SOS: Sun Screen for the Face


Today, we’re talking about sunscreen for the face.  Because while I might be willing to let my legs and arms feel the UV rays in the name of vitamin D and endorphins, my face needs to be protected like a state secret. 

Splurge. Obagi is known for their highly potent ingredients and rejuvenating products.  Miss M swears by their Nu-Derm Sun Shield with SPF 50 ($46) to protect her face on days spent by the pool. 

I’ve used this product and I was amazed that it didn’t make me too oily or cause a breakout.  It felt very light on the skin, which was nice since some sunscreens feel like you’re wearing a lead vest on your face.  And it didn’t have a fragrance, which I always prefer.

Save.  I purchased Neutrogena Age Shield Face with SPF 110 ($10) because I was looking for a product that was a bit more friendly to my budget than paying $50 for sunscreen. 

I was very impressed with how this sunscreen protected my face.  When I came back in from the pool, my body had gotten some color, but my face was undarkened.  Awesome. 

I like this product, but I have two complaints. (Me? Complaints? Never?)

After being breakout free for awhile, two applications of this sunscreen and my skin regressed to its pre-IS Clinical days.  Not good. And unlike the Obagi, it does not feel light on the skin.  It feels a bit like an itchy wool sweater after the first hour.

Verdict.  If I can get 110 (read: all day) sun protection, I’m willing to put up with a few more pimples and a little itching.  And if I can get it for $10, what is there to discuss?



  1. Lynn says:

    My dermatologist told me there is no such thing as all-day sunblock. Everything breaks down and needs to be reapplied (and apparently, there is no such thing as water proof, either!). But I do love Neutrogena sunblocks. I use SPF 60, and I don't get color at all, either. I reapply every 2 hours. It feels a lot better than the SPF 110.

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  2. BG says:

    I work for a skin care company with an emphasis on enviornmental damage protection. 110 SPF is only the mathmatically caluculated burn factor for your skin. If your skin burns after 15 minutes and you have 110 SPF on, hypothetically, your protected for 25 hours. That seems like a stretch. As we all know product wears off- we sweat, swim, touch our faces, etc.

    Your best bet is to get a good sunscreen (zinc based physical sunscreens are best) between SPF 30 and 50 and to reapply it every 2 hours at least 15 minutes before direct sun exposure. This will protect you from nearly all UVB rays. UVA (aging rays) are harder to block and a physical subscreen will only block a portion. Use a vitamin c antioxident in a serum or wipe to protect you from those as well.

    To keep this a PSA on skin care, I'm not saying which skin care company I work for

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  3. Laura says:

    Here is your reason to stick with obagi (which I swear by too, even though it doesn't have a perfect EWG rating) and not use the neutrogena:

    You always want to use a sunblock with Zinc, for safety and UVA/UVB protection

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  4. Sam says:

    I use Neutrogena's Healthy Defense SPF 30 everyday, including at the beach/pool. I have acne prone skin and it doesn't irritate it like the one you mentioned. Like BG said, it's important to reapply throughout the day.

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  5. e-liz says:

    My sister-in-law works for HHS and is always telling me that after SPF50, it doesn't make a difference. Who knows. I slather 100 on, too. But I wonder if the FDA will eventually change how these are labeled. (See Question #8)

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  6. S says:

    I use a booster from dermalogica that's SPF 50 broad spectrum that you just mix in with your regular moisturizer. No oiliness, barely any smell. I love it.

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  7. ak says:

    You should read up on the new labeling regulations for sunscreens that the FDA has developed — among other things, they are no longer permitting sky-high SPF ratings because it's little more than marketing spin. No sunscreen lasts all day and the benefits above SPF45 or so are incremental.

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  8. Ellie says:

    Neutrogena sunscreen does terrible things to my skin as well. Also there is no evidence that an SPF higher than 50 is effective. You're likely better off applying a low SPF product (less likely to irritate skin) more frequently.

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  9. ak says:

    **edited: by “incremental,” I meant of decreasing value. Oops.

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  10. Michelle says:

    As everyone else has said above, there's no such thing as an “all day” sunscreen because, regardless of SPF level, product will wear off throughout the day. My dermatologist has recommended me the one sunscreen that I genuinely LOVE – it is my favourite skincare product ever! It's lightweight, fragrance free, absorbs well, helps reduce oiliness, doesn't induce pimples, and it's even affordable to boot.
    EltaMD 46:
    I work indoors all day so I don't reapply, and at one application a day, a bottle usually lasts me about 3 months.
    Do give it a try!

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  11. K says:

    I put on L'Oreal Sublime every morning and really like it. I don't smell it all day or feel like there is anything caking on my face. But my skin tends to be on the dry side so I can't comment on how it would work for other people.

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  12. Anna says:

    Have you tried the Neutrogena liquid stuff (I think it's called Sheer Liquid or something)? I use Clarins UV Plus HP everyday. It's SPF 40 and comes in a runny liquid form that blends in easily. It also has some sort of talc or powder that actually absorbs oil. It's the only thing I've been able to use that doesn't make me feel greasy or even like I'm wearing sunscreen. It's about 30-40 bucks, so I'm wondering if the Neutrogena liquid might be a cheaper alternative.

    I've also heard good things about the EltaMD stuff.

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  13. R says:

    I have tried EltaMD (which I liked) but super love the Josie Maran Argan Oil sunscreen (which I purchased from Sephora). I use it everyday and my pimple-prone skin has actually never looked better. The protecting agents are only titantium and zinc oxide which are broad spectrum against both UVA (so-called) aging rays and UVB (so-called burning). In full disclosure, I do love everything about argan oil from Josie Maran (hair serum, sun screen, plain argan oil for moisturizing). The advantage of physical blockers (ie zinc and tit oxide) vs chemical blockers is that they do not produce free radicals after sun exposure. For a less expensive tit and zinc oxide option, try Neutrogena's sensitive skin lotion formula, though not sure about pimples since I haven't tried it on my face.

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  14. Catherine says:

    Yeah. SPF labelled anything more than 50 is a lie. A glorious marketing lie. And no sunscreen can last all day, unfortunately.

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  15. Jess says:

    Hehe. Maybe just for today, 'SOS' stands for “Schooled on Sunscreen”? Jk! Sun protection is important. : )

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  16. Aunt_Pete says:

    I use the Neutrogena one and it works well for me. I wear it under my makeup on a daily basis, so reapplication isn't really an option. I go for high spf (30 doesn't cut it any more) and hope for the best. Oh and hats.

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  17. Allison P. says:

    I'm a fan of Kiehl's 50+. It's very light and easy to reapply throughout the day.

    For the record, anything greater than 50 is not a lie. The protection continues to increase, albeit incrementally. The FDA regulations are because people incorrectly believe the higher the SPF the less frequently they have to apply. Essentially since most people don't bother educating themselves about SPF the rest of us will be deprived of a useful product — or have to stock up overseas.

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  18. M says:

    SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 is INCREDIBLE! I know the price is a bit steep, but the bottle will last at least 3-4 months. My skin is prone to acne and I have never had an issue. The best part? It provides a subtle tint to help cover up any spots.

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  19. ES says:

    Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch comes in SPF 100. It feels far less oily to me than most sunscreens and so far hasn't caused any acne resurfacing. Here's a link

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  20. MM says:

    I have been using 100% Pure's Organic Pomegranate Antioxidant Hydration SPF20 as my daily face suncreen for about a year now, and I LOVE it. I switched from Philosophy's “Shelter” because of the EWG ratings – and I actually like it more than the philosophy stuff. It's a little pricey, but it's a nice light moisturizer, and I never burn with it on. As others have mentioned, EWG has a great cosmetics database that tells you what kinds of bad checmicals are in your cosmetics – there's a lot of crap in most suncreens – The 100% pure stuff is the only sunscreen with a good rating that I found that doesn't leave lots of white streaks – it rubs in completely. Seriously love this stuff:

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  21. May says:

    @ M, who recommended SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense, thanks so much for the recommendation! I'm allergic to chemical sunscreens, yet they seem to make up 90%+ of all sunscreens, thus severely limiting my options. I currently use Clarins UV Plus HP, and I love the powdery (i.e., dry, not oily or shiny) finish, but it only uses titanium dioxide, which is a slightly less effective physical blocker than zinc oxide. Thus, I'm really glad to see that the SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense contains both physical sunscreens. Can you talk more about the finish? My skin tends to bring out from oily products, and I unfortunately can't first test this product out in stores. Thanks!

    July 26, 2012/Reply
  22. JW says:

    Here in Australia, there's nothing beyond 30+ sunscreen, and we have a hole in the ozone, so it may tell you something about the way sunblock is marketed in the states…

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  23. M says:

    @May – Glad to help! It is a very light finish. It absorbs quickly and is not sticky, but smooth and blends evenly. I use it under make up with ease and it is perfect for the beach when I just want an extra boost to cover up spots. Like I said, I break out easily and can be quite oily (esp. in the god awful DC summer) and it has never made my skin feel greasy or that I may be clogging my pores.

    July 27, 2012/Reply