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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.