Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Review and Ingredients Analysis (Reformulated Version)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Sunscreen with SPF50 PA++++ protection is new from Kiehl's this summer! I know I've already done a previous post on the Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Sunscreen, but this time round, the brand has reformulated its much-loved sunscreen, and so here is a "re-review" of the sunscreen. After all, summer is the time when people start paying attention to sunscreens, and since I gave the previous iteration of the Ultra Light Daily Defense a pretty good review, I thought it's good to check in again, to see if it's still deserving of the nice things I said about it the last time round.

Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Sunscreen: Still with SPF50, but now with PA++++

As you can tell, the packaging is pretty much still the same. Kiehl's claims that the new formulation of the sunscreen now offers better anti-aging protection, and in particular UVA protection (the type of sun exposure that causes long term aging - if you haven't yet, you can learn more in my post about sunscreen tips). This reformulation of the Ultra Light Daily UV Defense keeps the SPF value at SPF50, but the PA is now PA++++ rather than PA+++ as in the old formula.

Kiehls Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Sunscreen SPF50 PA+++1
Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense: With PA++++ instead of PA+++ for better anti-aging benefit

On a side note, I wish I had used the same bright orange paper background that I used the last time I reviewed the old formulation of the sunscreen, instead of this off-white cloth background. The off-white shade, combined with the various shades of white the sunscreen tube and box were, really messed up the white balance on the camera, and there's only so much GIMP can do to correct it. Oh well, the review is still written with the same set of brains, even if the photos are a little washed out this time round. So let's get started!

Kiehls Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Sunscreen SPF50 PA+++ Ingredients
Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Ingredients: The new formula uses the same sunscreen filters as the old one, but likely in different amounts

As always, we start with the ingredients list, and see what's different from the last formulation. First, let's take a look at the sunscreen filters. The main sunscreen filters in this product are Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate (UVB protection), Drometrizole Trisiloxane (aka Mexoryl XL, a L'Oreal patented ingredient, with UVA2 protection), Terephthalylidene Dicamphor Sulfonic Acid (aka Mexoryl SX, another L'Oreal patented ingredient, and has UVA1 and UVA2 protection), and Titanium Dioxide (UVA2 and UVB protection).

So it seems like all the UV filters here are pretty much the same, with only the proportions changed - it's hard to be sure because we don't know what the actual percentages are, but just from looking at the order of the ingredients, it seems like Drometrizole Trisiloxane has moved up the ingredients list a few notches, which might account for the higher PA value.

Kiehls Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Sunscreen SPF50 PA+++ Tube
Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense: The base of the product is also mostly the same, with Dimethicone instead of Cyclopentasiloxane

And as with last time, my assessment of the sunscreen remains the same, in terms of UV protection: you get broad-spectrum protection across the UVA1, UVA2, and UVB spectrums, and the sunscreen is pretty photostable. Well, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate does degrade over time with UV exposure, but Drometrizole Trisiloxane, Terephthalylidene Dicamphor Sulfonic Acid, and Titanium Dioxide and are all photostable, so I'd also say that overall, I'd expect the sunscreen to be pretty photostable.

You can also expect any white cast to be at a minimum, seeing that the filters are mostly chemical filters and not physical filters (only Titanium Dioxide is the physical filter here).

Lastly, a benefit of this sunscreen is the combination of Mexoryl SX and Mexoryl XL, which are sunscreen filters developed by, and thus exclusive to L'Oreal group (you'll also find it in other L'Oreal group brands like La Roche Posay). Both Mexoryl SX and Mexoryl XL have synergistic effect when used together in terms of sun protection, which is why you often see both sunscreen filters used together.

Kiehls Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Sunscreen SPF50 PA+++ Box
Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense: The difference in levels of sunscreen filters is likely to increase the UVA protection

Other than the sunscreen filters, there are some slight adjustments to the product base. Again, there aren't that many changes here. Again, there are humectants (Glycerin, Propylene Glycol), emollients (Stearic Acid, also an emulsifier) silicones (Dimethicone), emulsifiers (PEG-100 Stearate, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate) as well as other stuff like absorbents (Nylon-12), stabilizers and pH balancers (Triethanolamine, Aluminium Hydroxide), and preservatives (Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben). Alcohol Denat is also in there to thin out the mixture, and avoid the sunscreen feeling too thick on the skin.

Perhaps the only major change to the base is that Dimethicone is now the main silicone present in the product, rather than Cyclopentasiloxane as in the older formula. In terms of sunscreen efficacy this change won't impact the product much, but this might slightly change the product feel and texture. There are also some other minor changes where the ingredients move up or down a few spaces, but I don't think the change is very significant to the overall feel of the formula.

Kiehls Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Sunscreen SPF50 PA+++ 3
Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense: There are also plant extracts in the new formula, which weren't present in the old

Lastly, the interesting thing is that Kiehl's has also added a few plant extracts (in small amounts) to the sunscreen - at the end, we see a bunch of plant extracts, including Corn Kernel, Yeast, Peppermint Leaf, and Rosa Gallica Flower extract (which I'm told helps to calm the skin). While I personally didn't think the plant extracts made any difference to the product, either in efficacy or aesthetics, I think this might make people who like such ingredients in their products happy. Also, Kiehl's advertises the product as being fragrance free and oil free, and looking from the ingredients lists, that seems to be accurate too.

Kiehls Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Sunscreen SPF50 PA+++ Tube Open
Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense: The packaging remains the same

Now, let's move on to the actual sunscreen itself. It's also packaged the same way, and also comes out as a white, opaque cream, that absorbs fast and leaves very minimal residue. I noted in my previous review that the texture of the Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense felt closer to some of the Japanese-brand sunscreens than Western-brand ones, and this is slightly thicker than a Japanese-style sunscreen, but nowhere as thick as a typical Western-style sunscreen.

The sunscreen doesn't feel thick, and it blends out to a finish that's not shiny or oily, and doesn't leave behind a white cast. So in terms of aesthetics, the new formula might be a little thicker, which is probably better for those with drier skins, but otherwise everything you like about the product is still there - same easy blendability, with no white cast.I know the photo below looks like there is a white cast, but I was applying insane amounts of sunscreen and blending it out as a test for the photo. In real life, you will be able to blend this out to a nice finish that's not white.

Kiehls Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Sunscreen SPF50 PA+++ Swatch
Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense: The texture is a tad thicker, but still light, and absorbs fast

In terms of of aesthetic comparisons to the old formula, I think that with this reformulation, the texture is slightly more emollient and creamy than the previous version. This could perhaps be due to the fact that the new formula uses Dimethicone as the main silicone, which doesn't evaporate when applied to the skin, whereas the older formula used Cyclopentasiloxane, which is volatile and evaporates quickly when applied. That said, I do mean "slightly", and there is a difference, but it isn't vast - I think you can tell if you compare the two side-by-side, and I think those who are regular users of the older version would probably notice the difference, but it's not such a big difference that you can't get used to it.

Kiehls Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Sunscreen SPF50 PA+++ 2
Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense: Still a great, aesthetically pleasing sunscreen, but with stronger UVA protection

So, all said and done, would I recommend (or, in this case, re-recommend) the Kiehl's Ultra LIght Daily UV Defense Sunscreen? I think I would have to say yes. Firstly, the changes to the sunscreen are the order of the sunscreen filters, in order to increase the UVA Protection of the sunscreen from PA+++ to PA++++ (which is always a good thing), and the use of Dimethicone rather than Cyclopentasiloxane, which I'm neutral about, since my skin is fine with both ingredients, but might appeal to those who want a more emollient or moisturizizng sunscreen. I also like that the Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense offers stable, broad-spectrum protection, and is aesthetically pleasing - it remains light and easy to blend. I also liked the dual use of Mexoryl SX and Mexoryl XL, which are not only good UVA filters, but also innovations that are unique to the L'Oreal group (so you can feel like your money is going not just to the packaging but to some specific innovation in the formula). So, I do like the sunscreen.

As with my last review, my only gripe is that the price of SGD$52 for a 30ml tube isn't very economical, and I would definitely feel the pinch using it for everyday wear, especially if you apply liberally using the 2mg/cm2 guideline like you're supposed to. But for some people, it might be well worth it. So yes, overall, this is still a great sunscreen, just like it was the last time.
Recommended? Formulation Packaging Ease of Use Effectiveness
Yes, good broad-spectrum protection 9/10 8/10 8/10 8/10
The Bottom Line: The formula upgrade (with PA++++ protection instead of PA+++ previously) has fortunately kept the aesthetically pleasing, lightweight texture of the Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Sunscreen.

(Product was sent for review. Review is my complete and honest opinion. I am not affiliated with/compensated by the company.)


  1. Yay I'm glad they didn't mess with the formulation of this one too much! The original is such a great facial sunscreen and is one of my go-to's.

  2. Hi there! I came across your site when I was researching for sunscreens. I did enjoy the Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense but also tried the new Lancome UV Expert XL-Shield Fresh UV Aqua Gel version (I *think* only available in some Asian countries) that felt very good and cooling when applied. It is also cosmetically elegant. Hope you will be able to do a review on it, ingredients-wise, when you do check it out : )

  3. Where did you buy it?

  4. Hi, i was told by a sales girl in Kiehl's shop today that i don't need a makeup remover to remove Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense and Micro-Blur Skin Perfector at the end of the day since they are more of a skin care product so a normal facial cleanser is good enough. Is that really true? I have oily skin and enlarged pores and i am quite prone to outbreaks hence i usually don't put on makeup. Came across your review today while i was checking out some online reviews. I do know that any product with SPF and PA needs to be removed with a makeup remover so was surprised when the sales girl told me they are more of a skincare product which doesn't require a makeup remover. Thank you :D

    1. @Anonymous: That's definitely a little weird for the salesgirl to say that. Although they do have some skincare element to the products, they are still makeup items, so I would still remove them fully at night.

  5. Thank you for your feedback Musical Houses. I was about to put on the Micro-Blur Skin Perfector (sample) at night to minimize my enlarge pores until i read your comment. Reckon i will just stick to usual skincare routine at night. Wouldn't want to create more outbreaks :P

  6. I definitely think the old product is better. I was in shock today my sunscreen have suck a strong smell of alcohol and it stinks a bit on my skin when putting it on. Since not the same as original and very pricy I will search alternative products.


Thank you for commenting! I read each and every single comment! If you ask a question in your comment, please check back to this post, as I will reply in a comment to this post as well :) Please note that comments with soliciting links to shops or websites will be removed. Thanks!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...