Skincare Suncare

Sunscreen Testing Part 2: Face Formulas

June 5, 2017

Summer Sunscreens for the Face Sensitive Skin | The Beauty Look Book

Shown above: Beach tray by Gray Malin, sunglasses from Jcrew, pouch by Goyard

I have Part 2 of my sunscreen testing to share today. Historically I’ve neglected using a separate sunscreen for the face thinking often times either my moisturizer or foundation with SPF was sufficient. I also react to a lot of skincare with red bumps. Not knowing exactly what ingredients caused an allergic reaction also prevented me from using face sunscreen diligently. This changed once I discovered some really good formulas from Kiehl’s, Eve Lom and Tatcha which were lightweight, unscented and suitable for my sensitive skin.

The Tatcha Pore Perfecting Sunscreen has been my most used sunscreen for the face because I found it really smoothed everything out, didn’t break me out, doubled as a pore smoother, worked well under foundation and helped protect my skin. Chanel UV Essential in the SPF 50 was a go-to for years because of the lightweight fluid texture. It did not do the best with running or sports if any sweating occurred and stung the eyes pretty bad. I’ve tested other formulas and brands by popular request and specific recommendations from readers. I wanted to find alternatives with higher SPF that would also suit my husband’s taste but in the end we each have our favorites which is ok because we have completely different skin types. As I age I’m being more proactive about protecting my skin. Still when it comes to sunscreen it’s overwhelming for me to discern what’s good vs. bad. The effective ingredients vs. necessary combination of ingredients for a stable product. Everyone has a different opinion and with all the information to sort through I’ve gone through a mix of reading other reviews, getting individual recommendations and also just testing items myself.

If you have any expert opinions please chime in the comments. Any information or details would help! Note that these are simply what I tested on my own to see what was suitable for my skintype. I wanted to see what worked well with foundation and also which ones held up the best under different weather conditions. I’ve split the 11 I tested into two categories. One is chemical and the second is physical. This is based on the ingredients although there was 1 formula I was unsure of which you’ll see below.

Part 1: Sunscreens with either Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide or both, most of these are considered physical or mineral sunscreens which you can find more information about here. I’ll list the active ingredients as they are labeled on each bottle. Note that formulas are subject to change so this is what is on each product as of the date of this post. With body sunscreens most formulas come in multiple sizes which is why I didn’t list the prices/weight in the body sunscreen post. However it seems more of the face formulas come in a single size. I’ll list the current prices and sizes below for reference.

Mineral Physical Face Sunscreens with Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide or Both | The beauty look book

Shown above include sunscreens that don’t have a white cast, aren’t thick, are suitable for my sensitive skin and hold up relatively well to humid weather conditions. There is some humidity where pretty much nothing will hold up. We got rained on in Orlando twice with some warm summer showers and I don’t think anything stayed on. However with two full days in Disneyworld we used the Supergoop! Mineral (my mother in law used this one), Glossier Invisible Shield (I used this one), La Roche-Posay (husband used on the face) and the Supergoop! Everyday Sunscreen SPF50 on the body (me and the hubby used this) and I’m happy to report we didn’t get burned a single bit.

  • Supergoop! Daily Correct CC Cream with Omega-3 and Omega-6 – Light/Medium
    • Broad Spectrum SPF35, PA+++
    • $32 for 1.6 fl oz/47 ml (also available in two other shades)
    • Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide 2%, Zinc Oxide 20% (full ingredients listed on Supergoop!)
    • I know BB creams and CC creams are huge in the beauty world. I’ve never found one I liked until this one. Most are just too thick in formula, too sheer or just simply the wrong shade with SO MUCH pink or orange. I don’t understand why they can’t make yellow based ones! This one went on a bit on the pink side but I was relieved that it adjusted within a few minutes. It offers sheer to medium super natural coverage. It did have enough to even out the skin tone. It has ingredients to protect skin with light-diffusing mica to soften look of lines and wrinkles. I like that it has a hydrating feel with a slightly dewy glow but doesn’t get oily. I do think the color selection is limited, but if you have normal to dry skin and can find a good match this is a great option.
  • Supergoop! Skin Soothing Mineral Sunscreen with Olive Polyphenols
    • Broad Spectrum SPF 40, PA+++
    • $28 for 2.4 fl oz/71 ml (also available in a smaller size)
    • Active Ingredients: Octinoxate 7.5%, Zinc Oxide 10.1% (full ingredients listed on Supergoop!)
    • This was a new to me product and I gave a bottle to my mother-in-law to try. She visited recently and we were chatting about sunscreen and she said she just hates the sticky feel of product on her face. I had an extra bottle for her to try and she used it every day the week she was here (I forgot to ask her what she thought!). I personally like this one a lot and I don’t consider myself a fan of mineral sunscreens. This one has olive oil polyphenols which are supposed to calm redness and reduce inflammation. It is one of the longer lasting face products. It dries to a semi-matte finish and you can feel that it adheres well to the skin. Since it stays put you need to take extra care at the end of the day to cleanse the skin thoroughly. Your regular cleanser simply won’t take it off. Both my husband and I found with long-wearing face sunscreens if you don’t cleanse the skin properly after working out or in the evenings then your face becomes more break-out prone.
  • Dior Capture Totale DreamSkin Perfect Skin Cushion – 20 and 30
    • Broad Spectrum SPF 50
    • $82 for 15 g/0.5 oz (also comes with a refill)
    • Active Ingredients: Octinoxate 7%, Titanium Dioxide 4.15%, Zinc Oxide 9.8%
    • So this one falls into the sunscreen skincare category because several Dior reps corrected me while I chatted with them that this is NOT foundation, but a skincare with a tint. I went to several counters when this launched and the shades I would use 20 or 30 were sold out nearly everywhere. Each rep made it a point to tell me that “this is skincare in the form of a cushion” and not intended as foundation. I bought two shades when I finally found them and right now I use 30. My friend RaeView confirmed and assured me that even though it’s technically skincare it’s still a suitable base and she is 100% correct. I’ve been using this for several months now and since I like more coverage I use this as a skincare/sunscreen base then layer my foundation on top. It doesn’t look thick, doesn’t oxidize, doesn’t get goopy. It’s pure love. Finding a color match can be tricky as I do think it’s limited. For a while I was mixing both 20 and 30. It has the Capture Totale skincare ingredients inside (I used to use the line) to give the skin a youthful looking glow. Product description says “matte” but it’s really not matte, but just natural. I took this with me on my Dallas and NY trips over the spring and love it.
  • Tatcha Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen
    • Broad Spectrum SPF 35
    • $65 for 60 ml/2 fl oz
    • Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 15%, Octisalate 5%
    • This is the best sunscreen I’ve tried with a matte finish without looking powdery. It has a silky feel that glides on the skin. I use this on top of my regular serum or moisturizer like I do with all sunscreens. It works well with foundation and tinted moisturizer formulas. Lasts all day without sliding off. It does take some work to wash off in the evenings. My husband tried this and found it so long lasting there was about a week he used it and told me “it broke me out” and I told him he had to double cleanse his face with this one. He did for another week and his skin cleared up. It’s so long lasting if you don’t rinse it off completely I do suspect some dirt or sweat could still be trapped underneath.
  • Darphin Intral Enviornmental Lightweight Shield
    • Broad Spectrum SPF 50
    • $45 for 30 ml/1 fl oz
    • Active Ingredients Titanium Dioxide 6.3%, Zinc Oxide 4.0%
    • This is a new sunscreen that is part of the Darphin Intral line designed for sensitive skin. As a huge fan of Darphin I was so excited to try this. Over the past few months (since early spring) this became my new favorite, especially because it has SPF50 and a peachy nude tint. It does disappear on the skin but I love that it’s not white. It’s fluid with some consistency so it’s not super liquidy. Darphin calls this a triple action gentle makeup base because it gives the skin a luminous look, protects skin from pollution and prevents damage. I apply over moisturizer and under foundation and it sets nicely onto the skin without any greasy feel or separation. You do need to shake the bottle before use.

Up next are the chemical face sunscreens I tested out. The only one I wasn’t entirely sure on was the Eve Lom. In looking for sunscreens to test out the two things I looked for when testing a few in store was: no smell and no white cast. Even though I wear foundation with coverage on top which can usually cancel out any white cast, for me it’s always been a no-go. If there’s any hint of a white cast I just won’t try it.

Face Sunscreens for Sensitive Skin | The Beauty look Book

Shown above:

  • Fresh Sugar Sport Treatment Stick Sunscreen
    • SPF 30
    • $25 for .2 oz
    • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 2%, Octinoxate 7.49%, Octisalate 3%
    • This one is shown because my husband loves it. It’s one of the few he feels really stays put under his eyes on his cheekbone area for when he goes running. He thinks it’s great for touch ups as well. He’ll apply his Kiehl’s Activated Sun Protector or Facial Fuel UV Guard on his face on top of his moisturizer, then he’ll add the Fresh Sugar Sport on areas he wants more coverage where the sun hits. It’s multi-use so you can use it on the face, lips and eye area. He uses this on his face and eye area. For me I felt it was too thick for my personal taste. It did work really well for touch ups and to last long. It has that delicious Fresh Sugar smell, I just didn’t like the texture as I’m all about weightless.
  • La Roche-Posay Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid Anthelios 60
    • Broad Spectrum SPF 50
    • $30 for 1.7 fl oz/50 ml
    • Active Ingredients: Avonezone 3%, Homosalate 10.72%, Octisalate 3.21%, Octocrylene 6%, Oxybenzone 3.86%
    • This brand has been one of the most recommended lines to me so I gave this formula a try after seeing it at Blue Mercury. Performance-wise this is in the top favorites for both my husband and I for the light fluid texture and matte dry down. It worked well to prevent tanning and burns on our face and for me it worked well with my makeup. It does contain oxybenzone which is a controversial chemical ingredient – there are conflicting views on how safe (or unsafe) it is. Also according to a few reviews on Makeupalley some have indicated the US formula is different from the European formula. I’ve only tried the one in the US so can’t report on the differences. If you’re not one who wants chemical sunscreens they do have a mineral version.
  • Glossier Invisible Shield Daily Sunscreen + (20% off referral code by clicking on this link)
    • Broad Spectrum SPF 35
    • $30 for 1 fl oz/30 ml
    • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 6%, Octisalate 5%
    • Being a beauty junkie I had to try this one. I ordered a couple from Glossier and it has the most unique sunscreen formula I’ve ever tried. It’s a clear water gel which has no white cast and no residue. It has a semi-matte but natural finish. The formula has tiny microcapsules that are freshly delivered to your skin when you apply it. The reviews online seem mixed but mainly due to two things: price point for product size and the fact that it’s not mineral. I do wish it had higher SPF but I liked the way it performed – it did well to prevent tanning and burn while I was in Orlando. I reapplied pretty diligently every two hours especially since we went through a few rain showers.
  • Estee Lauder DayWear Advanced Multi-Protection Anti-Oxidant and UV Defense
    • Broad Spectrum SPF 50
    • $42 for 1 fl oz/30 ml
    • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 5%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 2.7%, Oxybenzone 3%
    • This is another favorite formula of mine. I think it’s particularly good especially if you have normal to dry skin. The water in Florida has dried out our skin a bit and our first months here was during the dry season. The humid weather has normalized my skin a bit more so I don’t know how this will hold up with the humidity in the upcoming weeks. It’s on the more emollient side with a thicker texture but isn’t goopy. It is scented but doesn’t appear to be added fragrance (although I can’t really tell for sure). It has the signature DayWear scent almost like pear. It does contain Oxybenzone so might not be for everyone. I found it suitable for my sensitive skin and like the way it wears.
  • Supergoop! Defense Refresh Setting Mist
    • Broad Spectrum SPF 50
    • $8 for 1 fl oz/30 ml (also available in travel and full size)
    • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 3.0%,ย Homosalate 4.0%,ย Octinoxate 6.0%,ย Octisalate 3.0%
    • I bought this mini to try it out because I wasn’t sure how I’d like the full size. For those who always wonder how makeup wearers are supposed to reapply sunscreen to a full face of makeup you’re not alone. It’s one of the main reasons why I don’t reapply on the face because you literally have to take everything off and redo it all which just isn’t practical. This is one of Supergoop!’s answers to reapplying without having to redo your makeup. It’s called a setting mist which it does, but I really prefer this as a mid-day reapplication on the face if I’m going outside. It’s described as a “Matte finish three-in-one mist, sets make-up, controls oil, and delivers UV photoaging protection.” The full size says to 7 to 10 times in a circle on your face with your eyes closed. It dispenses a super fine even mist so after you are done spritzing keep the eyes closed for about 3 seconds or there will still be mist particles that can get in your eyes. The ones they have now have a new better mist dispenser as they took feedback from customers to improve it. I never tried the older version so I can’t compare the two though.
  • Eve Lom Daily Protection + SPF 50
    • $90 for 50 ml
    • Broad Spectrum SPF 50
    • Active Ingredients: This is one that is Eve Lom describes as containing “six scientific sunscreens and is free from zinc and titanium dioxide.” It’s not mineral but I am not sure this falls into the chemical category. Ingredients listed on Space NK and Sephora.
    • This is my second tube of this sunscreen even though it’s really expensive. It’s one of the best unscented options I’ve tried and I like that it has a high SPF. It does plump the skin and smooth it for a soft texture. It does appear to improve elasticity in the skin for a more youthful look. Still $95 is very pricey and since I use skincare underneath sunscreen I don’t know that I will repurchase given some other finds that I’ve found that I really like.

That wraps up my face sunscreen testing for this summer. I do suspect there will be more formulas I will try as summer progresses but I have a lot to keep me busy. Normally sunscreen takes me a while to use up but both my husband and I have been using it daily and reapplying when we go outside so we’re using everything up pretty quickly. Quick take on our favorites:

  • My top favorite formulas: Tatcha, Darphin and the Dior Dreamskin Cushion
  • Andrew’s favorite formulas: He still likes all things Kiehl’s, but also likes the La Roche-Posay and Fresh Sugar Sport Stick
  • Longest lasting formula for me: Tatcha and Supergoop! Mineral
  • Misses: No formula misses for me, I do wish some of the lower SPF ones came in higher, but I can live with 35

I consider myself very fortunate that none of these caused an allergic reaction or bumps. If you have favorites or input please share in the comments below. I’m still learning and if you have info you want to share I’m all ears!

Press samples include the Darphin Intral and Supergoop! CC Cream. Gray Malin tray gifted. All others purchased by me.

You Might Also Like

  • Lori Wade Miller

    Have you tried the Biore watery essence sunscreens from Asia? I usually dislike the ‘dry feel’ suncreens, but I like these very much. Very light and smoothing.

    • Hi Lori – I haven’t tried Biore. If I’m in the US do you know where I can buy/try it besides amazon?

      • Lori Wade Miller

        I have only purchased it on Amazon. It came fairly quickly and in retail packaging.

  • I think it’s time for me to add in a stand alone SPF, I use a lot of moisturizers and BB creams that have it, but I know that they don’t fully do their job as well as a regular sunscreen. This list is great for me to decide

    https://thedianaedition.com

  • Eileen

    TIZO makes 100% physical sunscreens with micronized titanium dioxide and micronized zinc oxide. They come in both tinted and untinted formulas. Because they are micronized, they dry clear. They are cosmetically elegant, last the day, and do double duty as a primer. The only catch is, they are not readily available. I get mine from my dermatologist as do the other people I know who use them. Another good face option, if you can tolerate a bit of non-sensitizing chemical mixed with your physical, is Jack Black Oil Free Water Resistant SPF 45. It is primarily physical so you get total long lasting UV protection.

    • Thanks Eileen, I’ll have to look into Tizo! Thanks for the tip on getting it from a dermatologist though. You’re right though – Jack Black is another great one! We used it last year and have forgotten to restock. I’ll have to order another one as we’re using up what we have pretty fast ๐Ÿ™‚

  • ChynnaBlue

    Thank you for these thorough reviews on both face and body sunscreens and for listing active ingredients here. Zinc Oxide gives me a rash, so I have to avoid it. (It’s too bad, because that Supergoop CC cream was one of my favorite products until I figured out what was giving me the rash.) I do like that La Roche-Posay sunscreen, as well as a similar one by Clarins. I will be checking out that Supergoop Mousse sunscreen for the body. I also really like the Supergoop lip balm with SPF 30 in AcaiFusion and keep one of those in my bag.

    • You’re welcome! I hate rashes ๐Ÿ™ That supergoop lip is a great option!

  • nic

    Biore is a good one. I still rec Replenix spray SPF 50 for face and body. Also, Skinceuticals Physical Fusion. Colorescience powder is good!

  • Tori Min

    How many pumps of the Glossier sunscreen do you use for your face?

  • teadivamuse

    Why are sunscreens so expensive? I am exploring mineral options from Blue Lizard and Australian Gold. They run under $15 for 3 oz on the face formulas. Body formulas are 5 oz sizes for a few dollars more. Does anyone have experience with those brands? Enjoying the summer months outdoors shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg, even for beauty-philes.

  • Trudi

    I just purchased the ‘Glossier Invisible Shield Daily Sunscreen + with the (20% off referral code by clicking on this link). It was super, duper easy to order from Glossier is another reason I ordered along with your review of course. Thank you for giving us all a review as there are so many to choose from.

    • Thanks Trudi! Hope you like it ๐Ÿ™‚ I think it’s a good one even though might be a bit spendy for the size.

  • NJ

    I stick to purely physical sunscreens – I get red itchy bumps from the chemical versions. I rotate through several, but a few months ago discovered EltaMD UV Physical Broad Spectrum SPF 41 Sunscreen, the tinted version. I like it very much and a big plus is it works beautifully under foundation for me.

    • EltaMD gets so many rave reviews. Is it something you can only get on their site? Why is it that I can never find it?

      • NJ

        Sabrina, it’s not in stores. You can get it online. I’ve purchased from both Dermstore and Amazon (if you have Prime, you’ll receive it in 2 days). Note, Dermstore is currently having a 20% promo, but EltaMD is not eligible for the discount – bummer.

        • Thank you so much!!!

          • NJ

            A note about Amazon. Per EltaMD, it is now an approved reseller (as of mid-May). The EltaMD UV Physical that I mentioned above is the regular retail price – $30 – not discounted.

  • MH

    My go to facial sunscreens are the Dr Jart UV Sun Fluid which is SPF 30, and the Dr. Dennis Gross Dark Spot Sun Defense which is SPF 50. The Dr Jart one is a runny milky texture and is a chemical sunscreen. I never get any stinging with this one and I used it steadily all winter long. It’s alcohol free and provides good hydration without being cloying. Just for reference, my skin type is combo. I love the Dr Dennis Gross one for those hot summer days because it’s a physical sunscreen, and really helps to mattify me on those hot, sticky DC days. It leaves a slight white cast, that fades pretty quickly after application. It’s got more of a creamy texture, that dries down to be slightly tacky initially, but that doesn’t really bother me, I just use a little powder in the T zone. I’ve used these two solidly for the last few years and have been very happy with both! The only note I would give is to avoid a really heavily siliconed moisturizer under the DDG, because that combo will cause rolling, a water or oil based one works fine.

    • Hi MH, thanks so much for your recs! Also great tips on avoiding silicone moisturizers – I sometimes wonder why certain products roll or ball up and I did suspect it was because of incompatible formulas but didn’t realize what they were. Thx!!

  • Lea Ann Pringle

    I have tried so many sunscreens. I can’t stand the white cast on my face turning me ash tone.
    I researched and bought BareMinerals Prep Step Broad Spectrum SPF 50
    Mineral Shield Daily Prep Lotion. It’s active ingredients are zinc and titanium making it a physical sunscreen.
    It’s like silk going on, leaves no white cast and doesn’t break out my sensitive skin.
    It was highly rated on most websites like Sephora and ULTA.

    • Oooh the Bare Minerals was on my radar for so long! With all the options it just never made it’s way to my shopping cart lol. I’ll have to give that one a try as well ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jennadele

    I moved to Tampa about a year ago, and have had to up my sunscreen game! I have hyperpigmentation, and my gold standard is Elta MD Clear. Lightweight, no white cast and moisturizing; on really hot days I can forgo a separate moisturizer, but still looks good under tinted moisturizer or foundation.

    • Thanks Jennadele! Do you mind me asking where you find EltaMD?

      • Jennadele

        I used the Eltamd website to find derm offices that carry it locally; also, SkinNV carries it. However, dermstore.com is an approved online retailer – not only do they carry the full line, but they often have promotions and sales. I made the mistake of ordering from amazon once – not only are they not approved, but I’m fairly certain I did not get the right product.
        Also a good sunscreen – colorscience powders, which my derm recommended, and I use.

  • rising sun

    I use mostly sunscreens from Japan, they seem to have the best formulas, and use the latest in sunscreen technology, unlike American sunscreen, as it’s regulated by the FDA here who hasn’t approved a new sunscreen chemical in like 20 years. RatzillaCosme does really good reviews of all the new Japanese sunscreens that come out every year.

    • Thanks! Do you have any specific favs?

      • rising sun

        Biore watery essence seems to be a particular fave, although I don’t love it. Too much alcohol in the product for my taste. Shiseido Senka Aging Car UV Sunscreen seems really good, and it’s on Amazon. Shiseido Anessa Perfect UV is water resistant, so could be good for outdoor activities. I’m not sure what your skintype is, other than sensitive, but these sunscreens are pretty cheap, so I’d buy a few to try out and see what works for you! A bunch of them are on Amazon (I’d go with prime).

  • Tessa

    I second a poster below: Try Japanese sunscreens, especially if you have sensitive skin. They’re really cosmetically elegant, go up to PA++++ and are way cheaper. I use several that dry matte so I can actually use the recommended 1/4 tsp on my face to get proper protection and they’re popular enough to be on Amazon now. They really changed the game for me when it comes to facial sunscreen.
    I love Biore Sarasara UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen SPF 50/PA+++ (reformulated this year and I haven’t tried the 2017 version yet because I have a stockpile) and Nivea Sun Protect Super Water Gel SPF 50/PA+++.

    • Thank you Tessa! Random question but do you think the Amazon distributors who sell the Japanese sunscreens are reputable? I usually try to buy when it’s “fulfilled by Amazon” as other sellers can be hit or miss.

      • Tessa

        I have never had an issue but I do always read reviews closely. One thing that’s nice is many Asian cosmetic companies change their packaging every year or have authenticity seals to prevent counterfeiting. A lot of Japanese retailers that can be hard to shop in English run eBay shops that are reputable and shipping is usually free (though you have to wait for arrival from Japan). A lot of beauty blogs focused on Asian cosmetics and skincare/K-Beauty run down the eBay shops of Asian stores or post guides to other places to pick up Korean/Japanese/Taiwanese products. A few I recommend are: Fanserviced-b, Fifty Shades of Snail and Snow White and the Asian Pear. I have read sunscreen reviews and guides to Asian sunscreens on all of them over the years and purchased lots of their recs โ€” they’re all trustworthy bloggers like you who disclose anything sponsored and provide comprehensive reviews + multiple options for links to buy depending on where you are in the world. Hope that helps!

  • Cadie Campbell

    I was wondering what kind of cleanser you use for removing sunscreen since you mentioned some of them are harder to remove than others.