Review: Elta MD UV Clear SPF 46 Sunscreen


You know what? I’m going to dive right into this thing and kick it off with something that I think is important. Facial sunscreen. Fun? Nope. Sexy? Nope. But makeup is sort of a chore when my skin sucks, so hopefully sunscreen will keep sun damage from ruining my fun when I’m older.

You see, the big 3-0 is creeping up on me way quicker than I’d like. Fine lines are sneaking in and the ‘angry 11’ occasionally makes an appearance. To add insult to injury, I’ve spent the past few years struggling with adult acne. Acne + medium skintone = hyperpigmentation that can take months or years to fade on its own. I don’t want those things to get any worse, so I started the quest for a daily facial sunscreen that plays nice with my makeup. Admittedly, I have a lot of requirements for face sunscreen:

  • Doesn’t make my makeup slide off, flake off or look splotchy
  • Doesn’t make my skin look more oily (it does a fine job of that on its own thankyouverymuch)
  • Doesn’t clog pores
  • Doesn’t leave a white cast
  • Doesn’t require me to rub it in so much that dead skin balls up
  • Generally doesn’t itch, burn or make me ugly or miserable
  • Protects my skin from the sun (duh)

I’ve tried samples of quite a few, but after a bunch of recommendations on the internets I settled on Elta MD UV Clear. What’s so special about this sunscreen, you ask? Aside from the recommendations, I picked it because it’s broad-spectrum (a must!), claims to work well under makeup and has niacinamide in it (more on that below). For convenience, here’s the ingredient list:

Active ingredients: Zinc Oxide (9.0%), Octinoxate (7.5%)

Inactive ingredients: Purified Water, Cyclomethicone, Niacinamide, Octyldodecyl Neopentanoate, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Polyisobutene, PEG-7 Trimethylolpropane Coconut Ether, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Lactic Acid, Oleth-3 Phosphate, Phenoxyethanol, Butylene Glycol, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Triethoxycaprylylsilane

Somewhat naively, I sort of expected the product to be clear, kind of like a silicone primer. It is not. It looks like this:

Definitely not clear

Definitely not clear

The consistency is more like moisturizer than primer; it’s thin, but not liquidy. One pump dispenses slightly less than 1/4 teaspoon – yes, I’m a nerd and I measured – which is the amount you’re supposed to use to get the full SPF rating. I’d prefer it to spit out exactly the right amount, but it’s close enough, especially since I mostly sit at a desk all day. The only other gripe I have about the packaging is that there’s no good way to tell how much is left. Obviously it needs to be in an opaque container (sunscreens can break down with light exposure), but it would be nice if there was some sort of indicator. It does have an airless pump which is nice. Once you get it going initially, it doesn’t sputter or splatter like some pumps do.

On the face it’s really nice. It does take a bit of rubbing before the white cast disappears, but not nearly as much as other sunscreens I’ve used. It’s not so thick that rubbing it in is uncomfortable, either. You do need to rub it in well however, or it will try to ball up when you put makeup on. At least, that happened to me one day when I was feeling too lazy to rub it in all the way. Once it’s rubbed in, it doesn’t feel especially greasy or dry. It’s more like moisturized skin. There is a little bit of shine, but that goes away after a little while, or you can be impatient like me and blot gently.

Another thing that I like about it is that it seems really good for sensitive skin, at least as long as your skin doesn’t have a problem with any of the ingredients. My skin normally isn’t sensitive, but when I was first testing this I had a massive sinus infection and my nose was super raw. Everything else burned (even my beloved First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream), but the Elta MD didn’t. I haven’t had any issues with clogged pores with it either.

Regarding sun-protecting abilities, I’m very satisfied. Even though it’s not rated as water-proof/sweat-proof, I decided to test it while I was running. I put it on 20 minutes before I left the house and was outside for about 90 minutes in full sun. I was sweating like a racehorse, but it didn’t sting at all. It didn’t leave weird white sweat streaks all over my face like Coppertone does or otherwise make me look more gross than I usually do after a long run. I also didn’t get any changes in freckling or tan lines around my sunglasses, which I definitely would have without adequate sunscreen.

Another thing that I really like about it is the 5% niacinamide content. Remember how I mentioned having lots of hyperpigmentation? Niacinamide is one of those things that can help fade it. I can’t give the sunscreen full credit for fading my dark spots since I’m also using a retinoid and chemical peels, but that’s one of those areas where I’ll take whatever help I can get. Also, the fact that it could help out with my existing skin problems helps me out when my pre-coffee brain is tempted to be lazy and skip sunscreen.

In Short: At around $20 from Amazon, it’s not much more expensive than drugstore sunscreens, but far superior to anything else I’ve used.


One comment

  1. […] with the expression lines on my forehead. I also love Elta MD UV Clear SPF 46 sunscreen (reviewed here), which has 5% niacinamide in it. I tried and liked the 40% lactic acid peel from Makeup […]

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