The concept of "setting" your makeup with a spray-on product sounds better than the reality of such products, a fact that Coola's Face SPF 30 Makeup Setting Spray reinforces. Although it forms a film on skin to help "lock" makeup, it comes with the tradeoff of a tacky feeling that lingers (imagine "misting" your face with AquaNet—sounds great, right?). Add an overwhelming fragrance to the mix, and Face SPF 30 Makeup Setting Spray becomes impossible to recommend for any skin type.
On the bright side, this provides reliable broad spectrum sun protection. Critical UVA screening is provided primarily by avobenzone, stabilized with octocrylene—a common but effective approach. Despite this, we wouldn't advise relying on this product's sunscreen as your sole source of sun protection. It isn't recommended to spray sunscreens directly on the face due to the risk of inhalation, a safety concern that the FDA is currently taking a closer look at (U.S. Food & Drug Administration, 2013). Even if that weren't the case, you're not likely to apply this liberally enough to get the stated level of protection..
Getting back to this setting spray's main problems: The synthetic fragrance plus fragrant fruit waters is quite potent, and lingers on skin long after the formula has dried. The fast-drying nature of this formula is due to the amount of alcohol it contains—but a high amount of fragrance and alcohol can spell trouble for skin. See the More Info section for details.
By the way, the amount of alcohol allows this spray to dry to a matte finish, which can reduce the appearance of pores for a short while. There are better ways to reduce pore size without resorting to spraying a known irritant on your face (and around delicate eyes). Many companies offer alcohol-free mattifying products that keep shine in check and can make pore appear smaller, all without leading to irritation.
Also worth mentioning is that this product's inactive ingredient list is presented in alphabetical rather than descending order. That's permissible (as we explain in the More Info section) but not very helpful to consumers trying to figure out how much of the good stuff they're really getting.
Does this work to set makeup and help it last longer? Yes, but not as well as you might be hoping, and not without a lingering tacky feeling. The tackiness is from the film-forming agent PVP, the same ingredient seen in many hairstyling products. It forms a flexible film that probably won't bother you when applied to hair, but on facial skin in the amount this product likely contains, it just doesn't feel pleasant.
Summing up, it's "three strikes, you're out!" for Coola's SPF 30 Makeup Setting Spray. The effort to add sun protection in a makeup-setting product is nice, but that benefit doesn't make up for a potent fragrance, high amount of alcohol, and lingering tacky feel.
Alcohol-Based Skincare Products: A significant amount of research shows alcohol causes free-radical damage in skin even at low levels (Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 2012). Small amounts of alcohol on skin cells in lab settings (about 3%, but keep in mind skin-care products contain amounts ranging from 5% to 60% or greater) over the course of two days increased cell death by 26%. It also destroyed the substances in cells that reduce inflammation and defend against free radicals—this process actually causes more free-radical damage. If this weren't bad enough, exposure to alcohol actually causes skin cells to self-destruct (Alcohol, 2002). Research also shows that these destructive, aging effects on skin cells increased the longer skin was exposed to alcohol; for example, two days of exposure was dramatically more harmful than one day, and that's at only a 3% concentration (Alcohol, 2002). In fact, the effect of inflammation in the skin is cumulative, and repeated exposure to irritants contributes to a weakened skin barrier, slower healing (including of red marks from breakouts), and a dull, uneven complexion (Aging, 2012 & Chemical Immunology and Allergy, 2012).
Use of Highly Fragrant Products: Daily use of products that contain a high amount of fragrance, whether the fragrant ingredients are synthetic or natural, causes chronic irritation that can damage healthy collagen production, lead to or worsen dryness, and impair your skin's ability to heal. Fragrance-free is the best way for all skin types to go for all skin types (Food and Chemical Toxicology, 2008 & American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2003).
The sneaky part about irritation is that research has demonstrated that you don't always need to see it or feel it for your skin to suffer damage, and that damage may remain hidden for a long time (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2008).
In fact, the effect of inflammation in the skin is cumulative, and repeated exposure to irritants contributes to a weakened skin barrier, slower healing (including of red marks from breakouts), and a dull, uneven complexion (Aging, 2012 & Chemical Immunology and Allergy, 2012).
Alphabetical Rather Than Descending Order: Because this product is regulated in the U.S. as an over-the-counter drug, its inactive ingredients are listed in alphabetical order rather than in descending order of content. Although this may be the standard, we have more respect for companies that choose instead to list their inactive ingredients in descending order of concentration, so you know more about what you are putting on your face, just like with any other skin care or makeup product.
Makeup meltdown and UV exposure have met their match! Introducing the first 70%+ certified organic SPF 30 Makeup Setting Spray from COOLA. A weightless, matte finish mist protects the sensitive skin of your face while keeping your makeup looking fresh all day. Reduce the appearance of pores, fine lines and wrinkles, and protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays with broad spectrum SPF30 protection. Protect as you set!
Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 2.1%, Homosalate 3.5%, Octinoxate 3.5%, Octisalate 3.8%.Inactive Ingredients: Alcohol (ORGANIC), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract (ORGANIC), Algae Extract (ORGANIC), Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (ORGANIC Orange) Fruit Water, Cucumis Sativus (ORGANIC Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Fragrance (Natural), Glycerin (ORGANIC), Isodecyl Neopentanoate, PVP, Silica Silylate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Water.
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.
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