Umbra Sheer Physical Defense SPF 30 has aesthetics and a formula that succeeds where many fail. This moisturizing yet sheer cream feels pleasant on skin, provides broad-spectrum protection from zinc oxide, and includes a skin-benefitting array of antioxidants, all at a more-than-reasonable price for a daytime moisturizer with SPF (see More Info for how we categorize such products).
Best for normal to dry skin (or even slightly dry skin), the fragrance-free formula is also suitable for those with sensitivity concerns, including rosacea or eczema. As is the case with any moisturizing formula, this may be tricky for the acne-prone.
Packaged in a foil-style squeeze tube, it's easy to dispense the amount needed, and this type of packaging ably protects its more delicate ingredients from light and air exposure.
This has some degree of white cast, which is unavoidable with any non-tinted mineral sunscreen. However, the white cast is surprisingly minimal given the amount of zinc oxide used, and it fades to a near-invisible finish after a few minutes. We tried this on very fair and deeper skin tones, and Umbra Sheer Physical Defense SPF 30 worked well in every instance. Any residual that remained vanished completely when worn under tinted moisturizer, or foundation.
Drunk Elephant loaded this with antioxidants, including vitamin C (as tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate), grape extract, acetyl glucosamine and, notably, astaxanthin. Astaxanthin has impressive research demonstrating its ability to work as an antioxidant, but especially so for its sunscreen-boosting, UV- protective effects (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2013 and Journal of Dermatological Science, 2010).
In terms of emollients, you'll find a series of non-fragrant plant oils such as coconut, jojoba, and marula. Despite this mix, the product doesn't have a greasy finish. If your skin is dry and you've had a challenge finding a daytime moisturizer with SPF that is suitably moisturizing— but doesn't cause your makeup to "slide off" by midday—give this a try!
Not only is Umbra Sheer Physical Defense SPF 30 priced affordably, it's also an excellent daytime moisturizer with SPF. We found its mix of beneficial antioxidants and moisturizing agents impressive, as well as its finish on skin—which is why it happily earned our highest recommendation.
How We Rate Daytime Moisturizers with SPF: "Daytime Moisturizers with Sunscreen" are differentiated from ordinary sunscreens as formulas that make direct anti-aging or other cosmetic claims by the brand, such as "deep moisture" or "redness-relieving." Claims like "combats free radical damage," "protects and firms," "improves skin texture" or others that insinuate benefits beyond what a standard sunscreen formula provides.
Daytime Moisturizers with SPF are judged based upon whether they provide broad-spectrum sun protection, their SPF rating, potential for irritation, packaging and aesthetics. They must also meet the same standards as an anti-aging moisturizer—the inclusion of beneficial antioxidants or other ingredients to back up the claims of improvements in signs of aging on skin beyond what sun protection alone provides. For more detail on how we rate this category of products, see the Best Daytime Moisturizers with Sunscreen section of Beautypedia.
Drunk Elephant At-A-Glance
Drunk Elephant, based out of Los Angeles, California, was started in 2012 by former skincare executive Tiffany Masterson. As their website describes, Masterson developed the brand out of a desire to create natural-themed formulas that were truly effective. Beyond effectiveness, Masterson wanted leave out what wasn’t effective—primarily fragrance. We concur, because fragrance isn't skincare.
We were pleasantly surprised by this stance, as in our experience, the inclusion of an abundance of fragrance is where many natural-themed brands seem to go wrong—along with using too few beneficial ingredients or formulas. Fragrance, whether from essential oils or synthetic perfumes, is never helpful for skin because over the long term, it can cause damage that holds any skin type back from being its healthy best.
As for the brand’s unconventional name, “Drunk Elephant” is in reference to anecdotes that African wildlife, including elephants, partake on the fallen, fermented fruit of the marula tree—an indulgence that leads to intoxication. We don’t know how true that is, and it's not really related to skincare, but the brand’s name is certainly different.
Drunk Elephant avoids using ingredients like non-mineral sunscreen actives, silicones, and parabens, even though countless studies have indicated these ingredients are safe (Journal of the Academy of Dermatology, 2013 and Skin Therapy Letters, 2013). Regardless, we’re just happy that the line has made it a focal point to use what research has been shown improves skin concerns like sun damage, breakouts and signs of aging, and leave out everything else. They’re also using some novel yet potentially exciting ingredients in many of their formulas.
Drunk Elephant line is a small line, but tends to make each product count, or at least puts an unconventional twist on the norm. Overall, we came away impressed with most of its products and (usually) smart packaging.
Many of the formulas include the ingredient marula oil, which is an ingredient the brand favors due to the fact it contains an array of beneficial fatty acids, calming agents, and antioxidants (Journal of Food Lipids, 2004 and Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2014). It's a good ingredient, but there are many excellent non-fragrant plant oils, including coconut, jojoba, sunflower, and more, of which have similar benefits, meaning marula oil isn't the best out there, just one good oil among many.
Though the price tags are absolutely on the higher end, if you decide to to splurge on some key items, this is a good line to do so!
For more information, visit the brand at www.drunkelephant.com.
Strengths: A solid, though limited array of well-crafted skincare formulas; commitment to fragrance-free products.
Weaknesses:Their products are on the pricey side; limited options for those struggling with acne and discolorations.
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