Physical Matte UV Defense Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50

1.00 fl. oz. for $ 34.00
Expert Rating

Expert Reviews

Community Reviews



Brand Overview

Joining Skinceuticals' popular Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 is this similar-looking (at least on paper) daytime moisturizer with sunscreen*. Like Physical Fusion, the Physical Matte UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 50 provides broad spectrum sun protection with the gentle mineral actives of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Also like Physical Fusion, Physical Matte SPF 50 is tinted to avoid the annoying white cast a high amount of mineral actives tends to leave behind. It's also appropriate for normal to combination, oily, or sensitive, acne-prone skin. However, that's where the similarities stop!

OK, both Physical Fusion and Physical Matte SPF 50 are also fragrance-free, but as far as texture is concerned, the thin, fluid nature of Physical Fusion is replaced by Physical Matte's soufflé-like cream formula. It is quite thick and difficult to dispense from its squeeze tube, but once it is on skin it blends easily, thinning out and setting to a near-weightless matte finish. Between the smoothing, somewhat spackle-like texture and tint, the Physical Matte SPF 50 also works to help blur minor imperfections and makes a wonderful base for makeup, so you can skip foundation primer.

About that tint: The formula is said to use "translucent color spheres" to provide a sheer tint that works for all skin tones. Our testing revealed this to be true, unless you have very light skin—and even in that case the tint is so subtle it looks more like a healthy wash of color rather than veering into orange or bronze territory. If you have darker skin, this won't look ashen and shouldn't interfere with the color of your foundation.

The only significant disappointment—and reason why this missed out top rating—is that the claims SkinCeuticals makes, promising that Physical Matte UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 50 "continuously" mattifies skin, don't come true in actual usage. Yes, this sets and absolutely feels matte (if you have dry skin this will not help matters unless applied over a richer moisturizer), but even on mildly oily areas, we saw shine peeking through within a couple hours, whether this sunscreen was applied on its own or on top of other products as part of a morning skincare routine. In fact, although this sets to a strong matte finish, during wear it ends up being no more mattifying than the brand's Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50.

We were also a bit let down that given the cost, the formula lacks antioxidants—SkinCeuticals is typically good about including these skin-beneficial ingredients in their sun-protection products.

So long as you aren't depending on its promises to keep your skin matte, this daytime moisturizer with sunscreen shines in the sun protection and skin-smoothing departments, especially if you have normal to combination or slightly oily, sensitive skin. It's easy-to-apply formula and weightless feel are further high points, but the lack of antioxidants and inability for the formula to keep excess shine in check for long (they even claim this keeps skin matte in humid weather) are disappointing.

One last thing: See More Info to learn why the non-comedogenic and non-acnegenic claims accompanying this product aren't a guarantee it won't cause or worsen breakouts.

*Skinceuticals categorizes this product as a sunscreen, which we generally take to mean a product that is meant for use anywhere on the body. However, given this product's small size and esthetics, it's clearly more geared toward use on the face, not the body. So, we opted to categorize it as a daytime moisturizer with sunscreen.

  • Silky, souffl-like cream texture sets to a near weightless finish.
  • Provides broad spectrum mineral protection.
  • Tinted to avoid a white cast that can look pasty on skin.
  • Blurs minor imperfections.
  • Fragrance-free.
  • Formula lacks antioxidants to boost skin's environmental defenses in the presence of UV light.
  • Doesn't maintain its matte finish for as long as the claims imply, and definitely not in humid weather.
More Info:

Non-Comedogenic: Labels like "non-comedogenic" or "non-acnegenic" seem like safe bets, but are actually unhelpful because these terms were coined under test conditions that are not even remotely applicable to how you, or anyone for that matter, use skincare or makeup products. The "non-comedogenic" myth got its beginnings from a 1979 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology. This study examined the potential of various ingredients (cocoa and shea butters, lanolin and waxes, among others) to clog pores and lead to the formation of comedones—hence the term "comedogenic."

Under the conditions of this study, 100% pure concentrations of ingredients were layered five times per application over a period of two weeks, without cleansing the skin at any time. The manner in which these tests were conducted is not remotely similar to how we use skincare or makeup products—plus very few products are formulated with 100% of any one ingredient. What really determines whether an ingredient present in your skincare or makeup products is likely to trigger a breakout is how much of the ingredient is present in the formula and what else you apply as part of your skincare routine.

The researcher largely credited for developing the concept of comedogenic, Albert Kligman, said as much in his 1972 study, "Acne Cosmetica": "It is not necessary to exclude constituents which might be comedogenic in a pure state. The concentration of such substances is exceedingly important. To exile such materials as lanolin, petroleum hydrocarbons, fatty alcohols, and vegetable oils from cosmetics would be irrational. What is ultimately important is the comedogenicity of the finished product (Archives of Dermatology, 1972)."

Last, the terms non-comedogenic and non-acnegenic are not regulated so they're not beholden to any agreed-upon standards. Any product, from the richest cream to the thinnest lotion, can use these claims and not have to prove they really don't clog pores or trigger acne breakouts.

Jar Packaging: No
Tested on animals: Yes

Daily UVA/UVB oil-absorbing protective base with a matte finish. This mattifying 100% physical sunscreen is formulated with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide (Z-Cote*) to provide high broad spectrum UV protection. Enhanced with aerated silica technology, it is proven to maintain a matte finish even in hot, humid conditions. Its weightless mousse texture dries to a powder finish, optimizing makeup application. *Z-COTE HP-1 is a Registered Trademark of BASF

Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide 9%, Zinc Oxide 4%. Inactive Ingredients: Dimethicone, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Talc, Dicaprylyl Ether, Triethylhexanoin, Isohexadecane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Hydrogenated Jojoba Oil, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Aluminum Stearate, PEG-8 Laurate, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Silica Silylate, 2-oleamido-1, 3-octadecanediol, Alumina, Aluminum Hydroxide, Iron Oxides, Disodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Polyhydroxystearic Acid.

SkinCeuticals At-A-Glance

With a strong presence in the professional (meaning spa and aesthetics) skincare market, SkinCeuticals has a mostly well-deserved reputation for producing serious-minded, research-driven products, several of which are centered on L-ascorbic acid (a form of vitamin C).

There are many good reasons to shop this line; it boasts a lineup up impressive vitamin C products, as well as some good retinol options and sunscreens. Even better is that the majority of its anti-aging products are packaged in containers that will protect their contents from light and air. Focusing on what Skinceuticals does best (which is serums, sunscreens, and specialty products) will be money well spent for visible results. The main drawbacks of this line are some products that contain fragrance ingredients, as well as potentially-drying alcohol, though they represent the minority of the brands offerings.

For more information about SkinCeuticals, call 1-800-771-9489 or visit www.skinceuticals.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.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our terms of use here.