Cetaphil has a great reputation as a maker of some of the world’s most beloved moisturizers. Their moisturizing lotion is a favorite around here, so I was excited to hear that they introduced a mineral liquid facial sunscreen. SPF 50, water-resistant, and fragrance-free? Yes, yes, and yes. And it’s entirely based on zinc oxide, which is the FDA-approved sunscreen ingredient that is best for sensitive skin, according to my dad. But wait a minute—it’s a mineral sunscreen, so will it leave you looking like a ghost? The short answer is, a little, but it’s not too bad compared to other zinc oxide-based sunscreens.
Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Face Liquid Sunscreen SPF 50 ingredients
Active ingredients: zinc oxide (12%)
Inactive ingredients: allantoin, bisabolol, butyloctyl salicylate, c12-15 alkyl benzoate, caprylyl glycol, caprylyl methicone , dimethicone, dimethiconol/propylsilsesquioxane/silicate crosspolymer, ethylhexylglycerin, hexylene glycol, isododecane, lauryl peg-10 tris(trimethylsiloxy)silylethyl dimethicone, lauryl peg-8 dimethicone, niacinamide, octyldodecyl neopentanoate , peg-10, phenoxyethanol , polymethylsilsesquioxane, propanediol, sodium chloride, sodium hydroxide, tetrasodium glutamate diacetate, tocopherol, trilaureth-4 phosphate, water
My Dad the Chemist’s review of Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Face Liquid Sunscreen SPF 50
I was surprised to see that this sunscreen claimed that it was “microbiome gentle,” so I asked my dad about it. Here’s what he said…
Dear Emily, this means being gentle to the microbiome starts with being gentle to the sensitive skin. I like the formula, the active ingredient and many nice inactive ingredients, contains SPF booster and water resistance ingredients although they’re not in the correct order of listing .
SPF boosters: dimethiconol/propylsilsesquioxane/silicate crosspolymer, lauryl peg-10 tris(trimethylsiloxy)silylethyl dimethicone, butyloctyl salicylate
For water resistance: butyloctyl salicylate, c12-15 alkyl benzoate, caprylyl methicone, dimethicone, lauryl peg-8 dimethicone, octyldodecyl neopentanoate, polymethylsilsesquioxane
Moisturizers: caprylyl glycol, ethylhexylglycerin, hexylene glycol, niacinamide and all the above water resistance ingredients above.
Allantoin, bisabolol are anti-irritants. Tocopherol (vitamin e), caprylyl glycol and bisabolol also proven to help boost SPF on sunscreens too.
My dad broke it down pretty nicely here, and he’s right that they probably didn’t list the ingredients in the correct order. According to the FDA, cosmetics are supposed to list ingredients in descending order of concentration, aside from those that are included at <1 percent concentration. Any ingredients at >1 percent must be listed in descending order of concentration. Considering how watery this formula is, I suspect that it should have gone first in the list instead of last. The ingredients are listed in alphabetical order, which doesn’t give us much insight into the amount of each one included.
He also confirmed that “microbiome gentle” just means that it’s suitable for sensitive skin. I don’t know if I’m necessarily advanced enough to be concerned about my skin’s microbiome—I’m happy as long as it doesn’t include unnecessary fragrances or dyes.
Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Face Liquid Sunscreen SPF 50
Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Face Liquid Sunscreen is a welcome addition to the zinc oxide sunscreen market. The most unique thing about it is that it’s actually quite liquid, as its name implies. It’s packaged in a plastic tube with a tiny marble inside to help distribute the product, kind of like those protein shaker bottles.
It’s packaged with a pretty precise dispenser, so it’s easy to control how much comes out even though it’s very runny. I like that it goes on very smoothly and that it distributes evenly across your skin. It also doubles as a moisturizer for anyone who has oily skin, like me. If you don’t have oily skin, it might not be moisturizing enough for you. As my dad mentioned, it has moisturizing ingredients like caprylyl glycol, ethylhexylglycerin, hexylene glycol, and niacinamide. I didn’t realize that water resistance ingredients also doubled as moisturizers, so any time you buy a water-resistant sunscreen, you’re probably getting a double duty moisturizer as well. Score.
It’s also pretty interesting that Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Face Liquid Sunscreen also includes soothing ingredients like allantoin and bisabolol in its formula. Cetaphil Hydrating Eye Gel also includes bisabolol and niacinamide, so it seems like the company is a fan of these ingredients.
Of course, this product isn’t perfect. Like all zinc oxide-based sunscreens, it leaves a slight cast (see above). Even though the consistency of this one is not as thick as other physical sunscreens, it still definitely leaves you looking slightly paler, and not just paler, but noticeably whiter from the bits of zinc that will never blend into anyone’s skin unless they are actually a ghost. That shade of white will just never blend in completely—it always sort of looks like you just ate a powdered sugar doughnut. I don’t personally mind, as long as the sunscreen doesn’t get into my eyes when I’m running/sweating (and this one does not, yay!). However, if you have a darker skin tone it might not be a great choice unless you apply makeup on top.
Hopefully Cetaphil will release a tinted version of this sunscreen so that it will go on a bit less chalky. But in the meantime, I’m pretty satisfied with the ingredients they included in the formula. I recommend trying it out if you’re looking for a mineral facial sunscreen from a trusted brand—plus, it’s available at a pretty reasonable price.