EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 Review: The American Unicorn

by | Last updated Apr 18, 2020 | Anti-Aging, Reviews | 48 comments

Our skincare brand is live!

After five years of writing research articles on Simple Skincare Science, we have developed our own products based on the content written around this site. To place an order simply go to Malezia.com, or follow us on instagram for updates!  We hope you have a great day 🙂

I’ve been getting several requests to discuss sunscreen on this blog so what the heck, why not? But before we start, I have to get something off my chest: I’m not a big fan of sunscreen.

I’M SORRY! Let me try and explain myself before you leave.

eltamd uv clear spf 46

See price on Amazon
Look, I understand how important sunscreen is. I understand it’s the single-most important thing you can do to prevent aging. I understand that I should be diligently wearing it every day. And I understand that the older me will thank me a million times over for doing so. But I simply hate the way most of them feel on the skin or make me look.

Yes, I know that Asian sunscreens are a million times better aesthetically (I will review these in the future), but today we’ll be focusing on one of the only American sunscreens I have found good enough to actually repurchase a few times: the EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46.

What Makes a Good Sunscreen?

When we discuss sunscreen, there are two things you should be looking for:

1. Sun protection. Duh.

But seriously, this should come first and foremost. The problem is, the majority of sunscreens out on the market today don’t provide an adequate amount of coverage (at least the American ones). This has to do with the way sun protection ratings work in the U.S.

Rather than the PPD system seen in many Asian countries, America uses the SPF system. If you don’t know the difference between the two. Here’s a quick recap.

  • SPF = sun protection factor. This measures the protection against UVB rays.
  • PPD = persistent pigment darkening. This measures the protection against UVA rays.

Why is this important?

Because UVB rays are what cause burning, and UVA rays are what cause aging. It’s very simple to remember  — just think UVfor burning, and UVA for aging.

With that said, the primary focus of daily sunscreen use should be UVA protection… At least if you want to age gracefully like those Russian grandmas. Which, I’m assuming is why you’re reading this review in the first place!

UVB protection is better suited for days out on the beach, long hikes, and uh… preventing skin cancer because it protects against sunburn.

Ideally, you want your sunscreen to have a good mix of both. However, the sad truth is that American sunscreens don’t focus nearly enough on UVA protection. They usually have good SPF ratings, but subpar or terrible PPD ratings.

2. The Aesthetics.

It’s no secret that when a sunscreen does provide adequate coverage it often ends up being goopy and gross, leaving the nastiest tacky feeling behind on the skin. Something, I am personally not a fan of in the slightest.

So really, the struggle comes down to this: finding a sunscreen that provides adequate protection against UVA and UVB rays, without completely feeling like someone rubbed thick dog poop all over your face.

Luckily, the EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 does really well on both these fronts! Hence, why I call it the “American Unicorn.” XD (In other words, it’s rare that a U.S. sunscreen accomplishes both.)

It leaves behind a minimal white cast (more about this in a bit), and has a PA+++ rating!

In case you didn’t know, a quadruple + is the highest possible rating on the PPD scale. Not to mention, it also has an SPF factor of 46! You can see why I’m a fan of this sunscreen. In short, it has very good protection against UVA and UVB rays and doesn’t feel ridiculous on the skin.

Alrighty, now let’s look at this formula’s ingredient list which take this puppy to the next level.

Ingredients and Benefits.

eltamd uv clear spf 46 ingredients

Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide (9%), Octinoxate (7.5%)

Purified Water, Cyclomethicone, Niacinamide, Octyldodecyl Neopentanoate, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Polyisobutene, PEG-7 Trimethylolpropane Coconut Ether, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Lactic Acid, Oleth-3 Phosphate, Phenoxyethanol, Butylene Glycol, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Triethoxycaprylylsilane.

  • Zinc Oxide

An inorganic compound and physical sunblock with strong photoprotective properties against UVA rays. (1) It’s considered a “broad-spectrum” ingredient because it blocks and absorbs both UVA and UVB rays. Its mechanisms of action are technically more complicated than that, but the analogy works for our purposes.

Zinc oxide is photostable, well tolerated across many skin types, unlikely to cause irritation, and a good option for rosacea-prone or sensitive skin.

Interestingly enough, it’s also an effective treatment for diaper rash (haha) and may help hailey-hailey disease (extreme blister-like rashes). (2, 3)

  • Octinoxate

The second sun protective ingredient in this formula. This one primarily absorbs UVB rays, but does provide a little protection against UVA rays as well. It isn’t as photostable as zinc oxide, meaning it will degrade overtime if exposed to excessive sunlight.

There is some concern about the safety of Octinoxate because it can be absorbed into the skin. Many researchers including the experts over at Paula’s choice disagree with this assessment entirely, asserting that decades of scientific evidence suggest otherwise. (4)

However, there is one major caveat with Octinoxate: it’s not environmentally friendly. Research conducted by the Environmental Health Perspectives, has shown Octinoxate unfortunately poses a threat to coral reefs through bleaching. (5)

So if you do decide to buy this, just please keep the environment in mind and don’t use it on days you plan on swimming in the ocean.

  • Niacinamide

A.k.a vitamin B3, an antioxidant and all-star ingredient that brightens skin tone, treats hyperpigmentation, increases collagen production, has anti-inflammatory properties, and is more effective than antibiotics in treating acne. It’s one of my absolute favorite ingredients because of how gentle it is and the numerous benefits it provides.

It makes up 5% of this product, and in my opinion takes it to next level because it works synergistically with the sunscreen to treat skin discoloration and combat aging.

  • Sodium Hyaluronate

Also known as hyaluronic acid. A very powerful humectant that’s capable of holding 1000 times its water weight. It gives a “plumping effect” and hydrates the skin by binding water to its surface which it draws from the environment and dermis (deeper layer of skin). Research has also shown it significantly speeds up wound healing.

  • Tocopheryl Acetate

Better known as vitamin E. This also works synergistically with the sunscreen actives in this formula by providing photoprotection and protecting against oxidative stress. There’s also evidence that vitamin E suppresses tyrosinase, an enzyme that makes melanin go haywire and worsens skin discoloration issues like hyperpigmentation.

Application, Feel, and Scent.

And last but not least, the application test. This makes or breaks a sunscreen in my opinion. Let’s see how it does.

eltamd uv clear spf 46 white casteltamd uv clear spf 46 spread testeltamd uv clear spf 46 dried on skin

As you can see, it goes on very white initially. It glides and spreads super easily which is nice. Like most physical sunscreens, it takes a little while to fully rub in, but once it does it leaves behind no tacky feeling (a major plus). It’s hard to tell from the third photo, but it does have a minimal white cast once it’s dried.

If you have pale skin this won’t be a problem. However, people of color may find it’s not as cosmetically elegant as they would hope.

It’s pretty lightweight and provides just a tad of hydration. If you have dry skin, this probably won’t be enough. I think it’s best suited for those with normal to oily skin.

To this day, this is one of the only sunscreens that hasn’t made my ridiculously sensitive and acne-prone skin break out. EltaMD UV Clear actually markets this sunscreen for those that are breakout-prone, and I couldn’t agree anymore with that assessment.

As far as the scent goes, it smells like rubber floaties. You know, the kind you use to wear before you knew how to swim? I actually don’t mind it at all. It kind of reminds me of childhood to be honest…. And all the times I NEARLY DROWNED!

Just kidding… sort of.


  • Ingredients: 5/5

Includes both physical and chemical sunscreen (zinc oxide, octinoxate), in addition to hyaluronic acid and other antioxidants like 5% niacinamide and vitamin E, which makes it an especially good sunscreen for combatting hyperpigmentation and brightening skin tone.

  • Benefits: 5/5

Phenomenal for anti-aging and sunburn prevention. It has an SPF of 46, and the highest PPD rating possible (PA+++) meaning it provides great protection against both UVB and UVA rays. A rarity for American sunscreens.

  • Application: 3/5

Spreads easily, adds a little hydration, and has no tacky feeling once it’s dried. It does however leave behind a minimal white cast which could be problematic for darker skin tones. Best for normal, oily, combination, or acne-prone skin.

  • Packaging: 5/5

Excellent packaging. It comes in bottle with a pump dispenser and a cap.

  • Value: 5/5

Great price, and very affordable for the impressive formula.

Overall: 4.6/5 (Recommend!)

eltamd uv clear spf 46

Check on Amazon

A solid sunscreen with amazing photoprotection, and like I mentioned in the beginning of this blog post — is one of the only American sunscreens I’ve enjoyed enough to repurchase, and surprisingly hasn’t made my ridiculously sensitive acne-prone skin breakout.

Welp, that does it for this review! Hope you’ve enjoyed it. 🙂



Tell the world about the American unicorn!