Sunscreen Reviews: Canmake, Natio, Ultraceuticals

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I’m a big sunscreen devotee, as you might know if you’ve seen any of my many posts and videos on chemical vs physical sunscreen, wearing sunscreen with makeup, what SPF means, why you shouldn’t DIY your own sunscreen, and how much sunscreen you need for your face. Recently I’ve landed a few sunscreens that I’ve been really pleased with, here they are!

A refresher on my wants:

  • High UVA protection: Australia doesn’t allow brands to show their exact UVAPF values (only “broad spectrum” is allowed), so I usually just look at the filters to try to gauge this. I prefer the newer filters (Tinosorb S & M, Mexoryl ingredients, Uvinul A Plus).
  • White cast: Needs to be minimal. My skin is NC20 for reference.
  • Ease of application: It has to feel nice on my skin.
  • Eye comfort: I need to apply sunscreen near my eyes since that’s where I can see the wrinkles gathering. My eyes are pretty hardy thanks to years of wearing contact lenses, but they’ll still water a bit with some sunscreens.

Canmake Mermaid UV Gel

Canmake Mermaid UV Gel SPF 50+ PA++++ (around $11 for 40 g) was an impulse buy for me. I swore I’d stop buying sunscreens until I used up my stash, since I’m paranoid enough to only use unexpired sunscreen, but curiosity got the better of me.

I personally really dislike silicone-heavy sunscreens. I don’t like how they feel like they don’t sink into your skin and you can’t apply a generous amount of sunscreen, and I hate that they make my skin look matte for about 15 minutes before suddenly turning 20 times more oily than before. Unfortunately most of the “cosmetically elegant” Asian face sunscreens have tons of silicones, but Canmake Mermaid UV Gel has them quite far down the ingredients list. I’d also seen a bunch of good reviews (like this one from Vanity Rex), so I had to try it!

Canmake Mermaid UV Gel feels very light on your skin, is unscented, and doesn’t have that silicone issue. It also doesn’t have alcohol, so if you’re dehydration-prone that’s a bonus (although alcohol isn’t a dealbreaker and you can counteract its dehydrating effect with humectants). It works well under my make-up, although I’ve heard that it can interact with the finish of some foundations. It doesn’t have any white cast at all on me, and is fine around my eyes.

Sunscreen Reviews: Canmake, Natio, Ultraceuticals

My main concern is that it feels a little too light – something I worry about a bit with Asian sunscreens, since a runny, watery, light texture usually means that the film they form isn’t very good at staying in place. The sunscreen film has to stay in place if you want long-lasting protection, and shifting of the film is the main reason you need to reapply sunscreen. Sweat and oil will move the film around and clump it up, and I am quite frequently sweaty and oily, plus I live in Australia where the UV is fierce. This is more of a winter, minimal-exposure sunscreen for me.

I’m also not a huge fan of how PA ratings only go up to ++++, which converts to around PPD 16+ – although it’s better than Australian sunscreens, which aren’t allowed to show any numerical UVAPF rating. If the data exists, why not show it? Grr.

The sunscreen actives: Octinoxate, Uvinul A Plus, zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, Tinosorb S. I don’t entirely trust titanium dioxide in my sunscreens due to the photoreactivity, but I do like Uvinul A Plus, zinc oxide and Tinosorb S. (In case you’re wondering about specific sunscreen ingredients and what they do, there’s a handy chart in my Basic Skincare Guide.)

Natio Sunscreens

Natio Daily Defence Face Moisturiser SPF 50+ ($17.95 for 100 mL) and Natio Ageless Daily Moisturiser UV Protection SPF 30+ ($18.95 for 75 g) are cult favourites in Australia. They have really nice formulas: they’re light, non-greasy and sink in quickly. I actually think the SPF 50+ has a more pleasant texture on my oily skin than the SPF 30+ one, probably because the SPF 30+ one is designed for aging skin that tends to be drier. Like with most other Australian sunscreens, there’s no ingredients list but the packaging of the SPF 50+ does say it contains aloe and vitamin E, while the SPF 30+ has organic rosehip, lavender and lemon. They’re affordable, and are regularly on sale as well.

Sunscreen Reviews: Canmake, Natio, Ultraceuticals

My super pale red-headed dance teacher loves the SPF 50+ one – it stayed non-greasy and felt nice even after two hours of teaching dance classes in humid late-November Sydney weather, which is quite an achievement! It also works with her sensitive skin.

The active ingredients aren’t my favourite – there aren’t any newer UVA filters in there, but if you aren’t as hyperpigmentation-prone as me it might not be a concern for you. For the price and the texture, and the wide availability, these are great. No white cast.

SPF 50+ actives: Octyl Methoxycinnamate 7.5% w/w, 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor 3.0% w/w, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane 2.0% w/w, Phenylbenzimidazole Sulfonic Acid 2.0% w/w
Preservatives: Phenoxyethanol, Hydroxybenzoates

SPF 30+ actives: Octocrylene 3.0 w/w, Octyl Triazone 2.0% w/w, 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor 2.0% w/w
Preservatives: Phenoxyethanol, Hydroxybenzoates

Ultraceuticals Sunscreens

Ultraceuticals Ultra UV Protective Daily Moisturiser ($74 for 100 mL) Is my holy grail sunscreen. I’ve mentioned it before in my empties video and my Ultraceuticals RVR90 post, but it bears repeating – it ticks all of my boxes except for the high price. I feel more OK about high prices with Ultraceuticals than I normally do, since Ultraceuticals does a lot of in-house clinical testing and has cosmetic formulators making their state-of-the-art products, so it isn’t all going to marketing like with some other brands. But it still tends to make me stingier with my application, which isn’t something I want to worry about when it comes to sunscreens since SPF depends on the amount you use.

The SPF 30 version comes in both Mattifying and Hydrating variants, and there’s an SPF 50+ version as well which comes in Mattifying and regular. I’ve tried all of these except for the Mattifying SPF 50+ version.

Sunscreen Reviews: Canmake, Natio, Ultraceuticals

The texture of all three I’ve tried has been fantastic – they feel like a light moisturiser, and sink in quickly without feeling heavy or under-hydrating. I can’t really tell the difference between the Mattifying and Hydrating SPF 30 versions, except that the hydrating version is a little stickier – there’s silica in the Mattifying version to soak up shine, but I use powder on top regardless. The SPF 50+ version feels a little heavier, but it isn’t really noticeable for me after putting on foundation and powder. The pump tube is very convenient, and does a pretty good job of getting most of the product out, but like with most pumps you can get a little more out at the end if you cut open the tube. No white cast with these.

Interestingly, both the SPF 30 Hydrating and SPF 50+ sunscreens have identical ingredient lists and percentages of active ingredients, but because the formulation and other active ingredient amounts are slightly different, they get different SPFs in testing. This really goes to show that SPF calculators aren’t a good way of working out the UVAPF or SPF of sunscreen formulas, and ingredient list analysis isn’t a foolproof way of seeing if products are actually the same.

None of these products are waterproof, but there’s the SunActive range that has 4 hours water resistance, but slightly greasier feel.  There’s also a tinted version of the SPF 30 daily moisturiser.

Actives (for all 4 Ultra UV Protective Daily Moisturisers): Octyl Methoxycinnamate (Octinoxate) 2.0% w/w, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane (Avobenzone) 5.0% w/w, Octocrylene 3.0% w/w, Bemotrizinol (Tinosorb S) 2.0% w/w, Phenylbenzimidazole Sulfonic Acid (Ensulizole) 4.0% w/w. Inactive: Methylpropanediol, Caprylyl Glycol and Phenylpropanol.

What’s your favourite sunscreen? Which sunscreens do you want me to review? Let me know in the comments!

Some products were provided for review, but this is my honest opinion. This post also contains affiliate links – if you decide to click through and support Lab Muffin financially (at no extra cost to you), thank you! For more information, see Disclosure Policy.

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28 thoughts on “Sunscreen Reviews: Canmake, Natio, Ultraceuticals”

  1. Why doesn’t Australia allow brands to show the exact UV values and full ingredients lists? It seems weird to me, wouldn’t you want brands to be as transparant as possible?

    Reply
    • I think it’s because there isn’t a globally agreed-upon standard for UVAPF testing, unlike with SPF, so brands might try to manipulate the marketing. Brands are allowed to show full ingredients lists, but because it isn’t mandatory many of them choose not to.

      Reply
  2. “My main concern is that it feels a little too light – something I worry about a bit with Asian sunscreens, since a runny, watery, light texture usually means that the film they form isn’t very good at staying in place.”

    That’s really interesting, I didn’t know that! I haven’t tried many Asian sunscreens because the often high alcohol content doesn’t seem to agree well with my skin, but tbh I always felt a little less well protected with them. I thought I was just being silly and reading too much into it because I simply wasn’t used to a sunscreen feeling completely unnoticable, but it’s interesting that there might actually be something to it.

    I’m currently trying out the Daylong Extreme SPF 50+. Theoretically I really like it, it’s a little shiny but one thing that I kind of love about it is that I usually find most sunscreens to go on a little streaky and to leave little residues on my hairline and my brows and they would also settle in my smile lines, and this one doesn’t really do that, which is a huge plus.

    But one thing that worries me a bit is that, although it contains Tinosorb M as the second sunscreen ingredient, I find that it barely leaves a white cast and to be honest, while technically that’s a nice thing, it makes me worry if maybe that means that there is only very little Tinosorb M in the sunscreen and then even less of the other filters that follow it, so I’m worried that maybe it doesn’t provide good protection. Do you think I have to worry because of the lack of white cast? They advertise that it’s a liposomal sunscreen and I thought maybe that helps minimizing the white cast (though I really have no idea), but e.g. in comparison to the sunscreen I used before which had also Tinosorb M (the A-Derma AD one), this one has almost no white cast at all, and that makes me really unsure.

    I’m sorry for leaving such a long message!

    Reply
    • The best test is just to see how well it works to protect skin, i.e. looking at the SPF and UVAPF values. There are just way too many variables to predict it from the formulation.

      Reply
      • Thank you!
        Is it possible that a sunscreen has a good/high UVA-PF even if it only protects well in the UVA-II range and not in the UVA-I range?

        Reply
  3. I’ve seen a choice article where testers rated the $6 Coles face sunscreen as equal best for feel, look etc. I’d be interested to see what you think of the ingredients and formula of such an inexpensive option!
    It would also love to see your thoughts on the cancer council range (they have a LOT exclusive to their own stores in addition to the ones at Priceline etc) as I like the idea of the profits supporting their charity. I like their 50+ matte face sunscreen when I’m not wearing makeup, and their 30+ moisturiser when I am wearing makeup.

    Reply
    • The Coles sunscreen review is coming up! 😉

      I haven’t tried the Cancer Council range before, I’ll have to look into them!

      Reply
  4. Great review! Have you ever tried the A’pieu Pure Block Natural Sun Cream Daily SPF45? I’ve heard lots of great stuff about it, but I’m curious what your opinion on it is.

    Reply
  5. My favorite sunscreen for everyday use is the ISDIN Fotoprotector Fusion Water SPF 50 which feels like nothing on my skin and works well under makeup. For outdoor days I reach for more greasy, sweat resistant formulas, I just feel like they are more of a „valid“ SPF because I cam feel them.

    Reply
  6. Ugh.. I hate the Ultraceuticals packaging! If my hands are even a little slippery, the tube warps and then product loses contact with the airless pump and it won’t dispense. It’s a battle when I’m running late! Love the product though! I too wince at the price. I “save” this for days I’m expecting more than incidental exposure, as it’s the one I trust most from the (many) sunscreens in my arsenal

    Reply
    • I haven’t had that issue yet with my tubes – it seems to be airtight enough that it “sucks” the product and there’s no air inside the tube. Is yours leaky?

      Reply
  7. Hi Michelle, Can you please review the Skinstitut spf 50? It includes a range of modern uva filters. Would like your opinion. Thanks!

    Reply
  8. Thanks for your blog – I learn so much from it! On the topic of sunscreen – I’ve been getting really confused about layering – some say it’s a good idea to get better coverage but I also worry about disturbing the film? Are there some active ingredients that shouldn’t be layered? As a specific example – I wear Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue to work and love it – it’s SPF30, 6.2% titanium dioxide, and the perfect amount of tint for me. Lately I’ve realised that I probably need better UVA protection (is just titanium dioxide enough?) and I’m not applying enough to get the full benefit. After years of not liking ‘chemical’ sunscreen I found la roche-posay anthelios ultra light which doesn’t make me itch and has a nice finish (for me). So now I apply the anthelios, get dressed and have breakfast etc and then come back to apply the bare minerals. Am I wasting my time and money? Making things worse? I’m so confused!

    Reply
  9. From my understanding, most Asian sunscreens that are popular on Reddit (Biore Watery Essense, Canmake, etc) are only meant for incidental exposure – so they probably aren’t a good choice if you live in Australia and have oily skin. You could try some milk sunscreens (like Sunbears) or gel sunscreens meant for sports (Anessa, Allie). Anessa and Allie are ridiculously expensive, so I’ve been using Kose Suncut (Waterproof version) – it’s kind of heavy, but I prefer it to most Western formulas. For Japanese sunscreens at least, the packaging should always specify if it’s meant for outdoor activities.

    Reply
  10. I am currently using the La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra Comfort Cream SPF50, as this supposedly is ok for malassezia-sufferers. I think I can confirm this. Does not sting the eyes at all! It’s not perfect, I definitely need to powder it down. My skin is oily/combo. If I reapply it during the day I also feel that I get some congestion if I don’t do some micellar water or wipes first.

    Reply
  11. Has your skin gotten congested from using the Canmake sunscreen? My ultimate sunscreen frustration is even when I think I’ve found a formula that suits all my needs, after wearing the sunscreen for a week, I find that I have very visible congestion in the form of closed comedones, some of which will erupt into full blown inflamed acne in the weeks following. It’s so infuriating because I haven’t identified a single ingredient that irritates my skin, so I don’t know what to avoid! I also very carefully double-cleanse my skin every night, so I don’t think sunscreen removal is my issue.

    I read on your blog a while back that you have a similar issue, so I’d love to know how these sunscreens perform in that regard!

    Reply
  12. Thanks so much for this piece, Michelle. I wanted to ask whether you think the shea butter in the Ultraceuticals sunscreen may be unsuitable for acne-prone skin? There are so many contradictory views on reddit about this, and I just don’t know what to think! Thanks so much.

    Reply
  13. Hey Michelle,

    Have you heard of the Hamilton range of suncare? They’re available at Chemistwarehouse, and they seem to be really cost effective, but wasnt sure if they’d actually be any good?

    Reply
    • I have the face sunscreen but I can’t remember what I thought of it (it was before I started using a spreadsheet). I’ll have to revisit it!

      Reply
  14. Id love for you to do a review on the La Roche Posay fluid sunscreen…thanks for all of your knowledge you share with us, love your posts 🙂

    Reply
  15. I’m currently using UltraCeuticals Mattifying SPF 30, but debating on using their sunscreen instead. I saw you use the term ‘greasy’. Freckles have starting appearing on my face since moving to Australia, so combating them is my focus. I am also using their whiting serum to erase the freckles just looking for a proactive method to prevent new ones from emerging this summer.

    Reply
  16. Hi Michelle I bought and am really enjoying the mattifying spf 30 ultraceuticals sunscreen, due to your review. I’m nearly out and will need to repurchase soon. I see they now have the mattifying spf 50 in stock and was wondering whether you’ve tried that yet. In your review above you wrote that was the only product you haven’t tried yet. If you’ve tried it would you mind comparing it to your holy grail spf 30 version? I’d really love to know what you think. I’m worried the 50 will just be too heavy for this Brisbane humidity. Thank you!

    Reply

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