New Kiehl’s sunscreens: The Aqua Gel and Activated Sun Protector for face & body

I’m really not a fan of Philippine summer heat (although I love a tan) because of the damage and discomfort that it brings to our skin. Although I love find and applying sunscreen for my face, I usually neglect my body. There are even days where I skip sunscreen - I know, burn me at the stake!

Enter my new summer companions: Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily UV Defense and Kiehl’s Activated Sun Protector. I got to try both of them for two weeks and am happy to say they both make it to my roster of daily dependables! Here’s how they fared:

Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Aqua Gel, SPF50 PA++++

The Aqua Gel is a physical sunscreen (active ingredients include Ethylhexyl triazone, Diethylamino hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate, bemotrizinol, drometrizole trisiloxane, titanium dioxide) that provides both UVA and UVB protection. Kiehl’s claims that the SPF50 PA++++ protects the skin from the sun for “up to 8 hours without direct sun exposure”. Formulated with vitamin E (Tocopherol, 8th from top in the ingredients list), it’s supposed to protect from ‘environmental aggressors’ aka pollution, as well.

The first thing I noticed while blending the Aqua Gel is that it feels weightless. The white gel dissipates completely into the skin after a couple of seconds of blending. It feels slightly tacky at the beginning, but is then completely absorbed and smooth (like naked skin) after a minute. If you’re in a hurry, you can also go straight to applying foundation as the initial tackiness never disturbs the makeup texture.

On most days I can skip moisturizer and primer (although I have normal skin nowadays and get oily on the t-zone after a couple of hours) as the Aqua Gel delivers a very slight sheen. It’s not as nourishing as my favorite Banila Co. Hello Sunny Hydrating Essence, but I can definitely say that it makes it to my daily roster. It’s more portable, too.

Can you see the Aqua Gel blended on my face?

Can you see the Aqua Gel blended on my face?

Although the second ingredient is denatured alcohol, I was surprised to find that it wasn’t drying, nor did it emphasize dry patches (although my skin is normal, I shave my ‘stache that grows daily, thanks to hirsutism), unlike the ever popular Biore sunscreens that I’ve had to stop using. My personal stance is that if I have the luxury to try a formula, the way it works matters more than if there’s an ingredient I don’t like. Still, if you’re avoiding alcohol in your skincare, take note.

The good thing about its texture is that it allows you to really slather it on to adhere to the recommended sunscreen application. Since it’s so light, it’s easy to reapply throughout the day as well. Still, Kiehl’s recommends the Activated Sun Protector for direct sunlight exposure (like beach days and other outdoor activities), while the Aqua Gel is more for daily activities that entail minimal sun exposure, like your everyday commute.

I do find the Aqua Gel effective in protecting my face from the sun. So much so that my face is now lighter than my neck since I religiously apply everyday. Yes, I am dumb enough to forget my neck. Congrats, Sam!

The one gripe I have is the price. I don’t usually shy away from the more expensive sunscreens since I’m incredibly picky about textures, but P2,100 for 30ml (and P3,100 for 60ml) makes it a luxury. It would be an insta-cop for me if the price was for at least 60ml, as my other favorite is the MAC Lightful C + Coral Grass SPF for about the same price but at 50ml.

Activated Sun Protector for Face and Body SPF50 PA++++

The Activated Sun Protector is the formula you need for when you will be exposed to the sun directly. The Sun Protector is formulated with Mexoryl SX and Mexoryl XL, which are organic compounds added to sunscreens to help filter out UVA rays, but with an added bonus of photostability. This is an important addition because if a product is not stable when exposed to sunlight, it decreases the efficacy of the product and reapplication is a must. The Sun Protector’s stability makes it great for activities that result in lots of sweating and exposure to water. Again, it offers protection against UVA and UVB rays.

I am generally skeptical of body sunscreens since most formulas leave me feeling like an oil slick, so I was happy to discover that that Sun Protector is a non-greasy formula with no white cast! I was initially scared to also put this on my face since it feels denser than the Aqua Gel but found that it created a smooth canvas. There’s no gross texture of body sunscreens here, it encourages blending an ample amount on both face and body.

Swatches, from left: Sun Protector, Aqua Gel, with the Sun Protector blended on the forearm

Swatches, from left: Sun Protector, Aqua Gel, with the Sun Protector blended on the forearm

Kiehls Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Aqua Gel SPF 50 Label.jpg

Sun Protector feels like a regular moisturizer but is easier to blend when massaged in immediately. You can still blend it in to invisible after a few seconds, but it’s better to work in sections (as opposed to dotting everywhere and blending).

As a true test for a makeup girl, I buffed in powder foundation over the sunscreen and was surprised to find no gooping and caking. Hooray! For the body I suggest waiting like 5 minutes before going out or doing anything so that you can enjoy the Sun Protector’s matte-ness and allow it to set. I once made the mistake of going immediately into an extremely hot car, and well, you know the rest.

The P2,100 for 150ml is more reasonable, especially since you can slather on the Sun Protector without worrying about the texture and photosensitivity.

Overall, I really liked both formulas and will use the Aqua Gel for school and errand days, while the Sun Protector is making it to my weekly travel kit and definitely my beach bag.The Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Aqua Gel will be available in Kiehl’s stores starting April 15.

What are your standards for sunscreen formulas? Would you pay more for sunscreens? Let’s discuss.