Hydro Boost City Shield Water Gel Sunscreen SPF 25
Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost City Shield Water Gel Sunscreen SPF 25 has great aesthetics, but a mixture of problematic packaging and ingredients mean it’s a moisturizer with sunscreen we can’t recommend.
Packaged in a jar (more on that in a bit), the elegant gel-cream texture is surprisingly lightweight yet hydrating. It absorbs quickly without a tacky or powdery feel, and leaves skin feeling smoother. It’s a sunscreen that doesn’t feel like a “traditional” sunscreen at all.
But that’s where the positives end. While this does provide broad-spectrum protection, its rating is SPF 25, below the SPF 30 that’s recommended by doctors and health boards worldwide for optimal sun protection.
Neutrogena also claims this provides protection against environmental stressors (which is largely the work of antioxidants), but it contains only a single antioxidant, vitamin E. It simply doesn’t have a formula robust enough to adequately support this claim.
Even if it did, it’s packaged in a jar, as mentioned earlier, and jar packaging means light- and air-sensitive ingredients like antioxidants will begin to lose their effectiveness as soon as the packaging is opened. Jar packaging also presents hygiene issues, especially for a water-based formula (see More Info for details).
Adding to the problems, this contains a pretty strong fragrance, and fragrance puts skin at risk of irritation.
It’s a shame, because while this feels great, it just is nowhere close to matching up with far better sunscreens available (even some others from Neutrogena).
- Elegant texture works for all skin types.
- SPF 25 is below world standards for optimal sun protection.
- Doesn’t contain a strong mix of antioxidants for environmental protection.
- Jar packaging lets many beneficial ingredients break down in the presence of light and air.
- Contains fragrance, which can irritate skin.
Jar Packaging & Beneficial Ingredients: Beneficial ingredients, which include all plant extracts, almost all vitamins, antioxidants, and other state-of-the-art ingredients, are unstable, which means they begin to break down in the presence of air. Once a jar is opened and lets air in, these important ingredients begin to deteriorate, becoming less and less effective. Routine exposure to daylight also is problematic for these ingredients.
Jar packaging is also unsanitary because you dip your fingers into the jar with each use, contaminating the product. This stresses the preservative system, leading to further deterioration of the beneficial ingredients.
Remember: The ingredients that provide the most benefit must be in airtight or air-restrictive packaging to remain effective throughout usage. Buying products in this type of packaging means that the ingredients have the best chance of remaining effective—to the benefit of your skin!
References for this information:
Pharmacology Review, July 2013, pages 97–106
Dermatologic Therapy, May-June 2012, pages 252–259
Current Drug Delivery, November 2011, pages 640–660
Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, May 2011, pages 4676–4683
Journal of Biophotonics, January 2010, pages 82–88
Guidelines of Stability Testing of Cosmetic Products, Colipa-CTFA, March 2004, pages 1–10
Suitable for all skin types, Neutrogena® Hydro Boost City Shield® Water Gel with Broad Spectrum SPF 25 fights sun damage and dehydration with its lightweight, non-comedogenic formula. Created with UVA/UVB sunscreen and a complex of purified hyaluronic acid, it not only boosts your skin’s defense to daily environmental aggressors, but it also works to strengthen your skin’s moisture barrier.
Strengths: Inexpensive; several recommended cleansers; retinol options, in stable packaging; vast selection of sunscreens, most of which offer excellent UVA protection; several fragrance-free options; many of the Healthy Skin products are state-of-the-art; the foundations with sunscreen provide sufficient UVA protection; some praiseworthy makeup items.
Weaknesses: An overabundance of overlapping anti-aging products that is perennially confusing for consumers; irritating bar soaps; lackluster to downright bad toners; a handful of bland moisturizers and eye creams; some sunscreens too much alcohol or problematic preservatives; most of the Deep Clean products are terrible; mostly disappointing concealers; the lip balms with sunscreen provide inadequate UVA protection.
Johnson & Johnsonowned Neutrogena has been around for over 50 years, and they've come a long way since they launched their first transparent, bronze, detergent-based bar soap (it also contains tallow). The bars are still sold, and while we still don't recommend them (they are too drying for all skin types), the good news is that Neutrogena has come a very long way from where they started. In fact, several of their products represent truly state-of-the-art options.
Strolling the skin-care aisles of any drugstore or mass-market store reveals that Neutrogena vies for shelf space and prominence with only one other brand, Procter & Gamble's Olay. For the most part, both companies offer a similar assortment of products, with Olay being slightly more focused on anti-aging products and Neutrogena going for broader appeal, offering a nearly equal amount of antiwrinkle and anti-acne products. Regrettably the latter category presents few viable options.
Where Neutrogena really excels (and has for years) is with water-soluble cleansers, AHAs, retinol, and sunscreen products. Their Healthy Skin lineup offers some beautifully formulated moisturizers with glycolic acid, and the sunscreens offer something for everyone, including some ingenious options for those with oily skin (or anyone who finds the texture of high-SPF products as unappealing as slathering your skin with Crisco).
A recent self-proclaimed advance in sun protection came with Neutrogena's Helioplex complex. It is not the superior breakthrough Neutrogena makes it out to be. It's a good system to keep avobenzone stable for longer, but Helioplex isn't the only way to get the most out of this important UVA sunscreen. If it were, why didn't Neutrogena scrap all of their other sunscreens that don't use Helioplex technology? And why do they still offer a handful of SPF-rated products that leave skin vulnerable to UVA damage? Although they offer a proportionately greater number of sunscreens that provide excellent UVA protection, it's hard to unequivocally deem them a sun-care leader when they still sell inadequate sunscreens.
It's common to see commercials and magazine ads for Neutrogena's plethora of products designed to combat breakouts and blackheads. It's nothing short of amazing that, after all these years, the majority of these products, while well intentioned, still don't get it right. Far too many of them contain irritating ingredients such as alcohol, witch hazel, and menthol, none of which are the least bit helpful for someone struggling with breakouts. If your dermatologist recommends these products for acne without reservation, definitely consider a second opinion! Even Neutrogena's on-the-spot benzoyl peroxide product contains some potentially problematic thickening agents. Despite this, if you choose carefully, there are some great products (including a BHA lotion) that can make a positive difference.
What's most frustrating and, frankly, surprising, is that Neutrogena's enormous assortment of products represents both the best and the worst the cosmetics industry has to offer. Given their worldwide distribution and research capabilities, they really should be offering a consistent range of effective, irritant-free products to address a variety of skin types and conditions. As things stand now, healthy, protected skin is only assured if you know which Neutrogena products to look for and which ones to never put in your shopping cart.
For more information about Neutrogena, owned by Johnson & Johnson, call (800) 582-4048 or visit www.neutrogena.com.
Neutrogena's "beautiful and beneficial" pronouncement is a great tag line, but most of their makeup doesn't live up to that assertion. This line was lacking in several key areas when it first hit store shelves in 1999, and although some things have improved, the number of problematic products is a bit startling. (We are not aware of any cosmetic line that uses menthol or its derivatives as often as Neutrogena.) Each product carries on about the vitamins it contains, yet compared to the leading roles played by cosmetic staples like silicones and thickening agents, the vitamins have mere cameo roles, and as such have little to no impact.
There are a few key items to seek out, especially if you're looking for makeup with excellent sun protection. We also found their lip gloss to be one of the best at any price, and a few of their foundations successfully bridge the gap between skin care and makeup.
The most frustrating aspect of this line is that almost all of it is packaged so you cannot see the color. Even worse, the color swatch on the box is a poor representation, not only of how the color looks in the compact, but also how it looks on your skin. What would truly be beneficial is for Neutrogena to offer more revealing packaging or provide testers or offer trial sizes. Their overall collection and in-store displays aren't nearly as tempting as most other drugstore makeup lines, so in most cases they're relying on their constant magazine and television ads to drive shoppers to explore the world of Neutrogena makeup, or they're relying solely on those who don't mind guessing what color they are really buying. It's obviously working, because despite the problematic elements, this is a line that has survived and is very well distributed.
About the Experts
The Beautypedia team consists of skin care and makeup experts personally trained by the original Cosmetics Cop and best-selling beauty author, Paula Begoun. We’re fascinated by skin care and makeup products and thrilled when they meet or exceed our expectations, but we’re also disappointed when they fail to perform as claimed, are wildly overpriced, or contain ingredients scientific research has proven can hurt skin.
Our mission has always been to help you find the best products for your skin, no matter your budget or preferences. Beautypedia’s thorough and insightful reviews cut through the hype and provide reliable recommendations for all ages, skin types, and skin tones.