note is that your skin will look more dewy – you might want to powder the t-zone after to avoid looking "oily".

    I used to love the Shiseido SPF 38 cream. But they no longer make it :(. I guess the urban environment spf 40 (cream) is kind of close – it can look a little bit white, but that fades away.