Greetings, gentle reader. I ask that you brace yourself, for I am about share something with you that no beauty blogger should ever admit and something that will make you question every bit of advice I have ever given you and my sanity itself. Here it goes: I hate sunblock! If you are horrified and appalled, I understand. After all, the first thing every skincare professional, columnist and busybody (myself included) will tell you, is that sun protection is not just necessary for your health: it is, unquestionably, the best and most effective way to prevent sun damage and subsequent aging. So what gives?
Let me explain. I will never deny that sun protection is crucial. I may have been a sun worshiper in my carefree youth, but these days I prefer my complexion as ghostly-pale as possible. The problem is with sunscreen itself. I have long ago sworn off the endocrine-disrupting and hormone-mimicking chemical sunscreens, but physical blocks aren’t perfect either. They are usually heavy, gloopy, thick and fairly greasy. They also tend to leave an obvious white cast, that has me looking scarily pallid, like an overenthusiastic mime. Though the whiteness eventually absorbs and even when it’s countered by a tinted formula, the heaviness remains.
Does this mean that I am doomed to choose between a lifetime of discomfort and skin aged before its time? Not at all! I always use the heaviest possible sunblocks on the beach, but in my daily life, I have a much better alternative: daily SPF creams. Thanks to a handful of gorgeous new releases and some old favorites, the green beauty consumer (or, frankly, anyone hoping to have great skin) has an almost dizzying array of excellent options for hassle-free daily sun protection, all of which also help to improve the quality and look of the skin. Summer might be over (although New York is still warm and sunny), but wearing SPF should be a daily habit. These are the best options green beauty has to offer and they will not only take care of your skin all year round, while being a pleasure to use and making you look great in the bargain.
One of the way in which a lot of these products differ is the finish they leave and the level of SPF they provide, so I will make a note of which at the end of each product’s description.
Josh Rosebrook Nutrient Day Cream (original and tinted). A breathlessly glowing review of Josh Rosebrook’s Nutrient Day Cream with SPF was one of my earliest blog posts and with good reason. This was one of those products that convinced me green beauty products not only could compete with conventional ones – they could surpass them. I didn’t think the perfection of this cream could be improved upon, but then I tried the tinted version of the Cream. It combines the same lovely texture, gorgeous ingredients, delicate smell and perfect wearability, but adds a light, skin perfecting tint. Typically, tint is added to physical sunscreens to counter that tell-tale whiteness, but since the original version doesn’t leave a white cast (and pretty much every zinc-based sunscreen does on me), it may seem like an unnecessary addition. The thing is, this Cream really does work like a skin-perfecting tinted moisturizer. It won’t mask blemishes and imperfections, but it evens out the skin and gives it a glowing, airbrushed quality and I have had plenty of “damn, girl, your skin is lookin’ fine” moments in the mirror when using it.
If I have a sole criticism of the tinted version of the Day Cream, it’s that it only comes in one shade and is likely to be too light for dark skins. Unfortunately, this is a common problem. Having spoken with formulators, I understand that creating a wide range of shades is incredibly difficult and expensive, particularly when it comes to SPF products, since they undergo more rigorous testing. Because of this, smaller, indie brands can typically only manage one or two shades, none of them darker than “medium”. Still, I hope that soon my favorite brands will be able to cater to a full spectrum of skin tones. I know that all of these brands are always striving to do better and have faith that as they grow and become more successful, their shade offerings will increase.
Finish: To my taste, this leaves the perfect finish: not at all dry, yet not so dewy as to feel oily – and this is layered over oils. On bare skin this will give a matte finish.
De Mamiel Exhale Daily Hydrating Nectar. I have only just written about the newly released Hydrating Nectar and as I continue using it, this daily treatment remains a firm favorite. It’s slightly more dewy than the Josh Rosebrook Day Cream, which will make it my go-to SPF in the colder months. And this is something to keep in mind: you really should be using SPF year-round, so having a product that is a pleasure to use and that helps improve skin in the bargain is the best way to ensure that this becomes a daily habit. Frankly, with products as delicious as these, using a daily SPF is a joy, rather than a chore.
By the way, I haven’t mentioned this in my de Mamiel review, so it’s worth noting here. Products like the Josh Rosebrook Tinted Cream, this one, as well as the True Botanicals Everyday Sheer Coverage and Graydon’s Glow (see below) are what I consider to be the green beauty’s answer to the conventional tinted moisturizer/BB cream. They don’t provide the coverage of a foundation, but will help even out and improve the look of the skin, while also providing tangible skincare benefits. One more reason to go natural when it comes to sun protection? In addition to its sun protective qualities, zinc is an anti-inflammatory and has significant benefits to the skin.
Finish: Dewy. This is probably the dewiest of all of the daily SPFs I reviewed. If your skin is extremely oily, you should apply this on bare skin or save this one for winter – everyone else should be fine.
Ed. Note: Unfortunately, due to a third party screw-up, De Mamiel had not obtained proper FDA certification for the SPF. As the result, they had to pull the product from US distribution until they either repackage to remove references to SPF or go through the time-consuming and costly certification process. Sadly, the certification issue also means you cannot order it from the UK. Fingers crossed this gets resolved soon, because I canNOT run out.
True Botanicals Everyday Sheer Coverage. Though called “Sheer”, this daily SPF is probably the one that provides the most coverage. I wouldn’t say that it will replace your foundation or cover up major blemishes, but it definitely does a bang-up job of evening out the skin and covering imperfections: this is the product I use when I want to look more put together. It also comes in two shades and I find the Light to be a little bit darker than my other tinted SPFs, so the Medium should be a decent match for the darker/olive skin tones – between the two shades, this product should work for the widest range of skin tones.
Like all True Botanicals products, Sheer Coverage contains some truly sophisticated ingredients and has an elegant smell similar to other True Botanicals products. With its matte, but not dry finish, this is the “grown up” daily SPF and I find it to be enough to finish a daytime look and a significant step up from my usual barefaced approach. In fact, there have been a couple of occasions recently when I did a double take in the mirror: I would have some redness and uneven skin tone in the morning, yet my skin would look flawless post-application. If you require serious coverage this probably won’t do it, but for anyone else, this is an excellent tinted moisturizer, aside from the sun protecting properties. Because this product is more pigmented than the other tinted SPFs I have tried, I do find that it can get a little streaky when applied to bare skin, but when I layer it over an oil, the application is pretty much flawless.
Finish: Soft matte, heavier coverage than the other tinted SPFs.
Graydon Face Glow. Graydon is a delightful Canadian brand that creates clever products that take a familiar formula and tweak it to make it better, like a scrub/mask in perfectly portioned and portable capsules or a chlorophyll-filled cream, and their Face Glow SPF is no exception. What makes Face Glow different from the other tinted SPFs is that in addition to the tint, it also provides a fine shimmer. The shimmer is very fine and hardly noticeable – no need to worry that this will leave you looking like a disco ball. Rather, this cream gives a very subtle glow and lift to the skin, making it work well as a tinted moisturizer or an illuminating primer. This is probably the most matte of the tinted SPFs and the shimmer helps keep it from looking too flat. Its coverage is on the fuller side and it can easily replace foundation for those who do not need serious coverage.
Because Face Glow has not undergone the state testing required to be called an SPF product, it doesn’t actually have it’s SPF value on the bottle. However, with its content of 12.5% non-nano zinc oxide, it gives an equivalent of 28 SPF – i.e. around the same amount as the other products in this lineup.
Finish: Quite matte, with very subtle (barely noticeable) shimmer.
SPF: No official SPF factor given, but approximately 28.
Kypris Heliotropic Pot of Shade. And now we move on to the non-tinted daily SPFs. Although they do not offer the gentle coverage of their tinted brethren, all of these products are elegant, light, wearable and skin-perfecting upgrades on regular sunscreens. Nowhere is this elevated approach to sun protection more evident than in the Kypris Heliotropic daily SPF, released this summer. Like all Kypris products, the packaging for Heliotropic is practically a work of art and the product itself is exquisite. A light, silky cream, it’s meant to act as a primer and a skin-perfecting moisturizer, as well as an SPF and it uses 20% non-nano (obvs – this is the case for all of these products) zinc oxide to provide a broad SPF of 30.
On my skin, Heliotropic leaves a matte finish and I need to layer it over an oil to ensure it doesn’t dry me out. It does, however, make my skin very smooth and velvety and although I don’t wear foundation during the day, I imagine it would work quite well as a primer for those of you who do. Now, although according to the Kypris website Heliotropic is supposed to be non-whitening, it did leave me with a white cast upon initial application. Now, to be fair, every single zinc-based product leaves me slightly white unless it is tinted (Josh Rosebrook’s untinted Nutrient Day Cream being the sole exception), but I thought it important to mention. Any whiteness was gone after about 10-15 minutes. I suppose I would be remiss in not mentioning the fact that some folks are not fans of jar packaging, since it can lead to product contamination and a faster deterioration of antioxidant ingredients. That said, this isn’t a particularly big concern of mine and some of my favorite products come in jars. The Pot of Shade is also small enough that I think with regular use, it would probably be used up well before ingredient deterioration became a concern.
Finish: Matte, can be a teensy bit drying on my skin.
Ursa Major Force Field Daily Defense Lotion. Another recent-ish release is the Ursa Major Daily SPF lotion, which hit the shelves in late July and brings Ursa Major’s casually unisex sophistication to the to the world of daily SPFs. Force Field is packaged in the same chicly minimalist packaging as the rest of the Ursa line and boasts a lightweight formula and sophisticated anti-aging ingredients, along with the SPF – although its SPF is on the lower side, with a factor of 18.
When I first applied Force Field, I was slightly taken aback: it seemed quite thick, white and gloopy, almost like regular sunscreen. Once the lotion (quickly) absorbed, however, it left very little whiteness and felt incredibly light. Even that faint white cast lasted only for a few minutes and although matte, Daily Defense left my skin soft and silky. This is another product that I think would work fabulously as a primer, although it isn’t touted as such. This would also be the product to give to any men or teens in your life. Its ingredients and performance are adult and sophisticated, yet it has that chill, not trying too hard vibe and ease of use that would appeal to folks who might otherwise eschew daily skincare products.
Finish: Soft matte. Not drying. Would work well as a primer.
Kari Gran Three Sixty Five SPF. Although most of us can probably agree that 2016 has been a pretty terrible year so far, but it has been great for daily SPFs (some segue, eh?? Oof!). Kari Gran’s Three Sixty Five SPF is another daily SPF product released this summer and one that is a bit different from the others in this lineup. The main difference between 365 and the other daily SPFs is that it isn’t a cream or a lotion – rather, the zinc oxide is suspended in a mixture of oils. Kari Gran isn’t the first brand to create an oil-based daily SPF product – Living Libations have a version of their cult Everybody Loves the Sunshine with zinc – but it’s definitely the best of its kind. Whereas I have found that ELS with zinc tends to separate, 365 is perfectly smooth and uniform. My guess would be that this is due to the small amount of beeswax in the formula.
Because of its oil base, 365 never feels like it’s drying my skin – something you might have noticed happens a lot with other zinc-based SPFs – yet it isn’t too greasy or oily. It does apply a bit heavier than most of the other SPFs and the white cast is noticeable upon initial application, but once absorbed, it feels lovely on the skin. The mix of oils in 365 is terrific from the skin perfecting standpoint, but it’s also worth noting that some of the oils used, red raspberry seed oil being the obvious standout, have pretty decedent sun protecting benefits of their own. I know that some green beauty consumers tend to avoid creams and lotions because the addition of water necessitates the use of preservatives, to say nothing of emulsifiers that are often used to create that creamy feel. If you are one of those people, this is the product for you. Of course, you may need to use a lighter hand when layering over your oils: this is, after all, an oil-based product, so keep it light if you are concerned with creating an oil slick.
Finish: Dewy, but not greasy.
Pratima Neem Rose Face Sunscreen. Although Pratima’s Neem Rose lotion dubs itself “sunscreen”, it is emphatically what I would consider a daily SPF lotion, rather than a traditional sunscreen. A feather-light lotion, it applies flawlessly and leaves almost no white cast. Neem Rose’s ingredient list is minimal and, aside from the eponymous rose and neem, also contains traditional ayurvedic herbs like gotu cola, licorice and shatavari (i.e. (Asparagus racemosus or wild asparagus). What it doesn’t contain is preservatives of any kind – something that gave me serious pause since water is listed as the first ingredient on the list. According to Pratima, the lotion is housed in a food-grade, air-tight container, which helps prevent spoilage, but should nonetheless be used within 4 to 6 months.
I don’t think using it up in this time frame should be an issue with daily use, especially if you are not rotating between 9 daily SPFs, as I have been to write this review. Still, if you want to be extra-asfe, you may want to store this one in the fridge. I must say, I really do love how this blog helps me discover new products. Folks in the green community have been raving about Neem Rose for ages, yet I never thought to buy it until I started writing this post and I am so grateful that I did: it’s a delightful product and it has quickly become a favorite. By the way, this lotion’s texture, performance and minimalist packaging make it another product (along with Ursa Major and the original Josh Rosebrook Day Cream) ideal for the men in your life.
Finish: weightless, not especially matte, but not dewy either. This is the most “can’t tell it’s there” product of the bunch.
And there you have it. Nine different, yet fabulous ways to keep your skin looking its best in and out of the sun. I have tried to make this list as comprehensive as possible, but do give me a shout if there is a favorite of yours I’ve missed. And remember: protect that pretty face of yours! After all, we all know. an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Disclosure: Of the brands mentioned, De Mamiel, True Botanicals, Kypris and Ursa Major were graciously sent to me by the brands; I bought the rest myself (Kari Gran came in my Beauty Heroes box, for which I pay myself). The only thing that influenced my opinion was the performance of the products. I will happily repurchase each one, if, that is, I ever run out of daily SPF.