This article originally appeared in the August 25, 2020 edition of Insider
Written by Erin Mayer
One of the main principles of sunscreen use is: reapply, reapply, reapply! “The efficacy of the SPF depends on how well you apply it. A shot glass amount for the body and about a teaspoon for the face. Reapply every 2 hours,” says Dr. Marie Hayag, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.
But anyone who wears makeup knows that smearing a lotion-style SPF on your face midday just isn’t an option unless you want to also reapply your foundation, concealer, and blush. Not the ideal way to spend a lunch hour, if you ask me.
I first discovered the Supergoop! Defense Refresh Setting Mist SPF 40 back when I worked in an office and would take afternoon walks, often in the heat of the day. I still wanted to make sure I was fully protected from UV rays, so a sunscreen spray with SPF 40 seemed like a great solution. Indeed, it quickly became a staple in my collection.
The brand reformulated the product this year and gave me the chance to try the updated version and find out if it was as good as I remembered. The reformulated version boasts a lighter texture and a better-performing spray nozzle which delivers a fine mist. Shake the bottle, spray, and you’re done. I usually pat my face lightly with fingertips after just to make sure the SPF fully absorbs into the skin.
Does Supergoop! Defense Refresh spray really protect the skin?
On the anecdotal front, I found this to be quite effective at preventing sunburn when I tested it on my face over a two-week vacation. I applied my usual lotion SPF on my face in the morning and reapplied Defense Refresh throughout the day before spending time in the sun.
Ingredients-wise, Dr. Hayag says it might not be the ideal pick for those with sensitive skin. She points to the inclusion of octinoxate, which is not reef-safe. “Also, octinoxate has been shown in animal studies to produce hormonal (estrogen like) effects.” Hayag suggests that anyone pregnant or under two years of age use mineral sunscreen instead.
It’s also important to make sure you’re applying enough when using a spray-on sunscreen. “Spray sunscreens are less effective because studies have shown that many people only apply one-quarter the amount needed.” At least six seconds of spraying each area of the body is required to get the proper sun protection.
Cons worth mentioning
Although the reformulated version has an updated scent, I still find it to be a bit strong. This is a minor con for me, as the concept is just too good to pass up, but it’s worth mentioning if you’re very sensitive to scents in your skincare. There’s also definitely a bit of a shiny finish to this that could border on greasy. You may not love it if you’re oily, but I prefer a glowy look, so it doesn’t bother me.
The main cons are the aforementioned sensitivity issues that may arise from some of the harsher ingredients, plus the fact that it is not reef-safe (though Supergoop! does have sunscreens that are). “Another thing to consider is that there are inhalation concerns with spray and powder sunscreens,” says Hayag. “If you must use a pump or spray sunscreen, lower your inhalation risk by applying it to your hands and then apply it to the face with your hands.”
I would definitely not suggest using this as your only sunscreen, but using it as a support for a more traditional lotion or gel SPF. While I didn’t experience any irritation using this, I did get one painful breakout on my chin that could’ve been a result of the sunscreen or a little too much wine on vacation.
Defense Refresh certainly isn’t the only facial sunscreen spray on the market, although it does have a higher SPF than many. Pixi Sun Mist SPF 30 is a solid drugstore option that I’ve tried, which is $18 for 2.7 ounces. On the other hand, the $40 Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Spray SPF 50+ contains hyaluronic acid for more hydration.
The bottom line
This is a solid, relatively affordable (though not drugstore-cheap!) option for a spray-on facial SPF. But if you’re super sensitive, pregnant, or have oily skin, it might not be the one for you. And if you plan on going into the ocean, you shouldn’t use this spray.