Outdoors Sunscreen Review & Comparison: Menturm Sun Bears Strong Super Plus SPF 50+ PA++++ vs Skinceuticals Sport UV Defense SPF 50 Broad Spectrum

WHY I BOUGHT THEM

When I moved to LA 3 years ago from SF, I promised myself I would learn to surf. That hasn’t happened yet because LA beaches are gross), but I do go to the beach not infrequently to do things like rollerblade and play beach volleyball. However, being the good skincare nut that I am, I worry constantly about UV exposure. None of the sunscreens I use for day-to-day wear are sweat or water resistant, so finding a sports sunscreen is essential. Skinceuticals Sport UV Defense has been my go-to sunscreen for some time, however, as it will become abundantly clear soon, it leaves a lot to be desired. Sun Bears Super Strong Plus is the first Japanese sunscreen candidate I’ve chosen for replacing it!

menturms sun bears strong super plus & skinceuticals sport uv defense

WHERE I BOUGHT THEM

Sun Bears was part of my first Rakuten haul. I paid $3.27 (pre-shipping) from the Master of Life store. It is also available on amazon for a bit more (currently $6.85). Apparently, amazon has issues with fake Skinceuticals products and their shizz is way too expensive to deal with fakes, so I order from dermstore, where it retails for $40 (sign up here to get $10 off).

Sun Bears works out to be $.11 per ml with rakuten pricing (this does not include shipping). With amazon pricing, you’re looking at $.23 per ml.

Skinceuticals Sport UV Defense works out to be $.44 per ml. Pricing wise, I’m definitely rooting for Sun Bears!

PACKAGING AND APPEARANCE

Skinceuticals is housed in a sturdy grey tube. Sunscreen is thick and goopy. Reminds me of Siggi’s yogurt.

skinceuticals sport uv defense

Sun Bears comes in a tiny little bottle with a twist off cap. Sunscreen comes out through a small spout. You know how some sunscreens come with a little metal ball that bounces around in the bottle to keep things nice and mixed? This sunscreen has one of these and you do need to give this a good shake before use. When I first poured this sunscreen onto my hand to try, it came out separated. To be honest, I am not thrilled with the idea of my sunscreen separating, especially because this is a physical and chemical sunscreen. If the sunscreen separates, might the distribution of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide be compromised? However, the separation seems to be an issue the manufacturer is aware of (as indicated by the presence of the ball), so I’m willing to let it go.

sun bears

PERFORMANCE

On the skin, Skinceuticals is about as cosmetically elegant as toothpaste. It is difficult to spread evenly and leaves behind a lot of white. You may be thinking, this sounds awful, and it is pretty bad! However, the reason why I use and continue to use Skinceuticals is because it has excellent staying power, doesn’t irritate my skin, and does not smell as bad as many other sunscreens I’ve used. Also, when I use this, it’s usually doing some activity where sun protection (sadly) takes priority over looking cute.

skinceuticals sun bears arm swatch

Sun Bears applies a LOT more evenly, but still leaves a cast. It actually reminds me a lot of Bioderma Photo Max in texture and smell. Both Sun Bears and Skinceuticals do smell pretty chemical, FYI, but not as bad (the tl;dr for Skinceuticals is basically it’s not as bad as other sunscreens) as other sunscreens.

Let’s take a look at the ingredients.

Skinceuticals Sport UV Defense SPF 50 Broadspectrum Ingredients:

Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 15%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 7%

Other Ingredients: Water, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Dimethicone, Isododecane, Butyloctyl Salicylate, Propanediol, Glycerin, Silica, Isononyl Isononanoate, Inulin Lauryl Carbamate, Nylon-12, Caprylyl Methicone, Synthetic Wax, Poly C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate, Phenoxyethanol, PEG-8 Laurate, Sucrose Tristearate, Caprylyl Glycol, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/Steareth-25 Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Stearyl Alcohol, Polymethyl Methacrylate, P-Anisic Acid, Chlorphensin, Dimethiconol, Xanthan Gum, Disodium EDTA, Tocopherol, Artemia Extract, Triethanolamine

With Skinceuticals, I am mostly interested in verifying their broad spectrum claim. Broad Spectrum is no longer an unregulated, meaningless term. As of 2012, it now requires the sunscreen to provide a proportional amount of UVA protection to the labelled SPF protection. Of the active ingredients, avobenzone does provide good UVA protection and the inclusion of homosalate, octisalate, and octocrylene improve the photostability of avobenzone, which is otherwise notoriously prone to degradation in the presence of light (read more here). This is a very good thing. Also, octisalate and octocrylene are both oil soluble filters, which I imagine (disclaimer: not a chemist. I just read A LOT about sunscreen) contribute to the water-resistibility of this sunscreen. Another good thing about this Skinceuticals sunscreen is that it does not contain parabens, oxybenzone, or octinoxate. These are ingredients that contribute to coral bleaching, even in small concentrations. I mention this because if you’re looking for a sunscreen to wear into the ocean, there are reef-safe chemical sunscreens, and this is one of them.

Menturm Sun Bears Strong Super Plus SPF50+ PA++++ Ingredients

Unfortunately, Japanese sunscreen labelling does not require providing the concentrations of active ingredients so they are all lumped in with the other ingredients.

Cyclopentasiloxane, water, zinc oxide, ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate (aka octinoxate), cetyl ethylhexanoate, dipropylene glycol, silica, dimethicone, titanium dioxide, cetyl dimethicone copolyol, polyglyceryl-3-diisostearate, diethylamino hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate (aka Uvinul A Plus), dimethicone hydrogenphosphite, acetate tocopherol, glycyrrhetinic acid, Ougonekisu, (dimethicone / vinyl dimethicone) cross polymer, aluminum hydroxide, butylene glycol, BHT, methyl paraben, propyl paraben, fragrance

Sun Bears, because it’s Japanese, is verifiably broad spectrum because it comes with a UVA rating. PA++++ is the highest UVA protection rating you can achieve in Japan (sidenote: Korean UVA ratings only go up to PA+++ at the time of this writing). Sun Bears is not coral reef safe.

In terms of sun protection, all I can share from my experience is that I have not suffered any sun burn or tanning while using either of these sunscreens. I also experienced no irritation from either sunscreen.

To test the sweat-resistance of both these sunscreens, I applied both to my arm, jumped on a threadmill, ran for an hour, and kept track of each sunscreen’s apparent staying power. After an hour, the white spot on my arm indicating where the Skinceuticals sunscreen was applied was starting to flake, whereas the white spot on my arm indicating where the Sun Bears was applied looked identical to how it did an hour ago. Of course, this is a highly unscientific test, but I was rather impressed with Sun Bear’s staying power!

7/12 Update: I spent the past 3 days at a resort where I did nothing but swim and sunbathe all day. Sun bears was the main sunscreen I used. Verdict? Water-resistance is excellent! After spending hours in the pool, my arm was still visibly covered in sunscreen. However, I am now 1-2 shades tanner than I was three days ago.

The TL;DR

Sun Bears is not perfect but does seem to be a better option than Skinceuticals as an outdoor sunscreen. It still leaves a white cast, but one that is less offensive than Skinceuticals, and it is cheaper and appears to have good staying power. It does, however, contain ingredients that contribute to coral reef bleaching whereas the Skinceuticals sunscreen does not, so I would not use it if you plan on spending time in the ocean.

To see other sunscreens I’ve reviewed, see here.

Sun Bears Skinceuticals
Ease of Application 3/5 2/5
Absorbability 3/5 2/5
Fragrance 2/5 2/5
Price 4/5 2/5
Repurchase? Not yet. Planning to test out some other ones before reordering Only if I ever get around to learning to surf
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5 thoughts on “Outdoors Sunscreen Review & Comparison: Menturm Sun Bears Strong Super Plus SPF 50+ PA++++ vs Skinceuticals Sport UV Defense SPF 50 Broad Spectrum

  1. Camilla @ GracefulFace says:

    Your sunscreen reviews are so helpful. I tried the Skinceuticals Physical Fusion, and compared to Japanese sunscreens, it was thick, gloppy, and hard to spread. I never thought about the effects on coral reefs though, so thanks for making me aware of that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vanity Rex says:

      I first noticed the coral reef thing when I was in Hawaii and there were “coral-reef safe” signs over certain sunscreens! Not something people think about often, I’m sure!

      Like

  2. Christian says:

    Have you tried Nivea Sun Protect Plus Waterproof UV Milk Spf50+ PA++++ for a day at the beach? It is a little more greasy than the Skin Aqua Super Moisture Gel SPF50+ PA++++, but much more sweat and water proof. Water resistance is key when at the beach. People will use SPF50+ PA++++ EVERYDAY USE cream at the beach and than be surprised they burned despite the high SPF and PA.
    P. S. great sunscreen reviews.

    Like

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