Monday, November 21, 2011

Sunscreens for acne prone skin - Obagi, Kate Somerville, Acnes and Peter Thomas Roth Uber-dry

Whoa Nelly - it has been an age, hasn't it? My sincere apologies. I've just been a bit lazzeee as well as overworked. Christmas lead up is pretty frantic at work (I'm not working over Christmas as I was super stressed and didn't end up earning much money anyhoo last year) so things are a bit all over the place.  Also, I've cut all my nails back and they are super stumpy and silly looking.  I'm even going naked nails at the moment (I know - insane right) and it isn't even bothering me much.  *shakes head in disbelief*

In keeping with my acne focus, I thought I'd do a post on some sunscreens I have in my stash. If you are acne prone you are probably using lots of products such as retinoids, AHAs, salicylic acid, peroxides etc which all makes you very sun sensitive. Despite my religious application of sunscreen (and wearing a visor when I go outside on hot days!) summer has hit Sydney and I am considerably more tan than I was in winter. Not by much, just a shade or two.

If you are acne prone you know one of the MAJOR problems is that sunscreens tend to break you out. I mean REALLY break you out.  What works for me may not work for you - please bear this in mind.  I've used loads and loads of sunscreens over the years (Neutrogena, Cancer Council, Invisible Zinc and countless others) and all of them have disappointed me.  They all make me break out.  Sad but true.

As a starter, some deets on each brand I think.

1.  Peter Thomas Roth - Uberdry
Contains 116 mls of product and costs $26 US.  I bought mine from  This is a thickish white sunscreen and feels incredibly dry on your skin.  Probably the driest formula I have ever tried.  SPF 30.
Claims to be water resistant, fragrance-free and shine free.  Suitable for all skin types.  A pretty good sunscreen in fact.

2.  ACNES sunscreen
Contains 30 grams of product and costs about $6.50 US.  Tiny tiny amount of product.  It is tinted (but is colourless on my skin!) and claims to be acne-free.  I purchased this from  It is incredibly runny and actually contains a ball bearing in the bottle - yes, like a nail polish.  I would say this is probably the oiliest of the four sunscreens in this review and is probably the worst for my skin.  SPF 50 PA++ but this doesn't last long my skin and hence offers poor sun protection for me.

3.  Obagi Nu-Derm
Contains 59 grams of product and costs $17 US.  Believe it or not, this retails for about $40-45 US so search for a special deal.  I got mine from  Expiry date is long too at 06/13!  It is a pretty good deal.  Quite thick in texture and is promoted as a physical UV block.  (18.5% zinc oxide).  Has SPF 32.  It contains micronised zinc particles.  There is some debate about whether nanonised particles are harmful for you but I stress this is micronised.  Good SPF coverage.

4.  Kate Somerville SPF 55 Serum Sunscreen
Contains 60 ml of product and costs a massive $45.  OUCH.  I got mine at Nordies but of course I've noticed that also carries this line now.  I would recommend you purchase it from there as you get free shipping (low cost international shipping) and they regularly have 20-25% off sales.  There is a sale on right now in fact.

Here is a pic of all the bottles plus a sample of each sunscreen on white paper.

Swatches added only to show you the consistency of the products.  As you can see, both Acnes and Kate Somerville are very liquid and runny.  Peter Thomas Roth and Obagi are both quite thick but easily rub into the skin.

Now, here is a little experiment I did for you.  I took another picture of the sunscreen samples after about 45 minutes.  You can see how oil free the Peter Thomas Roth product is - it is pretty good!   Acnes showing a veritable oil flow with Obagi and Kate Somerville showing some oil around the edges.

After about 1.5 hours - look at the paper!  I would say that Acnes is the oiliest with Obagi coming second.  Kate Somerville contains some oil (but not much) but there is virtually ZERO OIL coming from Peter Thomas Roth!  Amazing huh?

Before I launch into my lowdown for each sunscreen, I just wanted to show you some sunscreens I absolutely cannot use on my face.  Cetaphil is the worst offender for me - this makes me break out in huge cystic acne.  Terrifying.  It isn't cheap either (I paid about $17 AS for this at the chemist) and I now use it on my arms only.   I'm too afraid to use this on my neck!  The Shiseido product is excellent coverage (damn near perfect in terms of sun protection) but the water proof formula results in blocked pores appearing all over my forehead.  I would not call it acne as such, it looks more like milia.  I have to exfoliate like a mofo to get rid of the blocked pores and it takes a week or so to get rid of it.  Again, I use that for my neck, chest and arms.  The Banana Boat product is thick and oily.  I use this on my arms only - this leaves a white cast so anyone darker than me will have problems rubbing that into the skin!  I do like it though as it is a physical sunscreen and contains 22% zinc oxide.

In terms of sun protection and overall value, I think the clear winner is Peter Thomas Roth Uberdry.  The only thing that prevents me from using this product on my face everyday is the fact that the waterproof formula causes blocked pores and results in some minor acne and milia across my forehead.  Not a huge amount, but still enough for me to avoid it.  It is more successful in winter (I'm less sweaty then and fewer blocked pores) but in summer it is a total no no.

Acnes sunscreen is a complete joke for me.  Total oil city.  I cannot use this product at all.  It is expensive too because although you only pay about $6.50 US the amount you get is TINY.  Okay, I know it is the same size as most foundation but still - it stinks.  I would avoid this one if I were you.

I think Obagi is okay, but I won't repurchase that.  It is a good sunscreen and I don't tan (or tan much at least) with this but I feel the formula is quite thick and I still get blocked pores with this.  I don't think it is really worth $17 much less $40.  I may repurchase this if it was about $15 and easy to buy.

For me the best sunscreen is the Kate Somerville Serum Sunscreen.  I don't want to like it the most, but it is the best for me in terms of non-acne inducing.  I don't break out with this.  I do get a few blocked pores, but nowhere near as much as I do with the other brands. The down side to this is the fact that it is UBER expensive ($45) and it doesn't offer as much in terms of coverage.  The formula is thinner than the rest and I do tan more using this as my base sunscreen.  I tan less using Obagi and Peter Thomas Roth.  However, since I also use foundations with some SPF in it, I feel that overall it is worth it because it doesn't break me out.

If you have recommendations for me - let me know.

The best thing about having all these sunscreens is the fact that I can still use them!  I just use them on my arms, neck and chest.  No wastage (or not as much anyway!)

Cheers for now


KarenD said...

Hmm, I might have to check out that PTR if this new non-SPF moisturizer I'm trying works out. I've been using some sport stuff (Neutrogena maybe?) but it feels a little too slick to me.

Kiki Chaos said...

This is a great review. Thanks for the paper test - that's so helpful. It really helps to see exactly how much oil is in these. I would like to try the Kate Somerville one now.

BV said...

Hi Karen

Try the PTR one - it is pretty good but warning - it is a bit thicker in texture than Neutrogena but thankfully more dry.

Hi Kiki

Kate Somerville is a great sunscreen but I keep worrying that it isn't thick enough to protect me in harsh Aus weather. I feel like I need more somehow... I am not sure if I will repurchase.



About Me

My Photo
Harsh but fair. NC 25-30 with problem oily skin. Fighting both pimples and wrinkles is a TOUGH job. I hope my reviews help. Still looking for the "perfect" beauty products for me. Unfortunately for me but fortunately for the beauty industry, this quest is unlikely to be over soon.