There are so many facial sunscreens on the market, you can go into Walgreens and see an entire wall of SPF and pages of options on Sephora, each promising something different. Finding the perfect SPF can feel like a chore. I put the top 5 high-end and the top 5 drug-store sunscreens to the test.
For each SPF, I have listed out the cost, the SPF rating, and the notable promises or ingredients. I tested out the wear of each product using the same makeup technique and full coverage foundation. All of the SPFs were put under the same conditions to really test the wear through out the day. I also put each product through a water test. In this test, I only had the SPF on my skin and waited for the product to sink in before splashing my face with water and rubbing my eyes to see how it would fare. Lastly, I will give you my overall opinion, I will be brutally honest and let you know my thoughts.
I will be dishing the dirt on which SPFs actually hold up to their promises and which are a total waste of money!
(This post is not sponsored and is entirely my own thoughts and opinions. )
HIGH-END SUNSCREEN BRANDS
COOLA – CLASSIC FACE SUNSCREEN (SPF 50)
|Promises/Ingredients||Vegan, Cruelty Free, Reef Safe, Recyclable Packaging, Free of Sulfates and Parabens. Promises to be great for high activity and daily use. Good for all skin types.|
|Texture||The texture is comparable to normal lotion sunscreen. It doesn’t leave a white cast on the skin and blends very well. I really love how this applies, my face doesn’t feel greasy at all. This product leaves my skin feeling moisturized.|
|Fragrance||Has a hint of sunscreen smell mixed with the “white tea” scent they advertise. It’s not my favorite but the scent doesn’t linger for long.|
|Wear||The wear was great, make up was easily applied and lasted through out the day.|
|Water Test||It didn’t budge when I splashed my face with water. Nothing ran into my eyes or made me concerned about taking this SPF to the beach or pool.|
Overall Opinion: This sunscreen is SPF 50 , so it already has a leg up on the competition, not to mention it is reef friendly and cruelty free. I’m not crazy about the scent, I hate when brands add in a fragrance just to mask the original scent, BUT it does fade quickly. Otherwise, the application and wear went very well. The price isn’t bad compared to other high-end products, and I just discovered that Walgreens sells Coola! This product also did well will water and would be perfect for any activity you have planned. I love this product, definitely worth it!
SUPERGOOP – SUNSEEN SUNSCREEN (SPF 40)
|Promises/Ingredients||Sephora Clean Rating, Free of Sulfates and Parabens, Cruelty Free, Reef Safe, Weightless. Protects against blue light.|
|Texture||Out of the tube, the product looks like Vaseline. It goes on sheer and applies similar to Smashbox’s camera ready primer. It’s not greasy or sticky.|
|Fragrance||It has a hint of Vaseline smell, otherwise it’s virtually fragrance free.|
|Wear||It wears great, I didn’t think I would have much of an issue with this as it glides on and sets like a primer. My make up lasted all day and didn’t sink into my pores or fine lines.|
|Water Test||This product didn’t run or budge when introduced to water.|
Overall Opinion: This was my favorite high-end face SPF. This product worked as both a primer and an SPF. Not to mention it has a great SPF rating, it’s “Sephora Clean” and reef safe. The application was so easy, you can wear this product with or without make up and there will be no white cast, greasiness, or movement. It’s perfect!
DERMALOGICA – INVISIBLE PHYSICAL DEFENSE (SPF 30)
|Promises/Ingredients||Vegan, Cruelty Free, Reef Safe, Recyclable Packaging, Free of Sulfates and Parabens. Promises to be good for all skin types.|
|Texture||It has a very thick pasty texture and looks like it’s going to give a white cast. Ends up soaking into the skin and blending well, though it does feel a little greasy just after application.|
|Fragrance||It has a smell that I can’t quite put my finger on, it has a household cleaner smell but with a hint of eucalyptus.|
|Wear||Throughout the day, it wore really well under make up and didn’t move around at all. The smell didn’t linger either, but it made my face very dry, because of this my make up settled into my smile lines and pores making me look older.|
|Water Test||This did not seem to budge when I got my face wet, it didn’t run into my eyes or burn.|
Overall Opinion: This is way overpriced, there are other high-end brands that worked better. The smell was gross, in my opinion, and my face was very dry by the end of the day. The promise of being good for all skin types is wrong, if you already have dry skin or combination skin, steer clear. With that being said, I do think it worked well with water and if your skin is oily, this could be a good option for you. I do love that it is reef safe, recyclable and made with Zinc Oxide.
TATCHA – SILKEN PORE PERFECTING SUNSCREEN (SPF 35)
|Promises/Ingredients||Sephora Clean Rating, Free of Sulfates and Parabens, Cruelty Free. Good for all skin types.|
|Texture||Doesn’t feel greasy or heavy, has a moisturizer feel and consistency, blends well with no cast.|
|Fragrance||It has a fresh scent that’s not overpowering, it does have a hint of sunscreen smell but again not overpowering.|
|Wear||My makeup stayed in place and I didn’t feel either greasy or too dry. This is a great High-end SPF to use with makeup. I felt like it was more of a primer to be honest, I noticed that my makeup applied better and my pores looked smaller.|
|Water Test||While this passed the test with make up when I got my face wet, the SPF immediately began to run and went in my eyes. I wouldn’t recommend this for the beach or the pool.|
Overall Opinion: This SPF applied very well, did great under make up, was light and moisturizing. However, when I use an SPF I want it to last through work outs, beach trips, and days at the pool, especially if it’s $65… it had better be bullet proof. I couldn’t find details on whether this product is reef safe, but the ingredients are amazing and this SPF holds true to it’s promises. I loved this SPF but because it’s $65 and not water resistant, it isn’t my favorite. If you need a daily SPF for use under make up, this is an awesome choice!
DRUNK ELEPHANT – UMBRA SHEER PHYSICAL DAILY DEFENSE (SPF 30)
|Promises/Ingredients||Sephora Clean Rating, Free of Sulfates and Parabens, Cruelty Free, Promises No Residue or Greasiness|
|Texture||This one is very hard to describe, it’s a combination of a goop, paste, and a moisturizer. Has a white overcast and collects (balls up) in the creases in my nose and eyelids, and in my hairline and eye brows. Kind of gross and makes it hard to apply make up over the top. Because of the white cast, I wouldn’t recommend wearing this on it’s own. Overall, the application is terrible. (I will leave a photo below)|
|Fragrance||A hint of fragrance, almost smells like glue.|
|Wear||I didn’t see any movement through out the day and this worked really well under makeup. The cast kind of soaks in but I noticed a white ring around my hairline that lasted all day.|
|Water Test||When I got this SPF wet it completely ran off my face. I could see the white streams of sunscreen coming off. It didn’t burn my eyes, but this doesn’t do well with water.|
Overall Opinion: This is my least favorite sunscreen out of the high-end brands tested. The product claimed to be sheer and non-greasy… it was wrong on both accounts. The cast was so bad and stuck around in my hairline all day. It wasn’t worth the money. Even though my make up didn’t budge, I had to blend out the balled up product to even put make up over the top. Don’t walk, RUN away from this product.
DRUG – STORE SUNSCREEN BRANDS
SUN BUM – FACE SUNSCREEN (SPF 50)
|Promises/Ingredients||Vegan, Cruelty Free, Reef Safe, Hypoalergenic, Paraben Free, Water Resistant|
|Texture||This is has a slightly runny texture but soaks in and moisturizes immediately. It’s very lightweight and has a sheer finish. Doesn’t leave a white cast and can be worn on it’s own.|
|Fragrance||Slightly smells of sunscreen, but almost no scent.|
|Wear||This wears great under makeup. My foundation didn’t settle into fine lines or pores, nor did it move around on my face.|
|Water Test||Holds up to the water resistance promises. Doesn’t run or burn my eyes.|
Overall Opinion – I love this Sun Bum products, but this one was new to me. This is by far my favorite SPF. It’s affordable and works so well. It has a high SPF rating and is environmentally conscious. After application, you forget you’re wearing a sunscreen because it’s so light and moisturizing. This is perfect for daily use because it does well on it’s own or under make up. If you are looking for an affordable everyday SPF, look no further. This will be my new “go to” SPF.
BLUE LIZARD AUSTRALIAN SUNSCREEN – SENSITIVE FACE (SPF 30)
|Promises/Ingredients||Contains Hyaluronic Acid, Mineral Sunscreen, Reef Safe, Paraben Free|
|Texture||The Texture is a thick moisturizer. As you apply it looks like it will leave a terrible cast but it soaks in very nicely. It doesn’t feel greasy at all, it’s very hydrating.|
|Wear||My makeup was in place. I didn’t have any issues with a cast showing through, feeling greasy or movement in my make up. It was easy to apply foundation on top of this SPF.|
|Water Test||Didn’t run when I splashed water on my face. Held up well and didn’t burn my eyes.|
Overall Opinion – This is my second favorite drug-store SPF. It’s reef safe, mineral based, and contains hyaluronic acid. The packaging is really cool too, the lid changes color in harmful UV rays. It does really well under make up and on it’s own. Even though this product doesn’t claim to be water resistant it did really well with the water test, I had to use soap to get the product off. Overall, a great product for the $16 value.
NEUTROGENA – SHEERZINC DRY-TOUCH (SPF 50)
|Promises/Ingredients||Mineral Sunscreen, Free of Parabens, & Phthalates, Water Proof|
|Texture||The texture reminded me a lot of the Dermologica SPF. It was very pasty and VERY white when initially applied. Once it soaks in, there is a light white cast and it has a sheer finish.|
|Fragrance||Has a hint of sunscreen smell but it’s virtually fragrance free.|
|Wear||Half way through the day I could already tell this wasn’t my favorite drug store brand. The paste texture does nothing for me. While it didn’t dry greasy but it dried out my skin, similar to the Dermologica SPF. The dryness caused my makeup to settle into my pores and my lines… bottom line, it accentuated my pores and lines. I found that my make up didn’t last as long through out the day either.|
|Water Test||This passed with flying colors. Even though it’s drying and has a slight cast, it didn’t budge when I got my face wet.|
Overall Opinion – This felt drying to me. It could almost be a dupe for the Dermologica, except better because it’s waterproof. If you have oily skin and love a paste SPF, this is a more affordable option than Dermologica. However, due to it drying out my skin and how it interacted with my make up it’s not my first choice for a drug-store SPF.
AVEENO – POSITIVELY MINERAL SENSITIVE SKIN SUNSCREEN (SPF 50)
|Promises/Ingredients||Mineral Sunscreen, Paraben & Phthalate Free, Hypoallergenic, Recyclable Packaging, Reef Safe, Water Resistant|
|Texture||The texture is like a normal lotion sunscreen. This SPF does leave a light cast, at first it will seem to have a really bright white cast but it does sink in. This SPF is slightly greasy and makes your skin very shiny. I probably wouldn’t wear it by itself because it is so shiny and I have found other options (in this experiment) that aren’t as obvious.|
|Wear||It was pretty difficult to apply make up because it was so greasy. I used translucent powder to try to compensate for the greasiness but even then, the wear of my makeup was terrible. It was almost like my makeup never fully dried and it transferred to my hands, my mask, and my clothes. Not great.|
|Water Test||It does not budge when I splashed water on my face and even rubbed my eyes. You will need face wash to get this SPF to come off. Perfect for the beach!|
Overall Opinion – This one is just okay. It isn’t suited for everyday wear. If you don’t mind the shiny/greasy finish it would be perfect for the pool or trips to the beach. However, I prefer more of a sheer finish and an “all-in-one” SPF. It wasn’t terrible, but it’s not great for the reasons I mentioned above.
CERAVE – HYDRATING FACE SUNSCREEN (SPF 50)
|Promises/Ingredients||Mineral Sunscreen, Contains Hyaluronic Acid, Paraben Free|
|Texture||Feels like a thick moisturizer. Not pasty and no where near runny. When I started applying, my face was stark white. I put on the normal amount as recommended and it just didn’t soak in. It dried with a terrible white cast and collected in my hair line. (I will include a picture for reference)|
|Wear||I honestly didn’t even try. The wear was so bad without makeup there was no point.|
|Water Test||When I got this SPF wet it immediately ran off my face. However, it didn’t burn my eyes but it’s definitely not suitable for sweating or near water.|
Overall Opinion – This was the biggest waste of money. It didn’t soak into my skin, it left a terrible white cast. I took a picture to show you how bad it really was. (Above) I didn’t try it with makeup because honestly no one would wear this on it’s own either. The only upside is that it has a high SPF rating and it didn’t burn my eyes. STAY AWAY!
This was a LONG post, so if you have made it this far you are a champ. It took mE about a month to gather all of this information and do all of these tests, so I hope you found this post informative and valuable. Let me know if you enjoyed this post or would like to see more content like this in the comments below!