Natural Defense Total Coverage Concealer SPF 30
Physicians Formula’s Natural Defense Total Coverage Concealer SPF 30 performs well and comes with some interesting (albeit exaggerated) claims around its ability to protect skin from environmental stressors. But its biggest drawback is the potentially irritating fragrance in the formula.
The liqu-cream formula is housed in a squeeze tube and dispensed through the rounded, cushion tip applicator. Whether you use the cushion applicator or your fingertips, the lightweight consistency is easy to blend smoothly over skin, offering medium coverage that’s buildable as needed. It sets to a matte finish that stays put well throughout the day for long-lasting coverage.
The downside is the aforementioned fragrance, which is strong enough to linger as you’re wearing this concealer and poses a risk of irritation to skin (see our More Info section for the research-backed explanation).
The shade range could also use a bit of help, as the six colors offered (Fair to Deep) leave some wide gaps in between skin tones (and not all stores carry all of the shades, further limiting its appeal). As competitors have started launching their concealers with more shades, we’d consider this offering on the slimmer side—but at least the shades we tested were flattering.
On to the Total Defense Complex, which is said to defend against “harmful sunrays (SPF), blue light (RPF™) and pollution (PPF™),” we had to do some digging to find out exactly which ingredients they were talking about. The SPF is self-explanatory, and we appreciate the additional sun protection skin this delivers when used over your normal sunscreen.
As for the RPF™ (Radiation Protection Filter), that comes from plankton extract according to Physicians Formula. Even if you were getting blue light protection from the plankton extract (which is questionable, we didn’t find research backing that claim)—it falls at the very end of the ingredient list, meaning you’re not getting much of it at all. And of course, exposed facial skin needs pollution protection all over, not just where we spot-apply concealer.
The PPF™ (Pollution Protection Filter) allegedly comes from the tung and rapeseed oils, which go by brassica campestris/aleurites fordi oil copolymer on the ingredient list. This blend has skin protecting properties so we can see where they are going with that claim, loosely interpreted. As mentioned above, it’s not the most efficient use of such ingredients in concealer that you’re only spot applying, but these are at least good ingredients, so no harm there.
The bottom line: Natural Defense Total Coverage Concealer SPF 30’s has some nice attributes, but ultimately there are better options on our list of best concealers.
- Liquid-cream texture blend smoothly over skin.
- Offers medium coverage that’s buildable.
- Sets to a matte finish that stays put well throughout the day.
- Fragranced formula poses a risk of irritation to skin.
- Could use some more shades.
- Total Defense Complex isn’t as innovative as it’s made out to be.
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:
Toxicology In Vitro, February 2018, pages 237-245
Toxicological Sciences, January 2018, pages 139-148
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
A lightweight, medium-to-full coverage concealer that blurs, protects, and perfects with our exclusive complex for a smooth, flawless complexion. Features a unique cushion tip for easy targeted application. This miracle blurring formula features our 360° Total Defense Complex to defend against harmful sunrays (SPF), blue light (RPF™) and pollution (PPF™), helping to reduce the signs of aging, appearance of dark circles, fine lines, wrinkles, blemishes and redness in just one swipe.
Physicians Formula At-A-Glance
Strengths: Inexpensive; almost all products fragrance-free; outstanding cleansers; pressed powder with broad-spectrum sunscreen; several bronzing powder options (primarily for fair to light skin tones); one of the only lines at the drugstore selling matte finish eyeshadows; the loose powder; most of the blushes; good liquid liner; excellent automatic brow pencil.
Weaknesses: Dated moisturizer formulas; several sunscreens lack sufficient UVA protection; jar packaging; several of the makeup products epitomize wasteful packaging; the shade selection for almost all the foundations and concealers is awful; tons of gimmicky products that dont perform as well as you'd think but are eye-catching in their compacts; the lip color and lip plumper; mostly average to disappointing mascaras;the Organic Wear products either have undesirable textures or contain irritating ingredients.
There aren't really any doctors at Physicians Formula (the founder of the company was an allergist, Dr. Frank Crandell, but that was back in 1937), and no physicians currently sell or endorse it either. The company asserts that "The term hypoallergenic is more than just a cosmetic claim for Physicians Formula. It is the basis for every product that is created. Physicians Formula honors this claim through stringent product testing and quality control. In fact, Physicians Formula products are formulated without 132 known irritating ingredients still found in many cosmetics on the market today." While the line doesn't list the "132 known irritating ingredients" that they claim not to use, one of their newer products contains menthol, which serves no purpose for skin other than to cause irritation, and other products contain alcohol and witch hazel, which won't make any cosmetic chemist's or dermatologist's list of anti-irritants.
It's good that the skin-care products have been streamlined. There are some excellent makeup removers and a couple of gentle sunscreens whose sole active ingredient is titanium dioxide. Surveying this line in its entirety reveals that makeup is its major focus. However, as you'll see from the Physicians Formula makeup reviews below, things aren't exactly rosy there, either.
For more information about Physicians Formula, call (800) 227-0333 or visit www.physiciansformula.com.
Physicians Formula Makeup
Does this assortment of makeup products have what the doctor ordered? The enormous selection of makeup (no other line at the drugstore sells more individual pressed powders, concealers, or powder bronzers) has seen some noteworthy improvements in recent years, but far too much of it is still built on gimmicky premises or eye-catching graphics while performance and texture are given short shrift. And for a line where just about every product carries on about its goodness for sensitive skin and the non-comedogenic nature of its ingredients, they're not using anything that other companies aren't also using, not to mention that many of the ingredients that show up in these products (such as waxes and occlusive thickening agents) can absolutely clog pores.
Still, for a line with increased retail presence in major drugstores, you may be wondering just what to pay attention to, and the good news is that there are indeed some finds among all the mosaic powders and oddly packaged concealers. Physicians Formula has never done foundations and concealers well, and for the most part that still holds true today. Only one of their concealers is recommended, while the others are best described as dismal. The expansive powder category has several attractive options, including a pressed powder with sun protection and many worthwhile bronzing powders. You'll also find best beauty buys among the blushes and other key products, including the matte eyeshadows, felt-tip eyeliner, brow pencil, and a few of the mascaras. There isn't anything medical or extra-pure about Physicians Formula makeup, but if you know what to look for and are on a budget there are some products that any doctor concerned with the subject of beauty would appreciate!
Note: The shade range of this line does not cater to darker skin tones. In fact, for some products, only those with fair to light skin will find options.
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.