Can Sunday Riley's First Sunscreen Solve All My SPF Woes? Let's Find Out

Sunscreens, like so many things in this world, have typically fallen into a binary: You’re either team mineral or team chemical. The latter are the ones you’re likely most familiar with; they work by absorbing UV rays into the skin and converting them into heat. The formulas also happen to be more transparent and comfortable to wear but can also be irritating on some skin types. Mineral, or physical, sunscreens generally have a thicker consistency and, as the name suggests, physically reflect UV rays off of the skin. They are known for leaving a white or gray film or “cast” on skin—particularly darker skin tones—but are also considered more tolerable for sensitive skin. In other words, both types have pros and cons. What’s a sun-conscious person to do?

But Sunday Riley, the prestige skincare brand beloved by celebs, estheticians, and dermatologists alike, dared to ask: What if we created a sunscreen that had both? Thus, the brand recently launched its first(!) SPF, the Light Hearted Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Daily Face Sunscreen. It’s safe to say the crowds have gone wild. The product has nearly five stars and 1500 ratings at Sephora, making it a bona fide hit. But at $35 for just 1.5 fluid ounces, further investigation was necessary.

My sunscreen issues pale in comparison, so to speak, to those of women of color. The right formula is notoriously hard to find for those with darker skin tones. And because I’m a VPP (very pale person), I called in reinforcements from my friend Manasa, who graciously volunteered to test it out with me and share her thoughts. Keep reading for more about the product, our honest reviews (photos included), and more sunscreens to consider if your SPF journey is ongoing.

1. What Is Sunday Riley Light Hearted Sunscreen?

Since this is Sunday Riley’s foray into sunscreen, the stakes are high. Unlike most other sunscreens, it contains a combination of physical and chemical active ingredients (zinc oxide, octocrylene, and octisalate), which is intended to provide the best of both worlds—i.e., wearable on all skin types and transparent on all skin tones—all while providing broad-spectrum sun protection.

Besides the sunscreen actives, there are additional ingredients for more skincare love. Lutein helps protect against blue light damage from our devices, while turmeric extract is there to help even the skin tone and calm redness. The formula is also vegan, cruelty-free, fragrance-free, paraben-free, and almost (99.99%, according to the brand) oil-free. 

2. Trying Sunday Riley Light Hearted Sunscreen on Fair Skin

I’m a die-hard sunscreen wearer (again, I’m a VPP) and have tried tons of formulas I like but have yet to find my holy-grail SPF. My combination skin can be on the sensitive side, so I’m also drawn to mineral formulas as of late. I was jazzed to try this product, hoping it could be just the product I’ve been hoping for.

Photo: Lindy Segal

First impressions: The color of the cream formula is a very pale pink, rather than white, and the texture is very fluid. I usually measure my sunscreen out with lines on my three middle fingers, but it was too thin, so instead, I used a nickel-size amount (seen above). As I applied it, it initially was more opaque, like a traditional mineral sunscreen, but it was further along than most other formulas after 10 seconds of rubbing it in.

Here’s how the sunscreen looked after blending it in for 10 seconds:

Photo: Lindy Segal

It took about 30 seconds for it to completely blend in, and although I could still see a barely there veil, it didn’t bother me. In fact, I felt like it made my skin tone look more even. 

Here’s how the sunscreen looked after blending it in for 30 seconds:

Photo: Lindy Segal

The finish was neither tacky nor drying; it felt just like my skin (we love!). I usually have a dewier look after my moisturizer, but the sunscreen left me with more of a matte finish, which would be nice before applying makeup. 

Overall verdict: I still don’t know if it’s my holy grail, can’t-live-without-it product, but I liked this sunscreen and would definitely recommend it for daily use. I will say the cost is, shall we say, not low for the size of the tube, but the ingredients are top-tier.

3. Trying Sunday Riley Light Hearted Sunscreen on Dark Skin

Manasa has medium-dark skin that tends to be dry. She’s had some difficulty finding a sunscreen she loves, so I was eager for her to try this product. “A little nervous of the color and consistency,” she texted anxiously. But after trying it, she was able to blend it in enough to avoid the white cast, noting that “it does take some effort.” 

Here’s how the sunscreen looked after blending it in for 10 seconds:

Photo: Manasa Vedula

Here’s how the sunscreen looked after blending it in for 30 seconds:

Photo: Manasa Vedula

When it came to texture, she felt it was “a little waxy on my skin at first, but then absorbed well.”

Overall verdict: It’s a “like,” not a “love.” “It definitely feels like sunscreen, but maybe that’s a good thing!” she said.

4. Other Sunscreens to Try

This chemical formula has been Manasa’s favorite since she first tried it last summer. It’s completely transparent once applied and features jojoba oil, cacao, and avocado to moisturize skin while it protects.

Manasa and I are both fans of this mineral sunscreen. The slight tint helps it blend in better than a lot of other formulas, and it helps protect against environmental and blue light stressors too.

Two words: sunscreen serum. This super-lightweight mineral formula from Venus Williams’s line has a pleasant application that sinks right into the skin and doesn’t show on any skin tone. It’s not inexpensive, but it’s worth the investment for a truly sheer mineral option. 

Up Next: SkinCeuticals' C E Ferulic Serum Is as Life-Changing as Everyone Says

Related Stories