Algenist Ultra Lightweight SPF 50 Review

Reviews, Skin Care

Algenist Ultra Lightweight UV Defense Fluid SPF 50Last year, Algenist made headlines when they premiered a new antioxidant, alguronic acid, onto the skin care market.  A onetime Sephora exclusive, Algenist quickly established their brand in the anti-aging sector.  Now, for Summer 2012, the company is premiering their Algenist Ultra Lightweight SPF 50 ($38.00,

Company Claims

According to Algenist, the product is antioxidant-rich, with alguronic acid, vitamin E, green tea, and bearberry.  Other selling points of Algenist Ultra Lightweight SPF 50 include:

  • Oil-free
  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Dermatologist tested
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Not tested on animals

The Analysis:  Superior Sunscreen!

Sunscreen absorption spectrums
Not all sunscreens are created equal! Luckily, Algenist Ultra Lightweight UV Defense SPF 50 contains zinc oxide. Whew! Image source:

As mentioned in an earlier post, Which Is Better: Zinc or Titanium Dioxide in Sunscreen?, zinc oxide is the clear winner.  This is because zinc oxide blocks a significantly longer portion of long-range UVA rays, which are responsible for many of the visible signs of aging (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2005).

Algenist Ultra Lightweight SPF 50 contains a whopping 17.1% zinc oxide and 2.0% titanium dioxide.  Unlike many formulas from the 1990’s or early 2000’s that contain zinc oxide that dries thick and white on the skin, Algenist Ultra Lightweight SPF 50 dries sheer.  This is mainly due to a lightweight solvent base that contains a large proportion of silicones and alcohol.  The silicones keep the formula cosmetically appealing, while the alcohol “compresses” the silicones and other ingredients together, keeping it lightweight.  [Read more:  Is Ethanol in Skin Care Products Safe?]

Alguronic Acid:  It’s Growing On Me

Not long ago, I gave Algenist a bad review. Luckily, more data has emerged, and I'm now a fan. I hope we can still be friends!

When alguronic acid first appeared on the market, I must admit, I didn’t like it much. This is mainly due to the way Algenist reported the results of their laboratory studies.  Back then, the company’s press materials cited the percentage of women who experienced any change in fine lines and wrinkles and skin laxity, rather than the percentage of change in these signs of aging.

When a company presents results like this, a product could elicit a very small effect in 95% of women, and a company could report that an impressive-sounding 95% saw results.  Not cool.  [Read more:  Algenist Review & Alguronic Acid Analysis]

However, in the past year, Algenist has employed third parties to conduct non-biased, measured studies with precise scientific instrumentation to determine the exact results of using their products.  With nothing to hide, as you can see from the photos and the data, the results are impressive. I personally liken the results to an over-the-counter retinol (0.5%) or a mild (~10%) glycolic acid solution – certainly wonderful for a new ingredient!

Algenist results
Alguronic acid makes a visible difference in the skin with daily use. Source:

In-house laboratory tests by Algenist have shown alguronic acid-treated cells increase regeneration by 55% – higher than hyaluronic acid, retinol, vitamin C, vitamin E, palmitoyl pentapeptide, palmitoyl oligopeptide and coenzyme Q10 (, 2011).  These results are in vitro, or in cell culture, and are not as valuable as results in vivo, or applied topically to living organisms.  Still, when taken with the third-party in vivo studies, these results affirm alguronic acid is a solid anti-aging ingredient, on par with a 0.5% retinol or 10% glycolic acid (in my own opinion).

Bottom Line

Algenist Ultra Lightweight SPF 50 is a solid, impressive product.  I love the fact that it contains one of the highest concentrations I’ve ever seen of zinc oxide, my favorite UVA/UVB sunscreen.  I also have warmed to alguronic acid since seeing the new clinical third-party results released by Algenist.  While it will be a few years before we know for sure if alguronic acid is indeed another retinol or glycolic acid-like skin saver, the results thus far show you can do far more good than harm for your skin by investing in Algenist Ultra Lightweight SPF 50 this summer.  I’m a huge fan!

Product Rating:  10/10  (High or optimized concentration of key ingredients: 3/3.  Unique formulation or new technology:  3/3.  Value:  3/3.  Sunscreen: 1/1).

Ingredients in Algenist Ultra Lightweight SPF 50

Cyclopentasiloxane, Water/Aqua/Eau, Alcohol Denat., Glycerin, Polyglyceryl-3 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Methyl Methacrylate Crosspolymer, PEG/PPG-18/18 Dimethicone, Algae Exopolysaccharides, Echinacea Purpurea Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi Leaf Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, PEG-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Stearic Acid, Triethoxysilylethyl Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Hexyl Dimethicone, Ethylhexylglycerin, Caprylyl Glycol, Aluminum Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Hexylene Glycol, Fragrance (Parfum).

Other Sites and Posts You Might Enjoy


Check our bestsellers!

  • Also @Chrissy – Thanks for the link! Just saw this now for some reason.

  • Also @Jeff – I love Clinique City Block SPF 40. It’s a great one. And you’re right – its zinc oxide may very well not technically be micronized, but it’s still cosmetically appealing. Thanks!

  • @Jeff – Hi Jeff! Actually, no, alcohol is not as big of a problem in skin care as some experts would have us believe. Many times, cosmetic chemists employ alcohol in order to “compress” heavier skin care ingredients into a lighter, more cosmetically viable solution and/or to increase the penetration of key ingredients into the skin. Topical application of alcohol has not been associated in any clinical studies with reactive oxidation species (ROS) or skin damage other than drying, and the latter predominantly occurs when alcohol is applied alone. I urge you to read:

  • jeff

    Is the alcohol not a concern for you? wouldnt it negate any anti ageing effects?
    what about Clinique city block spf 4o,, I think it has zinc oxide?

  • @Jessica – Yes, definitely. I would assume that most people would apply 25-50% of the amount of Algenist SPF 50 necessary to get the protection listed on the bottle, so probably SPF 12.5-SPF 25 is the true protection that they’d get from this product. It’s not pleasant to think about, but the truth of the matter is, that’s the way it works in the sunscreen industry – you think you’re getting a lot more protection than you typically are! That’s why sun avoidance and hats are so important!

  • This seems like a great formula, and while the price certainly doesn’t seem exorbitant, I think people considering it need to factor in the actual usage rate. Correct me if my logic/math is wrong, but here’s how I see it:

    In your article on SPF in makeup, you state that to get the SPF coverage listed on the bottle a person would have to use a minimum of 1.23 mL of product per facial application. That means that this one ounce (29.57 mL) bottle of Algenist, used properly, would end up being about 24 applications. If someone is, say, on vacation and spending long days in the sun, they’d need to reapply up to 4 times a day (every 2 hours for 8 hours). That means this $38 bottle would last less than a week.

    I only point that out because that cost could be prohibitive for a lot of people, and in the end, cause them to use less than needed for proper protection. Definitely a factor to consider when buying sunscreen 🙂

  • @Chrissy – Thanks for the link, it’s an interesting factor for our readers to consider!

  • In honor of Skin Cancer Awareness month, here is a link to the Skin Cancer Foundations data base of products that carry its Seal of Recommendaton; which means the listed products have been reviewed by and meet the stringent criteria of an independent Photobiology Committee. The Seal is a symbol of safe and effective sun protection that is recognized by consumers worldwide: In the big scheme of things, it probably isn’t a big deal if products intended for more cosmetic uses don’t carry the seal, as long as another form of sun protection (preferably one with the Seal) is used in conjunction. But, because it’s easy to assume that any product labeled SPF might be enough protection, I thought I’d pass the link along.

  • @Holly – I’ll definitely look more into sunscreens for sensitive skin. Off the top of my head, I know a lot of dermatologists love Blue Lizard Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin, as it is chemical and fragrance free:

    I have not reviewed Colorscience Sunforgettable sunscreen powder. My only reservation with any sunscreen powder is that the average user is going to apply only 1/14 (or about 7%) of the sunscreen needed to get the protection listed on the package. So if you use SPF 30, you’re probably getting around SPF 2-3. Not cool.

    That said, I love the *additional* protection from a makeup with SPF, but I would not have it be my sole form of protection! Always use it OVER a sunscreen, unless you’re heavy-handed with your makeup.

    Hope this helps,

  • I suffer from sensitive skin & eczema and I had a bad reaction to a skincare product high in dimethicone. Can you recommend a mineral sunscreen for sensitive skin? Also, have you reviewed Colorscience Sunforgettable sunscreen powder? Does it work??

Recent Posts