Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion Sunscreen SPF 50
Wearing sunscreen every day is one of the most important ways to prevent skin aging, so we're all about a great SPF formula that delivers protection plus hydration and anti-aging ingredients. Unfortunately, Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion Sunscreen SPF 50 doesn't check all those boxes.
The whole hook of this creamy sunscreen in a tube is that it's supposed to be non-greasy, yet moisturizing enough to "quench skin with vital hydration." The good points of this product are that it provides broad-spectrum SPF 50, and it lives up to its claims of being aesthetically pleasing, quickly sinking into skin with no greasy feeling left behind.
The problem is that part of the great, dries-so-quickly aesthetic is due to the inclusion of a high amount of drying alcohol. There's more alcohol in this sunscreen than the hyaluronic acid that the Hydro Boost line is known for (hyaluronic acid is far down the ingredient list, near the bottom), so those with dry skin hoping for a moisturizing formula will be disappointed.
The formula also contains fragrance and sensitizing menthyl lactate, which can irritate skin. It also lacks a range of antioxidants that can boost its environmental protection. Skip this one, and opt instead for superior sunscreen selections on our list of Best Sunscreens.
- Provides broad-spectrum SPF 50.
- Contains a high amount of drying alcohol.
- Contains fragrance, which can irritate skin.
- Cooling ingredient menthyl lactate can irritate skin.
- Lacks a complement of antioxidants to boost its SPF.
Alcohol-Based Skincare Products: Research makes it clear that alcohol, as a main ingredient in any skincare product, especially one you use frequently and repeatedly, is a problem.
When we express concern about the presence of alcohol in skincare or makeup products, we're referring to denatured ethanol, which most often is listed as SD alcohol, alcohol denat., denatured alcohol, or (less often) isopropyl alcohol.
When you see these types of alcohol listed among the first six ingredients on an ingredient label, without question the product will irritate and cause other problems for skin. There's no way around it—these volatile alcohols are simply bad for all skin types.
The reason they're included in products is because they provide a quick-drying finish, immediately degrease skin, and feel weightless, so it's easy to see their appeal, especially for those with oily skin. If only those short-term benefits didn't lead to negative long-term outcomes!
Using products that contain these alcohols will cause dryness, erosion of skin's protective barrier, and a strain on how skin replenishes, renews, and rejuvenates itself. Alcohol just weakens everything about skin.
The irony of using alcohol-based products to control oily skin is that the damage from the alcohol can actually lead to an increase in breakouts and enlarged pores. As we said, the alcohol does have an immediate de-greasing effect on skin, but it causes irritation, which eventually will counteract the de-greasing effect and make your oily skin look even more shiny.
There are people who challenge us on the information we've presented about alcohol's effects. They often base their argument on a study in the British Journal of Dermatology (July 2007, pages 74–81) that concluded "alcohol-based hand rubs cause less irritation than hand washing…." But, the only thing this study showed was that alcohol was not as irritating as an even more irritating hand wash, which contained sodium lauryl sulfate. So, the study is actually just telling you that one irritant, sodium lauryl sulfate, is worse than another irritant, alcohol.
Not all alcohols are bad. For example, there are fatty alcohols, which are absolutely non-irritating and can be beneficial for skin. Examples that you'll see on ingredient labels include cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, and cetearyl alcohol, all of which are good ingredients for skin. It's important to differentiate between these skin-friendly alcohols and the problematic alcohols.
References for this information:
Chemical Immunology and Allergy, March 2012, pages 77–80
Aging, March 2012, pages 166–175
Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology, November 2008, pages 1–16
Dermato-Endocrinology, January 2011, pages 41–49
Experimental Dermatology, June 2008, pages 542–551
Clinical Dermatology, September-October 2004, pages 360–366
Alcohol Journal, April 2002, pages 179–190
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.