Mineral Sport SPF 50 Sunscreen Stick
We love mineral (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) sunscreens for their gentleness and broad spectrum protection, and Coola's Mineral Sport SPF 50 Sunscreen Stick offers a whopping 20% concentration of zinc oxide in an easy-to-apply format. Unfortunately, the aesthetics aren't the best and the water-resistant formula contains a strong, lingering fragrance.
The fragrance is listed as "flavor", and it's surprising how potent it is—we can't recall another mineral sunscreen that's so scented, but what might please your nose isn't going to make your skin happy. See More Info for details.
In use, this moisture-rich, twist-up stick is easy to apply, especially to smaller areas of skin you wish to protect (tops of feet, hands, hairline or bridge of the nose); however, once it sets, the formula feels thick and overly waxy, and it doesn't dissipate.
We like that the zinc oxide doesn't leave a strong white cast on skin, and the natural-based, moisturizing formula contains several antioxidants. But we can't imagine most people being happy with how this ends up feeling. See our list of Best Water-Resistant Sunscreens for better options.
Note: The inactive ingredients for this sunscreen are listed in alphabetical rather than descending order. This is permissible because in the United States sunscreens are regulated as over-the-counter drugs. Still, this method makes it trickier for consumers to get an idea of how much of each ingredient the product contains.
- Provides gentle, water-resistant broad spectrum sun protection.
- Convenient, easy-to-apply stick.
- Doesn't leave a strong white residue on skin.
- Rich source of antioxidants.
- Moisturizes as it protects.
- Strong, lingering fragrance can irritate skin.
- Feels thick and waxy on skin.
Why Fragrance Is a Problem for Skin: Daily use of products that contain a high amount of fragrance, whether the fragrant ingredients are synthetic or natural, causes a chronic sensitizing reaction on skin.
This reaction in turn leads to all kinds of problems, including disrupting skin's barrier, worsening dryness, increasing or triggering redness, depleting vital substances in skin's surface, and generally preventing skin from looking healthy, smooth, and hydrated. Fragrance free is always the best way to go for all skin types.
A surprising fact: Even though you can't always see or feel the negative effects of fragrant ingredients on skin, the damage will still be taking place, even if it's not evident on the surface. Research has demonstrated that you don't need to see or feel the effects of irritation for your skin to be suffering. Much like the effects from cumulative sun damage, the negative impact and the visible damage from fragrance may not become apparent for a long time.
References for this information:
Biochimica and Biophysica Acta, May 2012, pages 1410–1419
Aging, March 2012, pages 166–175
Chemical Immunology and Allergy, March 2012, pages 77–80
Experimental Dermatology, October 2009, pages 821–832
Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2008, pages 191–202
International Journal of Toxicology, Volume 27, 2008, Supplement, pages 1–43
Food and Chemical Toxicology, February 2008, pages 446–475
American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2003, pages 789–798
Strengths: Products provide broad spectrum sun protection; opaque, air-tight packaging keeps air-sensitive ingredients stable; two especially great sunscreens.
Weaknesses: Majority of the products contain potential irritants and fragrance; misleading marketing claims about products not containing chemicals, but they do (every cosmetic ingredient is a chemical); sunscreen sprays are formulated with an alcohol base that can be damaging to skin; questionable SPF ratings on a few of the products; limited SPF options for those with dry skin.
The story of the Coola brand begins in 2004 when now-CEO Chris Birchby came up with the idea to create a simple sunscreen for surfers. As a former surf instructor who practically lived in the water, he understood the risks of sun damage. But those risks really hit home when both of his parents were diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, which mounting research has shown is largely due to unprotected sun exposure.
Birchby wanted his line to be sustainable, locally sourced, and organic. To some extent, his products do fit that bill, but not as much as the marketing makes it sound. There are plenty of synthetic ingredients in these products and the sustainable assertion doesn't have any standard of acceptability, so that's a loose claim at best.
Despite Birchbys surfer dude background, Coola brand sunscreens are not practical for surfers. The price tags are relatively high, especially if you are spending entire days outdoors at the beach or in the water. Given that you must apply sunscreen liberally and must repeat application after 40 to 80 minutes in the water, that's going to take a lot of sunscreen!
As a result, Coola is sold at spas and dermatology offices, as well as through various upscale websites. The line has expanded from traditional lotion sunscreen to include lip care, baby care, spray sunscreens, BB creams, and more.
One of the high notes of the Coola brand is that all of their products provide sufficient broad spectrum sun protection. Each formula also includes antioxidants and other skin-repairing or skin-soothing ingredients that benefit all skin types. The antioxidants provide added value when it comes to sun care because they help offset free-radical damage from UV rays.
Coola also did a great job on the packaging, offering opaque squeeze-tube or pump-style applicators that help keep the air- and light-sensitive ingredients (such as antioxidants) stable - no jars to be found here!
Coola also makes a big deal about their products NOT containing parabens and phthalates, but definitive research has shown that these ingredients are safe (click on their respective links for the full scoop); sadly, in some cases, fear sells better than facts.
They also call out that their products do NOT contain the somewhat controversial sunscreen active oxybenzone nor do their formulas contain nanoparticles, although those arent necessarily bad, either. Its always a sad day for us when we see yet another brand jumping on the bandwagon of maligning ingredients that research has shown arent the risk theyre making them out to be. It gives consumers the wrong idea of whats safe and whats not when theres rarely cause for concern.
What you should be concerned about are the volatile, fragrant, plant ingredients that Coola includes in many of their formulas, because these have the potential to irritate skin. Although this isnt the case with all Coola products, its a pretty common occurrence. An even larger concern is that several products contain alcohol, which, while organic, is irritating to skin when present in high amounts, and potentially more so when its combined with synthetic active sunscreen ingredients.
Another marketing platform for the Coola brand is their use of organic ingredients. First, we hate it when companies fib about their products containing no chemicals because these products are not zero chemicals. We explain more about this in the individual reviews.
Moreover, there is no substantiated research showing that organic ingredients are superior to non-organic or synthetic ingredients. Plus, there are no FDA-approved standards for labeling cosmetics products as organic or not; nor is there an agreed-on definition from the cosmetics industry itself. Get the full scoop here. And perhaps most telling that this is merely a marketing issue for Coola is that they don't really seem to think non-organic and/or synthetic ingredients are a problem, after all, they're present in almost all of their products!
As for the products themselves, there are a couple real standouts, such as Face SPF 30 Cucumber Matte Finish and Face SPF 30 Unscented Matte Tint Natural BB Cream. The rest range from questionable to problematic, mostly due to their potential to irritate skin, although in some cases that potential is small, which we point out in the reviews.
We really do appreciate the idea behind the brand, but until they drop the irritating ingredients we cant recommend the bulk of this line.
You can find Coola products throughout North America at spas, dermatology offices, Ulta, and Nordstrom, as well as on numerous websites. For more information about Coola, call 760.940.2125 or visit www.coolasuncare.com.
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.