Alas, it’s time to talk about sunscreen!
Every morning I get up, get dressed, and put on sunscreen. Over the years, I’ve become more wise about what I want, and have learned what ingredients to fear and not to fear.
Long time readers here will know that I don’t believe in all the fear mongering that’s out there about parabens and chemical ingredients. The “all natural beauty” marketing that’s out there is largely not evidence based, and just another way for special interests (eg. EWG) to get you to spend more money.
So, what makes a sunscreen good? Sunscreens and all leave on skin care should contain zero fragrance, including natural fragrances, and sensitizing essential oils. They should be lightweight and disappear into the skin completely. They should be tolerable around the eyes. And they should be affordable and come in convenient packaging to promote liberal and frequent use.
The pictures above displays every sunscreen I currently have in my possession. Many of them are from sellers outside the United States because I’ve sought out newer active ingredients that are shown to be more effective and more stable than the ingredients available in the United States. I think they will come to the United States eventually. The FDA is just extremely slow.
So let’s go through each sunscreen, starting from the top:
- Altruist SPF 30 – This is a combination sunscreen from the UK, with advanced chemical filters not approved in the U.S. This is a great all purpose sunscreen. It’s relatively lightweight, has no odor. I like to use it for large areas of the body especially. It works nicely on the face too, but I prefer sunscreens that are even more lightweight than this one for the face.
- Kiss My Face Sun Spray Lotion SPF 50 – I’ve had this sunscreen for a long time. The bottle is still full because I don’t reach for it very much. I bought it as a body sunscreen to use for days on the beach. The formulation feels nice. It’s thin, lightweight, fragrance free and sinks into the skin easily. But the spray bottle is a bit messy. You have to spray it into your palm before rubbing it on. It’s very watery and shoots out like a water hose, always splattering, and therefore not great to use indoors. I can see this being good for people with kids who spend a lot of time outdoors.
- Trader Joe’s Enrich Sunscreen SPF 15 – It feels very nice on the face but the short story is I simply would not recommend it because SPF 15 is not adequate for anyone.
- Biore UV Perfect Face Milk SPF 50 – This is a Japanese combination sunscreen, with advanced chemical filters not approved in the U.S. Out of all the sunscreens I’ve tried, this is the most lightweight. It is very watery and completely disappears into your skin without any scent or stickiness. The only down side is that the bottle is tiny, so I reserve it for traveling.
- Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist SPF 100 – I haven’t found any mist on sunscreens that I’ve enjoyed. This one leaves a slightly sticky film on the skin so I reserve it for my toes and ankles when wearing sandals on sunny days. I go out to the balcony to apply it, to avoid getting it all over the floor. Unfortunately, it contains fragrance. Almost all mist on sunscreens contain fragrance, and this one seems to be one of the least pungent.
- Banana Boat Dry Balance Mist SPF 50 – I would not recommend this one. It leaves a sticky film and has a very strong scent.
- CeraVe Sunscreens – I trust this brand and have tried all of their sunscreens. I think they are all very good and would recommend this to anyone looking for a good quality, no nonsense, easy to find sunscreen. My everyday body and face lotion come from the same brand.
- Hada Labo UV white gel SPF 50 – Another Japanese sunscreen with advanced chemical filters not available in the U.S. This is one of my favorite sunscreens. It’s very easy to apply and feels very lightweight once absorbed. It leaves a dewy appearance to the face. This would be nice for a fresh face, no make up day. My only complaint is that the jar packaging is inconvenient.
- Elta MD SPF 40 – I’ve tried all the Elta MD sunscreens and love them all. The sports one however does sting my eyes, but that won’t be the case for everyone. The airless pump bottle is very convenient. The tinted version is a nice alternative to Laura Mercier if you want something sheerer. But the price tag is pretty steep and you only get a tiny amount in each bottle, so I’m not encouraged to keep purchasing. When it comes to sunscreen, we should all be using a lot more of it and more frequently. I don’t want to think about how much it costs every time I’m using it, which is why I won’t repurchase Elta MD. For someone who uses sunscreen a lot, it’s not sustainable (I’m saying this after using up ~6 bottles in ~8 months). I now reserve my tinted version for the rare days I decide to wear a little make up.
- Skin Aqua Super Moisture Gel SPF 50 – This is hands down my favorite sunscreen. It’s another Japanese sunscreen with advanced chemical filters not available in the U.S. The formulation is extremely lightweight, and goes onto the skin like water. The alcohol in the vehicle helps it go on this way but evaporates off quickly without drying out the skin. It doesn’t burn the eyes at all and disappears completely into the skin. It is the most invisible sunscreen I’ve ever tried. What brings it over the top is the packaging. It comes in a pretty pump bottle, that encourages frequent use. I keep mine out on the landing pad at our entry way. This reminds me to apply it everyday before I head out to work. I keep another bottle in my office for re-application around lunch time. The bottle is relatively large and is at a price tag that is 5x less expensive than Elta MD. Additionally the formulation is great for men who have facial hair. It doesn’t clump and remain visible on the hair shaft like many other brands. For all these reasons, I can see myself repurchasing this one for the long haul.
This might seem like a lot of sunscreen for one person to own, especially for someone like me who is continually trying to cut back on the number of things, but I know I will use them all up eventually. This is one category I don’t feel guilty about hoarding large amounts. They all have long shelf lives and I’ll find a use for even the brands I don’t enjoy. I delegate those to the lower half of the body, for example. I’d recommend keeping a bottle of sunscreen in every bathroom of your home, by the entryway, outdoor areas, in your car, office, and purse. By keeping them at your fingertips, you are much more likely to make sunscreen a daily habit.
Have you tried any good sunscreens lately? Do you have a favorite?