The Sunscreen Holy Grail
July 6, 2014 6:11 PM   Subscribe

I've read tons of past askme's about sunscreen, but I still can't find an ideal candidate, so let's make another snowflake. Are there really physical sunscreens out there with NO white cast and a light feel (won't drip off my face in the sun)? Conversely, can I trust a chemical sunscreen to be decently photostable and protective, since my skin isn't especially reactive?

Me and my skin: Asian with medium yellow undertones (MAC shade NC30), tan easily, normal/combination type (oily t-zone in summer, dry cheeks in winter). I have stress-triggered eczema and metal contact allergies, but have never reacted to any skincare or makeup products.

Currently I use CeraVe Facial Lotion AM (SPF 30) as a moisturizer and Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch (SPF 55 or 70) as sunscreen, but neither consistently, and that's what I want to change by finding the "perfect" sunscreen. The CeraVe is a heavier consistency than its PM cousin and tends to leave a white cast. The Neutrogena is fine for my body, but it tends to get trapped in my eyebrows (which are dry and a bit flaky due to the eczema) and otherwise leave visible white particles all over the place. I've also tried and returned Philosophy's Oil Free Moisturizer because being out in the sun made my t-zone feel slick and greasy.

What I'm searching for:

1) SPF 30 or higher.

2) Can be applied once in the morning and forgotten about if I'm not spending long periods of time in the sun (i.e. close to photostable).

3) Does not leave a white cast on medium-toned skin or make my face greasy when I sweat.

4) Must not be tinted, because I don't wash my face at night unless I've worn makeup (rarely) or am taking a night shower.

5) Preferably priced under $30... I am open to ordering online to ship to the US even if the active isn't FDA-approved, or sampling expensive products at Nordstrom or Sephora. Drugstore would be great, but I know I'm asking for the moon with my previous requirements.

tl;dr: Know of a physical sunscreen that works well for people of color, or a broad-spectrum chemical sunscreen that's photostable? And not is astronomically priced? Do tell, please!
posted by serelliya to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe try EltaMD broad-spectrum SPF 41, untinted. It's light, non-greasy and non-drippy: I wear it every day and have no problems. It's a zinc oxide base so you may find it leaving a white cast on your skin -- I don't, but I am paler than you. Good luck :)
posted by Susan PG at 7:16 PM on July 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am not a POC, but this is the most incredible sunscreen I have ever put on my skin.

It's available at CVS, it absolutely melts invisibly into my pale, yellow undertone skin, and my husbands olive skin. Zero melty issues, no oil problems, no zits or blackheads. Im a MASSIVE convert.

EWG reports it as having an excellent stability rating.

Apologies for the ugly link from my phone!

posted by waterisfinite at 7:19 PM on July 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I've had a really good experience with Clarins UV Plus HP Day Screen High Protection Emulsion SPF 40. It's light-weight, non-greasy, and I've been using it for more than a year and haven't noticed any white cast.
posted by postpostpostscript at 7:27 PM on July 6, 2014

Best answer: La Roche Posay Anthelios Mineral sunscreen fluid. Yes, it goes on white at first but it instantly melts in and leaves a nice matte finish. It also comes in a very high SPF (50 I think).
posted by joan_holloway at 7:44 PM on July 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Olay Complete Daily SPF 30
posted by DeltaForce at 8:23 PM on July 6, 2014

Best answer: Japanese sunscreen is THE HOLY GRAIL if you want high SPF protection without any white cast. Seriously, most of them sink in and disappear like magic. My current faves are the Mentholatum SkinAqua line, which is a physical-chemical combo (especially the blue bottle, but the pink and white bottles are great too) and Biore Rich Watery Essence. You can usually find these on Amazon for ~$14, and they're always available on Ebay.
posted by artemisia at 8:44 PM on July 6, 2014 [8 favorites]

Yessss Biore Rich Watery Essence is magical.
posted by redfoxtail at 8:55 PM on July 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Totally agree with Artemesia. If you have sensitive skin, I HIGHLY recommend Shiseido Senka Mineral UV Gel. You can buy it several different places online if you're not in Asia like Amazon/ Ebay. It is great! No white cast, dries down to a powdery sort of finish and acts as a primer for my makeup as well. My skin is also very sensitive to the sun and I can generally apply this once and stay covered for the rest of the day. I haven't noticed any flashback on photographs either, which is an issue for me with a lot of other sunscreens.

This is a much lighter texture than the Dry Touch, which I really prefer.
posted by hellomiss at 9:20 PM on July 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Also on the Japanese sunscreen bus. I have used Sofina perfect UV for years and it sounds exactly like what you are looking for.
posted by raw sugar at 10:14 PM on July 6, 2014

Best answer: Asian here with same skin tone as yours. I love Elta MD clear for a physical not chemical sunscreen. It's light enough that I can apply the full recommended amount (1/4 tsp) to my face. Only a very very faint white cast upon application which disappears in a few minutes.

You can purchase samples off Ebay (you want the CLEAR version) to test before commiting to a whole bottle.

I've also heard great things about Japanese sunscreens but I think they tend to use chemical rather than physical blockers.
posted by kitkatcathy at 4:21 AM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Same skin tone and skin type as you. Thirding Elta MD Clear. No white cast, no greaseball effect, no breakouts.
posted by rada at 5:52 AM on July 7, 2014

Best answer: Try 'no-ad' (they don't advertise). Available at walgreens and I have bought some at Publix. Comes in SPF15/30/45 they all work amazingly
posted by prk60091 at 6:02 AM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

We use this stuff: Active Sunscreen - this is the inventor's own brand; while Skinnies is a licensee of the same technology with a much better grasp of marketing including what seems to be an online shop.

Once a day application, SPF 40, non-greasy because it contains no water. It's absolutely brilliant. I can go a full and sweaty day of biking in the sun without burning (and this is in New Zealand - we have super-high UV here). It has a different texture to regular sunscreen - a little goes a long way.

We use it on our kids, too. It's so much easier to put on once per day, and not worry about again even after they've been swimming.

I'm pretty sure it meets all five of the OP's requirements.
posted by Taliano at 1:47 AM on July 9, 2014

On the photostable part: Most sun screens break down during the day. Your skin's oils and sweat, physical touch, and sun exposure all contribute to them breaking down. By the afternoon, most sunscreens aren't operating at full ability anymore.
I will chime in on La Roche-Posay Anthelios 40 Sunscreen Cream. It has good UVA and UVB coverage, and feels great. My sensitive skin loves it. I tend to wear a hat in the afternoon, and cover up, when I can't reapply.
There are some "all day" sun screens, which are supposed to last for 8-10 hours. P20 is a big brand in this field. However, everyone I know who has used it says it stains like nobody's business: don't wear light colours with it!
You might also try looking for things categorized as "sports" sunscreens. They tend to have slightly better staying power.
posted by troytroy at 7:55 AM on July 13, 2014

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