Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50
1.7 fl. oz. for $32
Last Updated:04.22.2015
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:Yes
Review Overview

Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50 is a lightweight, very fluid fragrance-free sunscreen with only titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as the sole active ingredients. You must shake it before using it to disperse the mineral actives, and the thin texture and soft matte finish make this best for normal to oily skin or rosace-affected skin.

The unique quality with this product is the SPF rating. Most mineral sunscreens are not rated higher than SPF 30 because the amount of active ingredients needed to surpass SPF 30 leads to a formula that's aesthetically undesirable, although, depending on your skin color, you might find that not to be the case.

As for the artemia extract mentioned in the claims, it is indeed a plankton, but more accurately, it's a species of brine shrimp that, as far as skin care is concerned, has no documented benefit.

  • Gentle, mineral-based active ingredients provide broad-spectrum sun protection.
  • Suitable for sensitive skin, including those with rosacea.
  • Lightweight, silky texture doesn’t feel heavy and works great under makeup.
  • The formula lacks a potent mix of antioxidants to boost skin's environmental defenses.

A groundbreaking first-to-market mattifying fluid with transparent finish, this paraben-free, all-physical filter sunscreen provides increased protection in an ultra-sheer texture for all skin types, even very sensitive. Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50 offers the photoprotection of trusted broad-spectrum, physical filters, zinc oxide (Z-COTE®) and titanium dioxide, and is enhanced by artemia salina, a plankton extract, to increase the skin’s defenses and resistance to UV and heat stress. The unique ‘shake then apply’ action assures even distribution of active ingredients in this silky sheer fluid that dries quickly and leaves no residue.


Active: Titanium Dioxide (5%), Zinc Oxide (6%), Other: Water, Dimethicone, Isododecane, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Undecane, Triethylhexanoin, Isohexadecane, Nylon-12, Caprylyl Methicone, Butyloctyl Salicylate, Phenethyl Benzoate, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Silica, Tridecane, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Dicaprylyl Ether, Talc, Dimethicone/PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer, Aluminum Stearate, Pentylene Glycol, PEG-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Alumina, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Magnesium Sulfate, Caprylyl Glycol, PEG-8 Laurate, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Tocopherol, Propylene Carbonate, Artemia Extract, Benzoic Acid, PEG-9

Brand Overview

SkinCeuticals At-A-Glance

Strengths: Great line to shop if you're looking for well-formulated vitamin C and retinol products; some outstanding sunscreens (including for sensitive skin), and every one provides sufficient UVA protection; one effective AHA product; good self-tanner; several fragrance-free products.

Weaknesses: Mostly problematic cleansers and toners; fruit and sugar extracts trying to substitute for AHA products when the real deal is much better; ineffective BHA products; jar packaging.

With a strong presence in the professional (meaning spa and aesthetics) skin-care market, SkinCeuticals has a mostly well-deserved reputation for producing serious-minded, research-driven products, several of which are centered on L-ascorbic acid. Company founder Dr. Sheldon Pinnell began the line after a falling out with the folks behind Cellex-C, a company for which Dr. Pinnell once served as spokesperson. The falling out had to do with both Cellex-C and Dr. Pinnell holding patents on L-ascorbic acid; Cellex-C held the patent on a formula with L-ascorbic acid (the original Cellex-C serum) while Dr. Pinnell's patent (now conspicuously absent from SkinCeuticals products) was only for the ingredient. The drama continued as, years later, the doctor who joined Pinnell to work on SkinCeuticals' vitamin C products began his own company, also selling products with vitamin C. Who needs Desperate Housewives when we have desperate doctors racing to be the authoritative word on the anti-aging properties of vitamin C?

The good news is that copious research has demonstrated that L-ascorbic acid (despite its stability issues, which, formula-wise, SkinCeuticals products do address) is a good, potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. It has also been shown to provide photoprotective benefits when skin is exposed to UV light and is capable of stimulating collagen production - though don't take that to mean it is a cure for wrinkles (Sources: International Journal of Toxicology, 2005, supplement, pages 51–111; Experimental Dermatology, June 2003, pages 237–244; Dermatologic Surgery, March 2002, pages 231–236; Bioelectrochemistry and Bioenergetics, May 1999, pages 453–461; and International Journal of Radiation Biology, June 1999, pages 747–755). Of course, other forms of vitamin C have equally impressive research, and some forms, such as magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, have better stability profiles (Source: Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis, March 1997, pages 795–801).

As we've mentioned before, vitamin C is but one of many good antioxidants, and it's not the best approach to select any one or two antioxidants and bank on them alone to provide every conceivable skin-rejuvenating benefit. Instead, go for products that offer a cocktail of antioxidants because you'll get a greater range of benefits. Plus, some antioxidants in combination have a synergistic effect that surpasses what occurs when any of the ingredients are used alone. SkinCeuticals clearly knows this, because their vitamin C products also contain the antioxidant ferulic acid, and some add vitamin E to the mix as well. Above all, remember that as multifunctional as antioxidants are, they cannot stop aging, they won't eliminate wrinkles, and they do not replace the need for daily sun protection.

L'Oreal purchased SkinCeuticals in May 2005, and, for the time being, seems to be letting them stay on their course. That's a good thing, because despite L'Oreal’s considerable financial reserves and global R&D team, the skin-care products their brands produce consistently lag behind what current research indicates are state-of-the-art options. As long as they continue to let SkinCeuticals retain its stature, there are many good reasons to shop this line; however, that said, this line is far from perfect in terms of being able to assemble a complete skin-care routine. Focusing on what they do best (which is serums, sunscreens, and specialty products) will be money well spent for visible results. Those who find the SkinCeuticals price tags to be a deal-breaker need to know that despite several notable products, they're hardly the only game in town; you can find equally superior products for less money, though not all of them follow the impressive concentration protocols of SkinCeuticals.

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

About the Experts

The new Beautypedia Team proudly and unequivocally maintains the commitment to help you find the best products possible for your skin. We do this by relentlessly pursuing and relying on published scientific research so you will have unbiased information on what works and what doesn't-and the sneaky ways you could be making your skin worse, not better!

The Beautypedia Team reviews all products using the same research, criteria, and objectivity, whether the product being reviewed is from Paula's Choice or another brand.

Member Comments
Summary of Member Comments
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White Cast

This has THE WORST white cast I've ever experienced with a sunscreen, especially for the price. I can't believe it's marketed as sheer it looks like I'm wearing face paint and doesn't blend well at all. It might be a decent product but there is no way that I'll be using it.

Reviewed by
Artemia (plankton) extract & shrimp allergy?

The review above states that one of the ingredients, artemia extract (plankton), is a species of brine shrimp. Would this be safe to be used by someone who has shrimp/prawn/crab allergy? Or is brine shrimp too different from shrimp that people eat? Thanks in advance for your help.

Reviewed by
Beautypedia Team Response

Hello there!  Given how removed it is from pure, intact shellfish, most likely it would be safe; however, if your allergy is also topical rather than just systemic (symptoms only occur when you ingest shellfish) than you should avoid the ingredient. If you’re unsure, check with your health care provider.

great standby sunscreen

This is an outstanding high-SPF sunscreen for oily skin. On my oily/normal combination skin, it has a mattifying effect, without drying out my normal-skinned cheeks. After many trials and errors with other, non-alcohol-based, fluid sunscreens, I've had to come back to this. This, however, did not keep the brown spots from multiplying like bunnies on my face this past summer. Perhaps I should have reapplied more neurotically. Also, the flesh-coloured version of this is too dark for my NC10 skin.

Reviewed by
Great, very sheer sunscreen

I like this sheer, fleshcolored sunscreen a lot. It doesn't offer enough coverage to be used as a foundation but the liquid does help even out skin tone a little bit. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by
Susanna in Seattle
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