Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sunscreen reviews: Supergoop, Aveeno Naturals, Neutrogena Beach Defense, and more

Sunscreen is getting its 15 minutes of fame. The Environmental Working Group just released its 2013 Guide to Sunscreen and everyone is atwitter about the FDA's new sunscreen labeling rules. Overall, I think the media buzz is a good thing. I keep reading that sunscreen shouldn't be your only line of defense, and I totally agree. But it's definitely essential. As a fair-skinned lady who is prone to sunburns and skin cancer, I can't even dream about going on vacation without it.

Lucky for me, I've already had a chance to test drive a handful of sunscreens this spring. One of my key observations is this: When I'm surrounded by friends who are in a rush to head down to the pool, I want a sunscreen that is quick and easy to apply. I also feel like if I spend a bit more on sunscreen, I'm more likely to tote it around in my purse and to reapply it frequently. (Not unlike splurging on an expensive lip gloss.) Here are my first impressions of a wide range of different sun protection products.

Real girl, real sunscreen reviews

Supergoop City & Sand Sunscreen Kit ($35 at Nordstrom)
  • I bought this kit because I was looking for something that was TSA-friendly. In Punta Cana, the Supergoop Everyday Face & Body Lotion SPF 30 was lightweight and blended into my skin effortlessly. It worked great, and I didn't burn while I was using it. The only thing I didn't like about it was that it smells a bit like "sunscreen."
  • On the flipside, I loved Supergoop's Antioxidant-Infused Sunscreen Day Cream SPF 40. It seems like a no-brainer to pack antioxidants in the same bottle as your SPF. Why don't all sunscreens do this? Again, the formula was smooth and easy to apply. It held up well in the water, too. 
  • My favorite item in the kit was SPF 30 Lip Balm. I can never find high-SPF lip products that don't taste awful or leave a chalky residue, so I loved this stuff. It feels like a normal, petroleum-based lip balm, but it keeps your lips from burning (which always happens when I spend time in and around water). 
  • I haven't gotten as much use out of the SPF 30 City Sunscreen Serum yet. I will say: It feels more like a lightweight lotion than a serum. It layers well under foundation, and is much more hydrating than I expected.
Overall Rating: 4/5. Aside from the "sunscreen" scent, I really love this kit. Did I mention it comes in a cute terrycloth bag? I just wish Supergoop's products weren't so pricey!
Keywords: oxybenzone-free; TSA-friendly; antioxidants

Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral Powder SPF 45 ($30 at Sephora)
I first read about this product online--it seemed like a great idea, so I tracked it down at my local Sephora store. Within 30 seconds of having it in my hand, two store associates said to me, "Omigod, that is the most amazing sunscreen ever." I purchased it because I'm always looking for ways to better protect my hairline and part. The concept is great (and it actually works!), but I was really disappointed to find out that this powder is tinted. It only comes in one shade, and it was noticeably too dark when I applied it to my face and chest. I was still able to use it on my hairline, but I really wish the powder was translucent. Another caveat: The packaging could be improved. While the twist up brush makes this powder super easy to apply, the cap is very cheap. I carried this with me in my beach bag, and the lid was cracked and broken by the end of the week.
Rating: 3/5. Offer a translucent option and a sturdier lid and I am sold.
Keywords: powder sunscreen; mineral sunscreen; high-SPF; on-the-go

EOS smooth spheres lip balm in lemon drop with SPF 15 ($3 at Target)
If you haven't tried one of these lip balms yet, I highly encourage you to buy the yellow one! Innovative packaging, glides on silky soft, and it smells delish. Note: Only the lemon flavor offer UVA/UVB protection.
Rating: 5/5.
Keywords: lip balm; petroleum and paraben-free; shea butter; natural flavor

Neutrogena Beach Defense SPF 70 ($10 at Target for 6 oz.)
This sunscreen is new this spring. It's not "natural" or oxybenzone-free, but it sure did a heck of a good job protecting my skin during a long day at the beach. The formula blended into my skin super quickly, it didn't leave any white residue, and it was water resistant. Like other Neutrogena sunscreens, it smells like "sunscreen," but it's about 6x more cost effective than the Supergoop sunscreens I was also using on my vacation. If I'm planning to spend a lot of time in the sun and water again, I would definitely purchase this again. Word of caution: There's no evidence that sunscreen above SPF 30 or 50 is any more effective. Even when using a high-SPF sunscreen, you can still burn if you don't reapply every 80 minutes.
Rating: 4/5
Keywords: Beach; fast-absorbing; non-greasy; high-SPF

Aveeno Natural Protection SPF 50 ($10 at Target 3 oz.)
While I obviously still use products like the Neutrogena Beach Defense mentioned above, I've definitely been more cognizant about trying to use more natural sunscreens when possible. I had really high hopes for this Aveeno sunscreen, but ultimately I was very disappointed when I went to use it. The formula is very thick and white. It's difficult to blend into your skin, and even after rubbing and rubbing, I still found streaks of white on my legs. Reapplying felt like such a chore, which is not how I like to feel about my sunscreen. I've sampled other mineral sunscreens that are much more user-friendly (like Coola), so I ended up just tossing this and rotating between the Neutrogena and Supergoop.
Rating: 1/5.
Keywords: mineral sunscreen; natural; sensitive skin

Let me know if you've found a new sunscreen lately! I'm always looking for new ones.


  1. Thank you for such great reviews! I've been really curious about the Peter Roth brush and it is disappointing that it only comes in one shade!

  2. Thank you for the reviews. I have very sensitive skin (mild eczema) and have to be very careful what I use. I have used Neutrogena before and when I saw the Beach Defense I was interested. We are going on vacation to Port Aransas in a week and I am praying it will hold up to the extreme temps down there. Thanks :)

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