DRMTLGY Broad Spectrum SPF45

When it comes to sunscreens and my overly sensitive skin, the phrase “No good deed goes unpunished” tends to jump to mind. Even my once-coveted Supergoop is starting to cause my skin to break out. So, there I went, on the hunt for the latest and greatest bottle of SPF.

DRMTLGY’s SPF 45 boasted the following on their website:

and there weren’t any drying alcohols in this product, how could I not pick this up for $22?

I will say I am a sucker for good packaging, and this certain has it. The bottle is simplistic, clean, sturdy, and has a shiny gold ring right under the cap. The bottle is seems misleadingly large for only having 2oz in it, but, I digress. It’s still a substantial amount, considering a little bit of the product will spread easily over the skin.

And it is fragrance free, lightweight, and absolutely clear. This melts right down into your skin, and there’s no trace of white-cast at any point during the day (even at the end of the day when you go to wash your face, and realize, “ah, I guess there was a little white-cast, after all!”)

But hypoallergenic? No. If a even particle of this comes into contact with your waterline somehow, your eyes will be burning for hours. Chemical sunscreens, such as this one, are not known for their sensitivity toward eyes, but this bottle pushed my level of pain tolerance for certain cosmetics. Although I will give it points for not causing “itchy” skin that often occurs with both mineral and physical sunscreens.

Non-comedogenic? Nope, again! My trial period of this sunscreen was at or around three weeks, and the minute I removed it from my regimen, my skin cleared back up. Otherwise, new break outs had been appearing at the end of each day, and the only thing that had changed in my routine at that time was the sunscreen.

I know that Dr. Dray has reviewed this before and was generally positive about it, particularly for the brand attempting to provide medical grade products, and that this was a much cheaper dupe of Elta MD’s UV Clear. Which, in retrospect, I didn’t do so well with the Elta MD sunscreen either, so everyone else’s mileage may vary.

I wish I loved this, but I’ve never had a sunscreen irritate my eyes as much as this one did. It held up incredibly well under makeup, and was compliant with all of my other moisturizers — but at the cost of ruining my skin. I suppose my hunt for the perfect sunscreen continues! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4.5/5

Longevity: 4.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 2/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No!

Canmake Mermaid Skin Gel UV SPF 50+ PA++++

After trying an unsuccessful string of physical and chemical American sunscreens, I decided to start looking for sunscreens featured on the AsianBeauty subreddit, particularly those that did not contain benzoyl or isopropyl alcohol. It turns out, a ton of chemical sunscreens have those ingredients… but Canmake Mermaid’s Skin Gel did not, so I went ahead and made the $10 purchase to try it.

To start, 10/10 on the packaging, with the silvery blue beach decals scattered throughout and the pink label. So cute! The sunscreen itself is quite thin, and comes out of the bottle easily. So, despite the bottle’s small size, a little of this product goes a long way. The white coloration of the sunscreen will sink in pretty quickly. Despite the easy absorption, it does leave a little white cast, and might lighten your foundation shade half a step. This occurs even with the “clear” version, and the effect of this is intensified in the white version of Mermaid Gel. Fortunately, the product spreads consistently over the skin, so it’s easy to blend in with makeup.

Speaking of makeup, this plays very well with other products. For me, personally, this is imperative. The drawback to this product is that it does cause a little bit of skin irritation. It doesn’t make me itchy or break-out, necessarily, but any redness that may have been leftover from old acne scars will be noticeably more pronounced.

Besides the redness, there’s really no additional “side effects” with this sunscreens that many others tend to exhibit. This won’t dry out your skin over time, or have the whitecast become worse over the course over the day. The sunscreen is odorless. It also doesn’t pill. You can safely wear a layer of foundation over this for a full day with no issues. Oh, and, the important stuff: this has an extremely high SPF rating (50 spf, PA++++), so this is great to wear all year round.

If you are a sensitive skin user and you’ve been around the block with sunscreens, I would recommend you give Mermaid Gel a try (as well as Rohto Moisture Milk, which has relatively similar properties to this sunscreen). Finding a HG sunscreen is a difficult task for even clear skin users, since the sunscreen ingredients themselves, like zinc oxide, can be known irritants. But I think some trial and error for the sake of sun protection is worth it! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 3.75/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Maybe

INNISFREE Daily UV Protection Cream No Sebum SPF35 PA+++

Innisfree UV Protection Cream came up in my search for alcohol-free sunscreens on Reddit, so I thought I’d give it a try. It was… lackluster, though not awful.

You get a tiny bit more product in this sunscreen than you do with most Asian sunscreens at 50mL, at an equivalent price point of $10-12. It was tough for me to find a US seller for this one, so there was a bit of a wait for this to be shipped from Korea.

The product comes out of the tube pretty easily. It initially has this, kind of… beige-colored tint? But it immediately turns white once you apply it to your face. Smells a little like fruity chalk, too. Ok, let’s try a better descriptor than that: like Flintstones vitamins. And that smell never fades at any point through the day.

It applies fairly easy onto the skin, but the white-cast is somewhat noticeable and doesn’t fade easily. That said; it does play well with makeup and other products underneath it, but you might notice the sunscreen ends up being a tad bit of a white-mixer with your foundation.

This sunscreen started to make my skin feel a bit dry after the 4 hour mark — although it wasn’t affecting my makeup necessarily, it felt like my skin was cracking each time I smiled.

I guess longevity isn’t technically a “thing” with sunscreens, because you should be reapplying after 2 hours anyway, but wearing the Innisfree sunscreen for a week or two instead of my usual SPF 50 made me realize how much more effective the SPF 50 is at blocking out rays. I got substantially more color on my skin in those two weeks.

I was a little paranoid this would make me break out because it dried my skin out so quickly, but it didn’t. So that was cool. Other than that, I guess I wasn’t really blown away by anything, and I probably won’t rebuy it. The whitecast was kind of annoying, it made my skin feel too tight, and I could also see how the smell would be off-putting for some. But hey — any sunscreen that doesn’t break me out is a friend in my book! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 3.5/5

Longevity: 3/5

How much I actually like this product: 2.5/5

Sunscreen and Sensitive Skin

Now that the sun has made a guest appearance in my otherwise cold and snowy part of the world, I’m back on the hunt for a good face sunscreen. Here’s my criteria:

  • At least SPF 30
  • No whitecast
  • No drying alcohols

Not too crazy, right? Not even a chemical vs physical sunscreen stipulation! Unfortunately, the “no alcohol” clause rules out at least half, in both the US and Asian beauty markets! Goodbye, Biore UV Watery Gel! (too bad because I love that stuff).

Here’s a quick run down of sunblocks I’ve tried in the past, on a pass/fail basis:

Biore UV Watery Gel: Awesome. Dries fast and clear. Has alcohol. Fail.

Cerave Facial Moisturizing AM 30 SPF: No alcohol, but breaks down makeup, pills like mad, and makes my skin itchy, thus made me break out. Come on, Cerave… Fail.

Innisfree No Sebum SPF 35: No alcohol. Fruity smell might not be everyone’s taste, but I don’t mind it. Whitecast can be a little much and it will break your makeup down after it’s been on all day, but the longevity is certainly better than most! So actually… pass, but not on work days.

Avene Mineral Ultra-Light SPF 50: Absolutely not. Crazy amounts of white-cast, itchy, destroys makeup, pills with every single product, WAY too much money considering this has ZERO cosmetic elegance. Also made me break out. Fail times one million.

Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Face SPF 30: I want to like this stuff so bad because I love Hawaiian Tropic brand for some reason (probably the beachy packaging…) but this basically burned my face off. Smells good, though… Fail. 😦

Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch SPF 50: Another “burned my face off and made me break out”. Fail.

Its Skin 2pm SPF 50: I’ve talked about this one a million times but it’s the only sunscreen that’s a 95% pass for me. Applies smoothly with very little whitecast, smells freakin’ amazing, doesn’t break down makeup or other product, and it’s 50 SPF. It DOES give me little tiny break outs, though. They’re tolerable, but ugh. Still, pass.

So there you have it, my quick review and rant of just some of the sunscreens I’ve tried in the past year. I’ve got Canmake Mermaid Skin on the way to my house right now, and I’m tempted to try Cetaphil’s 50 SPF. Readers, do you have any sensitive-skin friendly sunscreen options? I’d love to hear if you do!

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti Aging Perfector

In the words of Jeffree Star, “I’m not living for this”. This is a more-or-less a BB cream, in which the point of using this product is more about the added benefits (sunscreen and retinol) and less about the coverage. Unfortunately, the added benefits ended up not being benefits to me at all.

This foundation comes in a push-top tube. The liqui-cream comes out in a thin line, and, honestly, what you can get out in one or two pumps won’t really seem like enough product. It didn’t spread very evenly, and I kept having to go back to get more of the product, after feeling as though it had stopped short while I was spreading it. This might have been because the color isn’t really intended to be coverage, but more of a tint, thus causing me to think I simply hadn’t used enough. Which leads me to my next gripe.

What tint? Although my skin undertone skews yellow, I have a lot of redness due to my various skin sensitivities, but otherwise I’m a hard NC-15 during a good half of the year. I figured picking this up in the “ivory to fair” shade would be satisfactory. And again, I get that this isn’t intended to provide coverage, but I didn’t see any color at all, not even enough to provide any smallest amount of correction. Then, after twenty minutes, the weirdest thing happened: it oxidized, turning my face slightly orange. Suddenly, my face no longer matched my neck! But at this point I was already out of the house, so I soldiered on and continued to wear it.

Now, fortunately, any color that was on my face was relatively imperceptible by noon, although I had quite a bit of oil breakthrough. But then my skin started to itch, and by the time I was home to remove my makeup, I had broke out in a few spots. Now, there’s nothing unheard of in this product’s ingredient list, nor anything that I would say is bad. But it does contain both retinol and sunscreen. Retinol, even at low percentages, invokes an initial purging period. And sunscreen… I don’t know. I don’t have a good time with American sunscreens, personally, but I can’t put my finger on why that’s the case.

I can see why some people would like this product though. If you can tolerate the ingredients that provide the benefits, it seems like it could be a great product. Retinol is great for anti-aging, as is SPF (and you would need the SPF anyway if you planned on going out in the sun after applying retinol). If your skin can mesh well with the oxidation-orange tint, you’d be in luck with this. Otherwise, this foundation is personally hard pass for me. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 2/5

Longevity: 1/5

How much I actually like this product: 1/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No

It’s Skin 2pm Sunblock SPF50

its skin 2pm

This chemical sunblock by Its Skin is thus far my holy grail of sunblocks. This is a Korean sunscreen but is, for the most part, relatively accessible on Amazon. For such a small product, you may be concerned that the $15 price tag on this isn’t quite worth it, but the sunscreen itself is pretty liquid-y, and a little goes a long way. And the typical conditions from shipping anything halfway across the world still apply: you’ll probably have to wait a few weeks to get it.

But for me, it’s absolutely worth the wait. Right off the bat, the tube is flashy gold and cool looking. Rip off the silver foil on the top keeping the product fresh under the cap, and the white liquid sunscreen tips out relatively easily without much need to squeeze the bottle. Like I said before, a little goes a long way.

The rest of this story is 100% awesome. The sunscreen sinks in with no whitecast! It smells amazing — very sweet, not overwhelming, and really not like sunscreen at all. After a couple of minutes of allowing to set in, makeup goes over this flawlessly with no issues of pilling (although it will cause some foundations to create a “cake” texture if you apply it too early). Even better — there’s no white-cast pilling atrocities on your face after hour 4. Heck, it doesn’t even happen after hour 8 or 12 or 16, although, technically, the efficacy of the sunblock is probably null and void long before then. But still! No whitecast! Wahoo!

In terms of actually doing it’s job as a sunscreen, this does it’s job as a 50 SPF (probably to better or lesser degrees depending on the timing between me putting it on, and me being exposed to sun). I’ve done a few laps outside of my work office in 85 degree weather with this on, and didn’t burn or tan (or if I did tan, very little).

Now, all of this said. I will say that, for me personally, it can cause a tiny bit of congestion in my skin. Not full on break outs, but minor clogged pores. It’s not pervasive, necessarily, but it does happen from time to time when I’m using it. My skin hated this even more pre-spironolactone, and it caused me to break out a ton (but I loved the concept of this so much that I just had to shelf it until I was a few months into my treatment… no regrets). However, history shows that I break out from most chemical sunscreens anyway, and quite frankly, I’m not sure what the trigger ingredient is. Not very helpful, I know. But while we’re talking about ingredients, I thought I’d mention that this is also alcohol-free! 🙂

Anyways, to wrap up, I obviously love this sunblock. I have yet to find another chemical sunscreen, in the US or otherwise, that ticks off all the boxes like this one does. If your skin tolerates most sunscreens, I highly recommend trying this out. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 5/5!

Recommended for sensitive skin: Maybe

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti Wrinkle Cream

This product was one of my very first moisturizers and retinol products. I don’t know how I feel about that, to be honest — I probably could have started with something a little bit more low-key, without the retinol, but I must have figured 20 or 21 was a good as time as any to hop on the anti-wrinkle train.

I definitely did not know what I  was doing with anything retinol related at the time, so there is a possibility I used this way too much — every morning/night, or at least, every day. I probably wasn’t wearing any sunscreen with it, either. Bad. But I can say with confidence that it never broke me out (any more than I already was at the time, anyway — this was before my cystic acne, so I suspect at the time those breakouts were more due to my poor eating/sleep/stress habits), and the packaging does specify that it’s oil-free.

It is a white cream, that quickly sinks into your skin without having to vigorous rub in. It’s can be a little bit pilly if you don’t let it set or you put too much in one area, etc., but as long as it goes on smoothly from the onset, it should be relatively lightweight. There’s no fragrance.

As it is a retinol cream, this should be worn at night, not during the day, or if you’re going to wear it during the day, put some sunscreen over it. So you probably shouldn’t need to put makeup on over it, but if you do, that should go on fine as well, again as long as you’ve allowed the product time to set. I haven’t used this in awhile, so it’s possible that reformulations have occurred in the time that’s lapsed thus changing the structure of the product, but I don’t notice any substantial ingredient changes.

While this product does boast retinol, they don’t disclose the percentage, and I read somewhere on Reddit once that the percentage is actually relatively low, or that it merely contains it’s lesser form, retinyl palmitate. But regardless of the amount of retinol, my word of caution is still to read up on retinol and how to use it properly before applying (especially if you’re acne prone, cause the retinol purging period can be real!)

But if you like to live a more carefree lifestyle (like me, at age 20) and do absolutely zero research before using a product, this is certainly the product to do it with. It’s probably not a miracle worker, but it won’t kill your skin, and there’s just enough good stuff in it to convince yourself that it’s actually doing something. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 3.5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 4/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Maybe

Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration – Oil Free Lotion Sunscreen 30 SPF

Hawaiian Tropic Weightless Face Sunscreen

I’ve used every Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen and tanning lotion under the sun (hah) since I was 16 years old. And, since I’m on this quest to find a new American HG sunscreen, I decided to give their Face sunscreen a try for $8.

It comes in a canister, almost, but with a push pump. It comes out plain white, and the application is pretty easy — of course you’ll need to rub it in to get rid of the whitecast, but that’s the deal with sunscreen. After that, there’s not really much residue white cast to deal with, or any crazy clinging to tiny baby hairs. It’s not tacky, and dries quickly. Sweet! It has a pretty strong smell — very sunscreen-y, and a hint of light floral, but that doesn’t bother me. From the get go, I really liked it…

…until my face started to turn bright red, and started to itch! Now, admittedly, my skincare sin is that I very rarely ever patch test, so I have no one to blame but myself. But the active ingredients in this are relatively similar to Cerave’s sunscreen, which I didn’t have an issue with, so I’m not sure if there was an interaction with something else I was wearing, or if I’m intolerant of something else in this sunscreen. In the resulting days I broke out just a bit, but I suspect this was because of my reaction, since the product does claim to be non-comedogenic.

Later on in the week, I did an, ahem, reverse patch test (yep I know, that’s not how you do it). I didn’t experience the same redness I had before, but the itchiness was definitely there.

I’m really not happy that my skin didn’t love this product because otherwise this ticks off all the boxes for me, in terms of what I’m looking for in a sunscreen. Lightweight and smells good. The SPF could be higher, but 30 would work for inside-only days. Heck, after the initial application I even tried applying makeup, and that went on smoothly over this product (although in the end I ended up just washing everything off, since my skin itched so much).

It’s really mind boggling to me since it’s not my first rodeo with these ingredients, and I wish I knew what the trigger had been. I do love this product, but I guess I can’t win ’em all… ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4.5/5

Longevity: n/a

How much I wanted to like this product: A new category for failed attempts! 5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No

Avene Mineral Ultra-Light Hydrating Sunscreen Lotion 50 SPF+

Avene Ultra Light Sunscreen

Euch. Nothing I dislike more than a product that doesn’t live up to it’s claims.

I made a year long switch to physical sunscreens only, whilst navigating my insane hormonal acne, to see if the ingredients typically used in chemical sunscreens were making my break outs worse. This was the third? I tried, I believe. Not good. First of all, it just doesn’t smell good — no expectations of fragrance and florals here, I just wanted it to smell like nothing. I can’t explain it — it smelled like a slightly-damp basement, almost. I know I really need to work on my adjectives and descriptors, but that’s the only thing I can come up with. Either way, smelling that smell on your face all day is just… eugh.

No amount of rubbing this product in or hybrid “let it sit then rub” or “rub it then let it sit” will fully get the product to go in, without leaving some type of residual white cast. And if you have tiny baby hairs growing on your skin, FORGET IT! White cast all over the place, and it goes without saying, this pills like crazy, with or without makeup. Again, physical sunscreens =/= absorbent, but this one was tougher than the others I’ve tried. So throw the whole, “Sheer, non-whitening” advertisement in the can.

Then, 3pm comes. My makeup and/or moisturizer show signs of starting to break down. And so does my sunscreen. Hello, pilly, white-cast-y, oily mess! Get ready for whiteness to cling like crazy to your dry spots, while you’re at it.

I know that physical sunscreens are supposed to be more effective than chemical ones, in general and particularly with long periods of exposure to the sun, but MAN, I am so happy to make the return to chemical sunscreens. I was stoked to throw this little bottle of Avene in the trash. Physical sunscreens are tough, either way you slice it, but there’s definitely much better out there that beat the $28 price mark here. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 2/5 (I mean, it probably works as a sunscreen, but the sheer/non-whitening part? Pschtt..)

Longevity: 2.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 1/5

 

Cerave Sunscreen, Broad Spectrum 30 SPF

Cerave Sunscreen 30 SPF

I cut out chemical sunscreens during my cystic acne phase, and only used physical sunscreens, spending many days with white-cast nightmare skin. Now that that part of my life is over, I decided to tip-toe back into the world of chemical sunscreens. My holy grail sunscreen is Its Skin 2pm Sunblock 50spf+, but it ships from Korea, and at present, I can’t find it for cheaper than $25, which is more than I’m willing to spend. So I picked this up in the meantime. I know 30 spf isn’t terribly high by any means, but I don’t intend on using it for scenarios with intense sun.

I’ve been using this for two days straight, and layered it over different moisturizers each day. Goes on fine, no pilling at all, no white cast, felt pretty smooth to the touch. Doesn’t smell like anything, which is fine by me. So from the onset, I liked it! I checked out my face in the office mirror at noon, it looked okay at that point still.

I got out of a big meeting at 3pm and… there it was, the pilling disaster. The sunscreen was clinging to my dry areas, and those parts of my face became a nice, white-ish, peeling goop mess. I’m sure that was a sight to behold for everyone else in that meeting. I’ve always heard that you need to re-apply sunscreens halfway through the day anyway, but I suspect that reapplying would have made the pilling situation 10x worse!

So.. I don’t know what to think. I love the application, but the longevity doesn’t seem to stretch as long as I’d like. I’ll probably keep using it until I can get my hands on something else (and avoid those known dry spots like the plague). I’ve seen the price points range between $8-$14, but it likely won’t be something I’ll repurchase. ~A

(Update, a few weeks later: acne sufferers, SKIP THIS ONE!)

Perceived efficacy: 4.5/5

Longevity: 2/5

How much I actually like this product: 3/5