Facial Sunscreen vs SPF Moisturizer

I used to think that as long as I was not going to be in the sun all day, I didn’t need to wear sunscreen. A few years ago, I was talking to a fellow teacher about this, and she said ‘What? I wear sunscreen even if I’m just teaching in class all day. Sun comes in through the windows!”

Since then, my rule of thumb for myself is even if I’m mostly going to be indoors, I still use something with at least SPF 15 all over my face.

However, recently, I started to feel like the sun + age is getting to my skin and I’m developing freckles/age spots/pigmentation faster than I used to. This is also the reason why I recently got freckle/spots laser removal (which I still have to blog about!).

Nowadays, if I’m going to be out in the sun for more than 15 minutes, I wear at least 30+ SPF.

These are my own preferences. You can find out the recommended times and more information about sun protection here.



SPF Moisturizer vs Sunscreen

1. Neutrogena Intensified Day Moisture SPF 15 FPS
2. Clarins UV Plus HP Multi-Protection SPF 40 UVA-UVB/PA+++/Oil-free/Anti-pollution Day Screen High Proection (regular & tinted; I am reviewing the tinted one).

Please remember that one is a moisturizer with SPF and the other an actual sunscreen. While I will be reviewing them side-by-side, that does not mean they are the same kind of product.

SPF Moisturizer
– moisturizing function
– additional SPF function to avoid an extra step (sunscreen) in your skincare
– requires more product usage to moisturize entire face (compared to how much sunscreen you have to use for full protection)
– SPF function is often weak or not up to par with actual sunscreen protection

– full sunscreen protection (often with extra functions: waterproof, UVA, etc)
– requires very little product for full protection
– can sometimes be used as a makeup base (as is the Clarins tinted sunscreen I am reviewing)
– no moisturizing function
– often oily, sticky, and/or leaves a white tint
– adds an extra step in your skincare (may be a problem for those with sensitive or acne prone skin, or just plain troublesome for the lazy)



Oil Test

For more detailed test results on how regular paper and oil blotting paper absorbs water and oil, see my Foundation + BB Cream Collection & Review post.


Let’s see how much oil the two products contain.

facial sunscreen review, Clarins UV plus SPF 40, Neutrogena Intensified Day Moisture SPF 15 FPS

Most Oil: Clarins Day Screen
No Oil: Neutrogena SPF Day Moisturizer

Personal Thoughts:
I was really surprised the SPF moisturizer had absolutely no oil in it at all. It’s really difficult to find a skin product that is truly oil-free, and this makes Neutrogena a keeper for me.

Clarins Day Screen claims to be oil-free, but the obvious amount of oil on both the oil blotting paper and regular paper shows that it is not.



Stickiness Test

I cut out 30 pieces of small thin square kleenex paper, press them firmly onto the back of my hand with the same amount of product I would put on my face, then gently turn my hand over. The more that sticks to my hand, the stickier the product. I do this at least 2-3 times and record the results most reflective of the overall average (ex: if out of three tries, there are 2, 7, and 4 pieces left, I will record the result with 4 pieces).


facial sunscreen review, Clarins UV plus SPF 40, Neutrogena Intensified Day Moisture SPF 15 FPS

Most Sticky: Neutrogena SPF Moisturizer
Least Sticky: Clarins Day Screen

Personal Thoughts:
At first, I was disappointed at how sticky the moisturizer was, especially after it fared so well in the oil test. However, I realized afterwards that because this is an actual moisturizer, I shouldn’t be too surprised that it is more sticky than the sunscreen. Personally, I would rather use something that is more sticky with less oil.

However, for those who are more concerned that their face remain unsticky, Clarins may be a good option for you. Of the few facial sunscreens I’ve tried, Clarins is still the least sticky and heavy.



Individual Reviews

I have combination skin (dry cheeks and oily T-zone) and reside in Korea, with hot and humid summers and cold snowy winters. Please remember that products may not necessarily work in the same way for me as they do you.


SPF moisturizer review, Neutrogena Intensified Day Moisture SPF 15 FPS

1. Neutrogena Intensified Day Moisture SPF 15 FPS, $11-12 USD, 60mL, Made in U.S.A, purchased at a local drugstore

SPF moisturizer review, Neutrogena Intensified Day Moisture SPF 15 FPS

SPF moisturizer review, Neutrogena Intensified Day Moisture SPF 15 FPS

Stickiness Test: high
Oil Test: no oil
Fragrance: very faint (0.5/5)
– low price
– absolutely no oil
– 4+ hr lasting moisture
– fragrance free
– SPF 15 protection
– a bit heavy for hot and humid summer weathers
– SPF too low for extended outdoor protection

Package Label & Instructions:
Neutrogena Intensified Day Moisture SPF 15 is clinically proven to combine long-lasting moisturization for dry skin with effective sun protection for softer, smoother, younger-looking skin. Directions: Apply all over face and neck before exposure to sun. Use daily, alone, or under makeup.

Personal Thoughts:
Neutrogena generally claims that their products are dermatologist-tested. Their packaging, products, and my personal experiences makes me feel they are more of a practical and down-to-earth rather than a prestigious and trendy kind of brand, which gives me confidence in the effectiveness and quality of their products.

I rated this product’s fragrance as ‘very faint’ because there is a slight smell to it, but it’s not fragrance. I recognize the smell as more like what prescription creams smell like — so it’s probably the chemicals/drugs in the product, and not added fragrance. This is a definite plus because I personally dislike fragranced products because I think the less funky stuff on my face, the better.

It is moisturizing enough for my dry cheeks, but not too heavy or sticky on my oily T-zone. For those with combination skin like me, you can apply it first on your cheeks and spread it out to your T-zone. It feels a bit heavy sometimes in the summer for my combination skin in the hot Korean weather, but works for me as a great fall/winter moisturizer.

After applying this moisturizer, even after one hour, when I press the palm of my hands to my cheeks, it still feels plump and hydrated. However, this doesn’t last for more than 4+ hours. It claims to be for dry skin, but sometimes in the winter or when my skin is particularly dry, I sometimes feel like it’s not enough. Those with extremely dry skin may not find they need something more hydrating.

This product has not broken me out for the 3-4 years I’ve been using it. It does not promote extra oil, but you can see the area with the product on the back of my hand is shinier than where there is no product. However, this is very minimal and barely noticeable on my face. It is not a mattifying product and does not provide oil control.

Overall, I like this product and will likely continue using it (or bumming off my mom’s stock). It is also very reasonably priced, for just $12 USD a jar.



sunscreen review, Clarins UV plus SPF 40sunscreen review, Clarins UV plus SPF 40
left: old formula; right: new formula (regular & tinted)
SPF moisturizer review, Clarins UV plus SPF 40

2. Clarins UV Plus HP Multi-Protection SPF 40 UVA-UVB/PA+++/Oil-free/Anti-pollution Day Screen High Proection (regular & tinted); $38 USD 50mL/1.7 oz; Made in France

Note: I am reviewing a sample size of the newest and tinted formula. The old formula comes in a different packaging and does not have the boasted cantaloupe melon extract. The new formula comes in a regular white, and a pink tinted color (which seems to be harder to find). It also comes in two sizes, 30mL/1oz and 50mL/1.7 oz.


sunscreen review, Clarins UV plus SPF 40

sunscreen review, Clarins UV plus SPF 40

Stickiness Test: low
Oil Test: oily
Fragrance: light (2/5)
– high SPF facial coverage
– does not feel heavy or sticky on face
– does not promote too much extra oil or shine
– long lasting waterproof sun protection
– blends easily in liquid form
– pink tinted version can serve as a makeup base instead of a primer
– contains oil (though it claims to be oil free)
– pricey

Product Functions
Triple protection against sun, pollution and daily stresses, so you can face the day without a care.
– Triple Protection against UVA/UVB Rays, Pollution & Free Radicals
– SPF 40, Non-Chemical, 100% mineral filters day screen
– Ultra lightweight, oil-free formula that easily blends into the skin
– Key Ingredients: Cantaloupe Melon Extract – contains an exceptional concentration of super oxide dismutase, an antioxidative enzyme that neutralizes the harmful effects of free radicals on skin.
– 100% Mineral UVA/UVB Filters – Guarantees high protection while respecting the skin
Plant Polymers – create an invisible “veil” on the skin, letting it breathe without leaving white traces

Personal Thoughts:
I was actually ready to purchase the full size of this product. I was looking for a summer facial sunscreen that 1) did not feel heavy on my face, 2) did not promote excess oil or shine, 3) did not leave a white cast, 4) offered a high enough SPF for outdoor summer protection.

This sunscreen did all of the above and more — it had a pink tint and blended out very smoothly to function as a makeup base. It also claimed to be oil-free and anti-pollution with UVA protection on the product label.

The new formula of this product contains a cantaloupe extract with anti-aging effects and a 100% mineral screen for UVA/UVB. It does not leave the skin feeling sticky.

I also found out after coming out of the shower, the shine of this product remained on my left hand (I obviously don’t wash the back of my hand with soap in the shower T_T) whereas the shine from the Neutrogena SPF moisturizer was totally gone from my right hand. This indicates that it may actually be waterproof (although it doesn’t claim it). Great!

However, after finding out that it does in fact contain oil, and the high price, I am unlikely to purchase the full sized product.


In conclusion, I’m probably going to keep using my Neutrogena SPF Moisturizer for indoor days, finish my Clarins Sunscreen sample, then look for something else (or live off of another sunscreen sample that’s likely to come my way next summer =p).

Actually, a friend of mine recommended Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily UV Defense SPF 50. She always has really good product recommendations and said her mom is a sunscreen mania and has tried practically all sunscreens from high to low end and recommends this one for those 4 criterias I was looking for. The only reason I haven’t bought it is because it’s very pricey ($34 USD for 30mL/1oz).

sunscreen review


What sunscreen or SPF moisturizer do you use, and what do you find worthy of repurchase?



(Finished! I intended a short review but they always end up so long! T_T Do you guys prefer shorter reviews or like these detailed ones? I got a lot of positive feedback for the Foundation + BB Cream Collection & Review, so I thought I’d do this one in a similar style.)

16 Responses to “Facial Sunscreen vs SPF Moisturizer”

  1. Nice written Sharon!!!! =D I prefer a to-the-point review, rather than a very detailed one! =) Maybe you can give the products a rating, in e.g. 0-5 stars! Just like in the magazines haha! Even more to the point =)

    I didn’t knew (daily) sunscreen was that important! O__o I might purchase the Shiseido sunprotection (the blue one)! My sister says its the best one in HK!
    And I hope to read your freckels removal blog soon!! Cause I reaaaally need one, and my mom did hers last year, but…… I don’t know if it’s the age……… But her wounds didn’t heal very quickly and I can still see some veeeeeery light freckle spots… =(

    Miss you! xx

    • Haha, thanks Mandy~! Okay then, I will try to alternate between review types — to-the-point and detailed. I also just think I talk a lot and am meticulous to details, which is why I often write longer posts than I originally intend T_T

      I saw the Shiseido blue package sunscreen as I was looking up sunscreen, listed as one of the best top 5 sunscreen by some magazine! Tell me if you end up liking it more not ^^

      I actually wrote up all the freckle spot removal post just now! haha. I just gotta edit the pictures and I can post it pretty soon~ ^^

      miss you too~~ wish we couldve met up in HK T_T you going back anytime soon?

      • Soo.. I endend up buying something else! =P Since the shisheido one is actually kinda pricey.. (30€) I bougth the Clinique City Sun Blocker SPF25 instead! And it’s was only 18€! =) I like it so far!! =) It says oil-free, but if you sqeeze the tube, you’ll see transparent fluid coming out, I assume it;s oil =P But after i put it on my face, it doesnt shine as i thought it would be!! =D And it’s slighlty tinted, so i’m not sure if it’s suitable for those with lighter skintone?!

        I might go to HK next summer!! Well actually, I have a hectic planning.. :P I’ve got an intern till feb/mar and then my plan is to go to Shanghai for an half year to learn/improve my mando! Hahha, seriously, my mando… oh la la… :P And if I have time left (before my uni starts in sept) then a short trip to HK! But nothing is sure yet.. except my intern :P


        • I also use the Clinique City Sun Blocker but the SPF40+ one that’s only available in a few countries. It’s really good because it has a tint in it so I use it for foundation as well. I do find that if you lightly scratch the surface of your skin though (even after a few hours) you can see it come off, so it rubs off onto clothes which is not so cool.

          Anyway, thanks for linking to my sunblock vs sunscreen post!

          • Oh, hi! Thank you for stopping by. You wrote a really great article — simple and easy to understand ^^

            I read some reviews on the SPF 25 and 40 and the reviews were really mixed. What other sun protection products have you tried and found good besides this one and would recommend for combination skin?

        • Hey Mandy~!

          Okay so I looked up the sunblock you mentioned on makeupalley.com and the reviews aren’t good enough for me to purchase it T_T I am really kinda looking to buy something new to try though cuz my little sample isn’t going to last me. Some either really like it, or some say it’s too oily/runny (sort of like the transparent fluid you said it has). But you and Lauren, another commenter here, both seem to like that sunblock line T_T

          Oh, you are going in the summer? Which months? August? I usually try to avoid HK in the summer because of the crazy heat (not that Korea is really much better though). Shanghai! haha don’t worry my mando sucks like heck too even though I took it at UBC (which was how I met Joyce).

          Well whenever we go to HK we should drop each other a line!

  2. I actually read like half of the whole post cuz my eyes were tired -.- LOL but I like it :D not bcuz I just read half doesn’t mean I’m..whatever. Anyways, I’m using Neutrogena too! but I’m using the oil-free moisture combination skin thing. http://www.neutrogena.com/product/oil-free+moisture+-+combination+skin.do?sortby=ourPicks
    but I might try that reasonably $12 priced up there kk. It sounds really good from onni’s perspective ^^. and for the Sunscreen I dunno where to buy that but I’m using this http://www.neutrogena.com/product/pure+-+free-+baby+sunblock+lotion+spf+60.do?sortby=ourPicks. well, I don’t really know the difference between sunblock and sunscreen but still. hehe just sharing :)) I mostly use Neutrogena/Clinique products cuz of my mommy ==; lol but I can say that it is a good product… I still want make up and bb though T^T lolz i dunno how to end this so that’s it byeee and i liked this! made a bloglovin too to get the latest updates =) kk

    • haha it’s okay michelle! I think i wrote way too much too. I really gotta try to write less next time!

      Omg! I have something like that exact oil-free one (though the colors of box look a bit diff). I bought it cuz I like the Neutrogena brand so much, but it was waaaaaay too dry for me. It made my face feel so tight.

      The sunblock you use looks good too. I also use a Neutrogena body sunscreen for KIDS. haha. yours is for BABY =p

      I found a REALLY good article about sunscreen and sunblock and sun protection in general:

      • LOL meaniee! you were like, ‘ haha. yours is for BABY =P’ wow onni u really needed to capitalize BABY. aigooo~ haha yay! we’re the same :D ….(after 5 mins) I checked out the article it really has a lot of good information provided :) well I didn’t buy the sunblock..(my mommy did ==;) kk. Let’s fight the sun’s..UV rays with Sunblock and/or Sunscreen lol.

        • Haha, but compared to me, Michelle, you are baby! =p But I know you young ones don’t like to be called that, but you will appreciate it once you get older T_T

  3. Hi luv:
    Although I don’t read every single word, I still prefer detailed review ’cause you’ll never know.. I may go back for some info.

    Anywayz, you don’t use body sunscreen?
    I don’t know how important it is to use a specific sunscreen for the face only but I swear by La Roche-Posay 60SPF High Protection/UVA-UVB Cream (for both my face and my body).

    I used it during my backpacking trip. It’s not oily or sticky after applying, thus that’s a big plus; i felt nothing after I put it on.

    • I think I need to find a middle ground. Informative but not too long.

      I looked up the La Roche Posay SPF 60 you mentioned and it scores a lot better in reviews than the Clinique ones the girls are mentioning but there are still ppl saying it can be oily — but the overall rating is still pretty good so I would consider this! However I also know you have really different skin from me. I think you are more dry skin? and I’m combination.

      You should let me try it out if I ever get another chance to come over!

  4. I really appreciate the details you give on each post! I was wondering, since you’ve tried quiet a number of products before, if you have any recommendations for those who have oily skin (like me T_T) to use in a country that’s all sun and is humid all year round? I remember when I went to the beach, my mom would rub Lancome’s something something spf50 all over me, so I guess that’s the one one I’ve tried before? I don’t use make up and those around me don’t, so it’s really hard for me to choose a product since I know nothing about them. >_<
    okay it's late bye~

    • I’ve actually only tried about 4 different sunscreens and didn’t really like any of them enough to buy again, so I’m still on the search for the perfect one myself. If I find something I really like, I will definitely post it up.

      The next sunscreen I might buy is the ‘Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily UV Defense SPF 50′ I mentioned. I’m not totally sure yet cuz I gotta give it a try in store first.

      Meanwhile, you could check out some general sunscreen reviews. I listed it in order of ‘number of reviews’ so you can see what ppl are buying the most and what they rate it. That’s how I usually decide what to and not to buy! Hope this will help you at least a bit ^^


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