Coola's bread and butter in the beauty business is its sunscreen products, with hit-or-miss results. We're happy to say its foray into primers is among the hits!
This fragrance-free, cream-gel formula comes in a convenient pump-style container that makes dispensing a snap. The primer itself is easily blendable and soaks into skin quickly, with a soft, satiny texture that smooths skin. It also blurs skin imperfections and creates an even canvas for makeup application—which is the point of using a primer.
While we didn't find this made a huge impact on the wear time of our foundation (our base makeup only held up about a half-hour longer than it would have without this primer), Daydream Mineral Primer did make application easier because of its smoothing qualities. One item to note: When you apply this primer on your hand, you'll notice some micro-sparkles. It's not overdone or obvious, and you can't see it when you wear foundation over this primer, but if you prefer a truly flat matte finish, it's something to consider.
On the ingredient front, this contains many standard primer ingredients including silicones to smooth skin. True to its claims, this provides broad-spectrum sun protection with a mineral sunscreen formula, making it an option for those with sensitive skin. It would be better served with the addition of some antioxidants to boost its free-radical fighting abilities, which is why it didn't earn our highest marks. (You can learn more about this in our More Info section below.)
There's also the issue of the claims surrounding the plant stem cells included in the formula. Coola says the stem cells enhance overall skin quality, but there isn't research showing they have an impact on how your skin looks (see More Info for details).
Aside from these caveats, this is a good option as far as primers go, especially if you have sensitive skin.
How We Rate Daytime Moisturizers with SPF: "Daytime Moisturizers with Sunscreen" are differentiated from ordinary sunscreens as formulas that make direct anti-aging or other cosmetic claims by the brand, such as "deep moisture" or "redness-relieving." Claims like "combats free radical damage," "protects and firms," "improves skin texture" or others that insinuate benefits beyond what a standard sunscreen formula provides.
Daytime Moisturizers with SPF (including primers with SPF) are judged based upon whether they provide broad-spectrum sun protection, their SPF rating, potential for irritation, packaging and aesthetics. They must also meet the same standards as an anti-aging moisturizer—the inclusion of beneficial antioxidants or other ingredients to back up the claims of improvements in signs of aging on skin beyond what sun protection alone provides. For more detail on how we rate this category of products, see the Best Daytime Moisturizers with Sunscreen section of Beautypedia.
Stem Cells in Skincare: Stem cells are cells in animals and plants that are capable of becoming any other type of cell in that organism and of producing more of those cells. Despite the fact that stem cell research is in its infancy, many cosmetics companies claim they are successfully using plant-based or human-derived stem cells in their anti-aging products. The claims run the gamut, from reducing wrinkles to elastin repair and cell regeneration, so the temptation for consumers to try these is intense.
The truth is that stem cells in skin-care products do not work as claimed. In fact, they likely have no effect at all because stem cells must be alive to function as stem cells. Once these delicate cells are added to skin-care products, they are long dead and, therefore, useless.
Plant stem cells, such as those derived from apples, melons, flowers, and rice, cannot stimulate stem cells in human skin, but because they are from plants these ingredients likely have antioxidant properties. Actually, it's a good thing plant stem cells can't work as stem cells in skin-care products; after all, you don't want your skin to absorb cells that can grow into apples or watermelons!
There are also claims that because a plant's stem cells allow a plant to repair itself or to survive in harsh climates, these benefits can be passed on to human skin. How a plant functions in nature is unrelated to human skin, and these claims are completely without substantiation.
Another twist on the issue is that cosmetics company's claim they have taken components (such as peptides) out of the plant stem cells and made them stable so they then can work as stem cells. This approach is not valid because stem cells must be complete to function normally. Even if you could isolate substances or extracts from these cells and make them stable, there is no published research showing they can affect stem cells in human skin.
Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide (Sunscreen) 2.3%, Zinc Oxide (Sunscreen) 4.0%. Inactive Ingredients: Alumina, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Hexyl Laurate, Iris Pallida Leaf Cell Extract, Isododecane, Lonicera Japonica Callus Extract, Mica, Nymphaea Alba Leaf Cell Extract, PEG-10 Dimethicone, Polyglyceryl-4 Isotearate, Polysilicone-11, Silica, Stearic Acid, Titanium Dioxide, Trimethylsiloxysilicate.
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 Birchby’s 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 aren’t necessarily bad, either. It’s always a sad day for us when we see yet another brand jumping on the bandwagon of maligning ingredients that research has shown aren’t the risk they’re making them out to be. It gives consumers the wrong idea of what’s safe and what’s not when there’s 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 isn’t the case with all Coola products, it’s 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 it’s 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 can’t 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.
The Beautypedia and Paula’s Choice Research teams have one mission: To help you find the best products for your skin, whether they’re from Paula’s Choice or another brand. By combining efforts, we’re able to share scientific research and remain committed to the highest standards based on our decades of experience objectively reviewing thousands upon thousands of skincare and makeup formularies in all price ranges.
Beautypedia cuts through the hype to bring you product insights and recommendations you won’t find anywhere else!