BalmShelter Tinted Moisturizer SPF 18
Last Updated:12.18.2014
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:No
Review Overview

In the confusing world of what are now being called "alphabet creams" there are BB, CC, DD, EE creams, and even one with the name "A to Z" cream. Products in this out-of-control category amount to nothing more than tinted moisturizers with sunscreen. As a result, it's hard to find a tinted moisturizer with SPF that isn't trying to pull the wool over your eyes with an inane game of claims. In this case, however, Balm Shelter has done just that, and this product is a great option!

The lotion-like texture feels very light and it's easy to apply. Once set, the finish is slightly dewy, so it isn't for oily skin, but it's great for normal, dry, or combination skin.

As a true tinted moisturizer should, it provides just enough color to even out redness and minor imperfections for a look that is remarkably natural; in fact, it makes your skin look like an enhanced version of itself—and you get broad-spectrum sun protection for anti-aging benefits.

This wears well throughout the day without emphasizing pores, fine lines, or wrinkles, and there's a good selection of neutral shades for very light to medium-dark skin tones - best of all, it's fragrance-free!

Our only complaint is that the formula lacks anti-aging ingredients beyond the sunscreen. Still, you could apply this over a well-formulated serum (most do double-duty as foundation primers) and be good to go!

  • Lightweight texture that's easy to apply.
  • Evens out redness and minor imperfections for a natural, slightly dewy look.
  • Provides broad-spectrum sun protection.
  • Doesn't emphasize fine lines, pores, or wrinkles.
  • Good selection of neutral shades.
  • Fragrance-free.
  • Lacks a mix of anti-aging ingredients beyond the sun protection.

Active: Octinoxate 7.5%, Octisalate 3%, Avobenzone 3%. Inactive: Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Isopropyl Myristate, Cetyl Dimethicone, Dimethicone, Hexyl Laurate, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate, Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Isohexadecane, Polysorbate 60, Styrene-DVB Crosspolymer, Sorbitan Sesquioleate, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethyhexyl Glycerin, Hexylene Glycol, Sodium Dehydroacetate. May Contain: Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides.

Brand Overview

Strengths: An excellent tinted moisturizer and lip and cheek stain; good powder blushes and highlighters; mascaras and the cream concealer perform well; effective AHA exfoliants; a very good foundation primer; the eye-makeup remover.

Weaknesses: Lip products that contain irritants such as menthol; some of the brand’s eyeshadows are overly powdery and tend to flake/migrate onto other areas of the face; unnecessary fragrance in an otherwise good lip balm; mostly average to irritating cleansers, toners, eye-area products, and moisturizers; no products to treat breakouts or dark spots; several products contain fragrant plant extracts or oils that pose a risk of irritation; jar packaging.

Today, most cosmetics companies seem to be launched for one of three distinct reasons: they come about as the extension of a high-end fashion house's brand (like Burberry, Tom Ford, Dolce & Gabbana, Marc Jacobs, or Armani); they're created by some corporation under the endorsement of a celebrity (Drew Barrymore's Flower Beauty or Kat Von D's line); or, as is the case for theBalm Cosmetics, an entrepreneur saw an "unfilled niche" in the cosmetics market and decided to get to work.

theBalm was founded in San Francisco by Marissa Shipman, who spent years trying to break into the cosmetics industry before forming her own company in 2004. As the story goes, she crafted her own products in her kitchen by consulting makeup books she bought from Amazon.com. (We hoped that one of them was Paula's Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me, but given many of the formulations, we don't think so.) Eventually she was able to hire a chemist, get a lab (Bye-bye, kitchen workshop!), and secure distribution through cosmetics retailer Sephora. theBalm's products have (pardon the pun) exploded and are now sold in dozens of countries worldwide.

It's interesting to note that theBalm is quite reminiscent of the Benefit brand; the similarity of the packaging, marketing, colors, product selection, and even the place of origin - San Francisco – is blatant. Featuring recyclable cardboard packaging with retro pinup-style artwork and cutesy names, theBalm line includes both makeup and skin care products, and is reasonably priced, although it's definitely more expensive than what you'll find at the drugstore.

The company's makeup is definitely its stronger suit, with some good options, such as a couple eyeshadow palettes, the mascara, and its pressed-powder blushes. It has one true blockbuster product: Balm Shelter tinted moisturizer. This standout product performs amazingly well and is deserving of its many accolades.

Unfortunately, theBalm also has some problematic makeup, in particular, and ironically, their lip products. The inclusion of irritants in two of its lip products is disappointing, and an otherwise excellent lip gloss (with SPF, no less) is marred by a fragrance that's downright overwhelming initially and potentially irritating if used every day.

As far as skin-care, the company's collection, called TimeBalm, is surprisingly larger than you might think. It includes cleansers, toners, moisturizers, AHA exfoliants, masks, eye-area products, and a handful of ancillary items that are questionable in terms of their benefit—though some of them, like the foundation primer, are indeed worth checking out.

Overall, based on the formulas, there’s little reason to give the majority of these skin-care products a second thought, as most of them are laced with one or more problematic ingredients or, in the case of most of the moisturizers, suffer due to jar packaging, which compromises the product’s stability. The prices are good, but there’s not much value in saving money on average-to-problematic products, especially when spending just a bit more can get you far better formulas.

theBalm boasts that TimeBalm skin-care products are free of parabens, synthetic dyes, and phthalates, and many consumers seem to be seeking such products. However, parabens are not a problem, and phthalates aren’t usually included in skin-care products—they’re more often seen in nail polish and in some fragrances. Not including synthetic dyes is helpful, but it would have been even better for your skin if theBalm had avoided fragrant oils and other plant-based irritants. Lots of theBalm products contain great natural ingredients, but they’re often commingled with potentially irritating natural ingredients, and that doesn’t add up to great skin care—it’s more of a ticking time bomb than anything else.

For more information, call 510-522-3610, or visit www.thebalm.com. And yes, we're aware that "it's thebalm.com" is an expression used to indicate something that's totally cool. Coincidence? We'll let the reviews speak for themselves!

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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Failure to deliver those 4*

I got comb skin (a slightly active Tzone) and this BB failed to deliver any of the above mentioned 4*. Once you apply it (and I've tried several methods), it goes on smooth and withing 1/2-1h it oxidises into a much darker colour (mind you I got the lightest shade though I am MAC NC20). I either peels (on my 'oily' skin areas) or just slides away leaving behind an uneven coloured skin (on my normal skin). No stars from me! Can I do that in my review?

Reviewed by
Florentina F.
Disagree with this review

This tm has broken me out into white heads. This is for oily skin! I have pretty oil skin and I've tried a few other products and none of them come close to the results as this one. I highly recommend for anyone honestly, just beware it could break you out. I used it for a good week and then I noticed white heads :( I used this product AS A MOISTURIZER NOT AS A FOUNDATION. When I find my holy grail tm I don't want a high maintenance product but it should be a nice product if you treat it as foun

Reviewed by
Pretty good TM

I bought this based on the Beautypedia review and comments, and it's a good tinted moisturizer. I bought the Lighter than Light shade - I have very fair,very dry skin with rosacea. It's definitely sheer coverage,and since my skin is very dry, I wear the PC Clinical Ultra Rich Moisturizer under it.It applies easily, and since you get 2.15 oz for $28, I'd call it a good value. I probably won't repurchase because I'd like more coverage. I'll spring for MAC Mineralize when I use this up.

Reviewed by
Susan A

I don't like this!I like the color, but it offers zero coverage, the SPF factor just isn't high enough, and it feels greasy. I knew finding an awesome tinted moisturizer for $20 was too good to be true. I won't be repurchasing, but I'll have to force myself to use it.

Reviewed by

FABULOUS in large pores/wrinkles. Gives a very subtle glow (NO shimmer), making my skin look prettier than before I put it on, which never happens with TMs for me. Slightly dewy finish. Won't highlight dry flakes I have. Good coverage for a TM (can even layer, if needed.) Leaves me with small amount of moisture in my skin throughout the day, without this sweating/running off my skin. Can EVEN use under my eyes, which is so rare for me. Can buy at Nordstrom.com or thebalm.com or my local Kohl's.

Reviewed by
truly the balm

I ordered this after Mercedes' youtube review, because she said there was a shade for very pale skin. She was right! If the Paula's Choice makeup options are too dark for you, try this. It blends like a dream, provides incredibly dreamy, light, natural coverage with SPF. I wear over Paula's Hydralight SPF 30, or alone over my toner. I have combination skin, and this provides sufficient moisture without feeling greasy or nasty at all. Oh it's so good.

Reviewed by
Francie C
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