One positive to come out of the pandemic for me personally: I’ve learned to embrace my skin without makeup. Not every day, but I now tend to lean toward tinted moisturizer or a really good sunscreen with a couple quick dabs of a foundation stick or concealer over my dark circles and the tiny broken capillaries around my nose. And when I say “really good sunscreen,” I mean one with skin-care ingredients rather than just UV filters, and no white cast, and I’m a sucker for anything that makes my skin glow. So when I tried EltaMD UV Glow Broad-Spectrum SPF 36, I knew I hit the jackpot.
My Skin Type:
Combination. I’m drier in the cold-weather months and oilier in the warm-weather ones thanks to the high humidity on the East Coast. My skin tone is on the fairer side, and I tend to wear light-medium shades of foundation.
I should start by saying that I had high expectations for this product, considering EltaMD is the number-one dermatologist-recommended professional sunscreen brand and more derms use it personally (on themselves and their families) than any other sun-care brand. It makes sense if you look at the brand’s medical roots: In 1988, Elta came to the U.S. from Switzerland and developed a line of wound-care products that quickly became a staple in hospitals and burn centers around the world. And in 2007, it added “MD” to its name and became the skin-care giant we know today.
This mineral-based, oil-free formula for the face contains a high-percentage of zinc—20.15, to be exact—which acts like a physical shield on the skin to protect it from the widest range of UVA and UVB rays. Oftentimes, a high zinc content can be associated with more white cast, but this cream blends into my skin so nicely with no ashy effect. However, I do have light skin, and the brand recommends this version for fair-to-medium skin tones. For those with darker complexions, EltaMD created a tinted version of this same formula (the only difference is a higher amount of iron oxides, which lends the tint). The tinted version also works well in place of tinted moisturizer on lighter skin.
The list of skin-care ingredients is long, too: high-purity niacinamide, the multitasking, brightening antioxidant that’s finding its way into just about every cream and serum these days; antioxidants ergothioneine and vitamin E, which boost sun protection by fighting free radicals; and hydrating powerhouses hyaluronic acid, aloe leaf and coconut fruit. The addition of mica (used in many makeup products like highlighter and eyeshadow to add shimmer) gives the skin just the right amount of luminosity without looking like a shiny disco ball. Let’s just say, it lets the light hits your skin in all the right places.
Zinc oxide, ergothioneine, niacinamide, mica, hyaluronic acid, aloe leaf extract, coconut fruit extract and vitamin E
What It’s Free From:
Parabens, oils, synthetic fragrances, dyes, gluten and alcohol
What It Smells Like:
The faintest hint of a powdery smell, but essentially nothing. (There are no synthetic fragrances or scents from natural extracts.)
What It Feels Like:
A medium-thick cream. Like most sunscreens, I do feel a residue on my fingers after applying it, but it’s nothing a quick hand-wash can’t fix. I appreciate that it layers well on top of my other skin-care products (I like to apply vitamin C serum under my sunscreen to add even more antioxidant protection) and doesn’t pill.
How to Use It:
Apply it 15 minutes before going out in the sun, though many dermatologists would argue you should wear it inside, too, as UV rays can travel through windows. Remember the two-finger rule: Derms recommend using two finger-lengths worth of sunscreen to cover your face properly. And always reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
Price/Where to Buy:
Untinted, $38.50; Tinted, $40.50, eltamd.com