If, like me, you're a little more interested in sunscreen than your average person, you know how hard it can be to find Your Perfect Match — the SPF that doesn't pill, doesn't give you a white cast, doesn't smell weird, doesn't irritate your skin. Sounds too good to be true, but now that Drunk Elephant's Umbra Sheer Physical Defense has been reformulated, the ideal sunscreen might not be far beyond your reach.
While I've always been a devoted daily user of SPF 30 and above, I was never particularly excited about that step in my routine prior to discovering Drunk Elephant's mousse-y version, which is non-toxic, contains 20 percent zinc oxide, and leaves skin with a finish that's both matte and glowy at once. But, as nice as it made my skin look and feel (I hardly reach for tinted moisturizer or foundation ever since I began using it) the original formulation was sometimes a little hard to work with and had a tendency to ball up as I tried to rub it in or apply makeup over the top.
"Zinc does this because it has such a large molecule and it doesn’t penetrate like chemical sunscreen does, but also, we formulated it without silicones so the texture was not as smooth as it could have been," Drunk Elephant founder Tiffany Masterson tells me over email.
I was, frankly confused about my own feelings regarding this product. Some days I loved it and other days I simply could not get it to work. It turns out a I was far from alone — reviewers on beauty forums such as MakeupAlley expressed similar feelings, citing pilling and white streaks left on the skin as reasons why they couldn't fully commit. So the brand set out to solve the product's blending issues without changing any of the aspects fans loved so much, including much of the formula itself, which was "loaded with non-fragrant plant oils and emollients, along with potent antioxidants and anti-aging ingredients," according to Masterson.
How did Drunk Elephant manage to reformulate without overhauling the entire ingredient list? "We used a more cutting-edge form of zinc oxide and it made a big difference," Masterson tells me. The resulting update indeed blends like a dream and doesn't pill. I also haven't noticed any of the dreaded white cast that many zinc-based sunscreens leave behind, although I'm quite pale so I can't speak to how it would show up on darker skin tones.
Drunk Elephant also tweaked Umbra's packaging by slimming down the tube and adding a sturdier cap so that the product stands more easily. You also get slightly less product (3 fl. oz as opposed to 3.3 fl. oz) and the price as been lowered accordingly (it's now $34, down from $38). If you prefer a little more coverage with your SPF, the brand has also launched a tinted version called Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense. It currently comes in one shade that the brand claims is universal.
Kudos to Drunk Elephant for taking a good product and making it great. The reformulation and brand-new tinted version are currently available on the Drunk Elephant website and you can shop them at Sephora later this month. If you're thinking of making the switch from chemical to physical sunscreen, now is your moment.