Summer 2014 SPFs Round-Up

Summer may be over, but wearing SPF should be year round. UVA rays are one of the primary causes of signs of aging in the skin, and I personally think that it's always easier to prevent these signs before they appear rather than try to fix them afterwards. I featured quite a few SPF numbers on the blog over the summer, so here I compare them against each other and give you guys all the deets on the pros and cons. Get ready for a very lengthy post! Or just read the pros and cons if you hate quality writing (I jest).

(image from usa.loccitane.com)

L'Occitane Immortelle Brightening UV Shield SPF 40 ($70 for 30mL)

Featured in my post "Trialling SPF's". This was the first SPF I used this summer, so unfortunately I've used it all up and threw out the bottle. It has a very liquid texture and is a physical sunscreen, which are both properties I prefer for my daily SPF. It also happens to be the only SPF I'ved owned that comes in convenient pump packaging (!!!), so you can control how much you want to use, which is going to be important since this sunscreen is very, very pricey. That being said, sunscreen is not one of those things where "less is better". If you do not use a sufficient amount, you will not get the proper protection, and that would just be a waste of time and money.

I don't think it's possible for a physical sunscreen to leave no white cast at all, but this one is very,very subtle. The texture of the product is very easy to rub in and it absorbs easily. It has a slight floral scent that's quite pleasant and isn't too overpowering. It contains a myriad of plant extracts aimed at brightening the skin, but I personally don't think these ingredients are going to be able to absorb into the skin efficiently, especially since they're probably only present in very small quantities. Water, silicone, and the mineral SPF ingredients make up the majority of the product. And since you apply SPF as the last step of your skincare routine, those plant extracts are going to have to penetrate moisturizer and whatever other products are underneath, which I think is highly unlikely. So if those plant extracts are what make the price so high, I don't think it's worth your time. Plant ingredients can also cause irritation to the skin. I personally had no problem with this product, but those with sensitive skin should ask for some samples at a L'Occitane store before committing to the full sized product.

Another thing I'm somewhat concerned with is that the only SPF ingredient contained in this product is titanium dioxide, which is great for protection against UVB rays, but cannot provide sufficient protection against UVA rays unless the concentration is high. In this case, the product has 11.52% titanium dioxide, which might be enough to provide UVA protection since the product does make the claim of being broad spectrum (ie. protects against both UVA and UVB rays). However, for us regular consumers, it's hard to be really sure about these things, so I'd rather err on the side of caution and opt for something that also has UVA-protection ingredients.

 - lightweight texture
 - not a very noticeable white cast
 - sinks in quickly (not sticky at all)
 - has plant extracts that may or may not help with hyperpigmentation

 - expensive
 - titanium dioxide may not provide sufficient UVA protection
  - plant extracts may irritate sensitive skin

Shiseido Gentle Sun Protection Lotion SPF 33 ($41 for 100mL)

Featured in my post "July Favourites". This one is a physical sunscreen that has a whooping 13.9% zinc oxide and 3.3% titanium dioxide so it has got both the UVA and UVB protection down. Again, a very liquid texture that is easy to spread. The white cast is also hardly noticeable. I first started using this while I was in China and didn't enjoy it as much, because the product does feel a bit oily. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because physical sunscreens require oil to make sure that the mineral sunscreen ingredients (ie. zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) can be blended evenly over the skin. However, in very humid weather, the oil just felt a bit heavy on the skin and wasn't the most comfortable thing to put on. 

Since coming back to Vancouver, I've been enjoying this product a lot, probably because my skin is a bit drier and I'm not sweating buckets all the time. When I say oily, I don't mean super heavy and sticky. This product leaves more of a satin-y, soft finish on the skin. I like to apply in 2-3 thin layers rather than in 1 thick layer because I find that feels more lightweight, and it can help to evenly distribute the sunscreen and make sure you cover every bit of skin. 

Because this product is free of fragrance and alcohol and is a physical sunscreen (rather than a chemical sunscreen), it's a great option for those with sensitive skin, and I always gravitate towards it when my skin is acting up. It's also pretty reasonably priced because you get a whooping 100mL, which is more than 3 times as much as the standard 30mL you get with other products. The one real downside to this product for me is that it doesn't always sit the best under makeup. It can kind of slip and slide a little bit depending on the base makeup I'm using, but using makeup primer helps fix this problem.


 - lightweight liquid texture
 - not a very noticeable white cast
 - high concentration of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to provide full UVA/UVB protection
 - great for sensitive skin
 - good price for the amount you're getting


 - slightly oily texture not good for humid weather
 - can slip and slide under makeup if you don't use a primer

Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 42 For Face ($30 for 30mL)

Probably the longest name for an SPF anyone has ever seen. This is a relatively new one for me. I picked it up from Sephora Times Square on a recent trip over to the states. Again, lightweight liquid texture, you know the drill. This is actually a physical-chemical sunscreen hybrid, which means it contains both physical and chemical sunscreen products. In this case, 4.9% octinoxate (UVB protection), 3.0% octocrylene (UVB protection), 12.5% zinc oxide (UVA/UVB protection). Strangely enough, this leaves the most obvious white cast out of all of these options. It's actually quite noticeable and doesn't really go away even if you leave it for a few minutes. I don't mind the white cast if I'm going to be wearing makeup because it'll be covered anyway. Strangely enough, this sunscreen actually has a bit of a perfecting quality in that it blurs out my acne scars and covers up some of the redness in my skin. It doesn't really provide coverage, but just makes things a little less noticeable, which means I can use less of my base makeup. 

This product is oil-free, which seems to make the texture quite dry. That seems strange since it is a liquid, but once you start spreading it over the face, you'll start to notice that it doesn't glide over as smoothly as something like the Shiseido Gentle Sun Protection Lotion. It really can dry quite matte, which may not be suitable for dry skin. I have combination skin but I don't really suffer from dry patches, so I can get away with using it. Because it does dry down very matte, it doesn't slip and slide at all under makeup, which I really like. 

 - liquid, lightweight texture
 - dries matte = good for under makeup
 - does not irritate sensitive skin
 - blurs imperfections on the skin

 - leaves a noticeable white cast
 - dry texture not suitable for dry or combination-dry skin

Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Water Base SPF 50 PA+++ ($13.99 for 50g)

Featured in my post "A Love and a Shrug #3: SPF Edition". (Let's not even talk about the Dr. Sebagh SPF also mentioned in that post. That was just a disaster to apply and such a waste of money.) This is the only chemical sunscreen I'm talking about today. As a result, it does not leave a white cast at all and has an oil-free formula. It has a very interesting watery-gel texture that feels like a lightweight moisturizer and sinks in almost instantly, so this is the most comfortable to wear out of the four options. It has kind of a strong fragrance and contains alcohol as the second ingredient listed, which is typical of Japanese drugstore skincare, but makes it unsuitable for sensitive skin types. This product doesn't break me out, but kind of gives me that uncomfortable feeling like it's irritating my skin, so I don't use it as much, but it is fantastic for hot, humid climates. I also think it would make for a good body SPF at the beach as it sinks in super quick and is pretty affordable, being a drugstore product.

I've seen a lot of bloggers recommend this product, so I think it really is a matter of personal preference for me. I prefer physical sunscreen to chemical sunscreen, because physical sunscreen is less irritating for sensitive skin, and I don't like the idea of chemical sunscreen ingredients absorbing into the skin. Physical sunscreen (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) works by forming a shield over the skin and reflecting UV rays, while chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays before they get to the skin. Chemical sunscreens degrade over time or become inactivated by the sun, so you have to reapply often, which really is just unrealistic for those of us who wear makeup. I suppose I also just think that the image of UV rays bouncing off of a shield looks way cooler, but that's not important, shhhhh...


 - lightweight watery-gel texture makes it the most comfortable to wear 
 - oil free
 - no white cast
 - most affordable option 


 - contains fragrance and alcohol (not good for sensitive skin types) 
 - have to reapply often (not possible over makeup) 

Innisfree Eco Natural Suncare BB Powder ($20 for 150g)

Featured in my post "Innisfree Haul + First Impressions". This is an SPF pressed powder that is slightly tinted. Let me just start out by saying that powder sunscreen can not replace liquid sunscreen. You would have to apply an absolutely ridiculous amount of powder sunscreen to get the sufficient SPF protection. However, for those of us who wear makeup on a daily basis, it's unrealistic to take all the makeup off, reapply liquid sunscreen during the middle of the day, and put all the makeup back on. This is where powder sunscreen comes in! This Innisfree one is great because it comes with a puff attached to the lid which makes for easy application on-the-go. It doesn't make my makeup go cakey either. Obviously you're not going to get the same amount of SPF protection as you would by reapplying a liquid sunscreen, but it's better than nothing.

Sometimes when I'm having a no-makeup day, I also apply this powder over top of my liquid sunscreen. It gives a very slight tint that helps to even out the skin tone, and it mattifies the skin so dust particles won't stick to the liquid sunscreen.

The Verdict

Overall, I think the Shiseido Gentle Sun Protection Lotion comes out on top for my daily SPF. The high concentration of zinc oxide ensures sufficient protection against both UVA and UVB. It's a great fail-safe option for sensitive skin or skin that's breaking out, and doesn't leave a noticeable white cast.

My second pick would be the Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 42 For Face. Although it leaves a white cast, I'm very fond of its perfecting qualities, and it makes a great base for makeup.

I don't really have any special feelings towards the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Water Base SPF 50 PA+++ and L'Occitane Immortelle Brightening UV Shield SPF 40. They're both great products and could be suitable for those with skin types different than my own, but I likely will not repurchase them again.

The Innisfree Eco Natural Suncare BB Powder is a great item to keep in your handbag for mid-day touch-ups, but cannot replace a daily liquid SPF application. 

What was your favourite SPF this summer?


  1. Hi Cindy, nice blog! It's so informative! I personally love the Kiehl's Skin tone correcting & beautifying BB Cream with vitamin C and have been using it since it came out. It has SPF 50 too which is even better for a lazy person like me...have you tried it before?

  2. Thanks Annie! I haven't used the Kiehl's BB cream. I only recently started getting into Kiehl's skincare, and since you rate the product so highly, I'll have to give it a go soon :) You always have beautiful skin!

  3. Hope you like it :) and nah sadly my skin is only good when I'm back in Asia where it's humid...you have beautiful skin!


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