I’ve said this before, but I’m such a Glowscreen girl. It’s difficult to find a sunscreen that nails a dewy finish without toppling over into sweaty territory (especially during summer), and many glow-enhancing formulas end up providing a little too much shine. But when I sport a layer of Glowscreen, it provides the prettiest sheen—a friend once even asked me what highlighter I was wearing. It really is that good.
However, I do prefer mineral SPF options whenever possible. Absolutely no shade to the cult-favorite chemical formula (love you, mean it!), but mineral-based ingredients better suit my skin type. But as I mentioned up top, glow-inducing formulas are notoriously difficult to get right, and it’s an even trickier venture for mineral sunscreens.
Recently, though, I found a formula that absolutely nails it: I snagged the Paula’s Choice Essential Glow Moisturizer at an editor event, and I’m beyond happy that I did—it has become my go-to sunscreen for a dewy, fresh look.
First thing’s first: Essential Glow is a 100% mineral formula. It contains both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, the only two ingredients the Environmental Working Group has deemed safe for use and effective at protecting the skin from UV damage. Zinc oxide is a particularly stellar choice for reactive skin, and because my combination skin is also prone to breakouts, I much prefer a mineral-based formula. “Zinc oxide is arguably the most skin-calming of all the active sunscreen ingredients,” board-certified dermatologist Loretta Ciraldo, M.D., FAAD, tells mbg about the ingredient, and it’s also noncomedogenic, so it won’t clog pores and cause acne.
The thing is, zinc oxide is also known for its chalky white cast, which isn’t so conducive to a fresh-faced glow (whereas chemical sunscreens are much more spreadable and layer exceptionally well under makeup). Given this common gripe, many mineral-based brands include a variety of plant-based oils to thin out the consistency, but these can often feel heavy and leave create too much shine.
This Paula’s Choice SPF, on the other hand, contains argan oil (which is known for being super nutrient-dense without clogging pores) along with subtle, illuminating tints to neutralize the ghostly finish—it practically disappears upon application. I also appreciate how the formula feels super moisturizing without ever appearing greasy. It delivers just the right amount of glow exactly where I want it.
For further skin defense, Essential Glow also contains a host of antioxidant-rich players, like vitamin C, niacinamide, and licorice and kiwi extracts. These ingredients fend off free radicals from UV exposure, air pollution, and other environmental aggressors, which can help keep your complexion youthful and bright. So this Paula’s Choice number not only provides an immediate glow—it also enhances your skin’s brightness over time.
It’s marketed as a one-stop shop for moisture and sun protection, but I like to layer Essential Glow over my favorite water cream for extra hydration. Regardless, I knew it was going to be fabulous before I even rubbed it into my skin: When you squeeze out the product, you can literally see the illuminating tints swirling in the creamy base—that’s a marker of a good, radiant sunscreen.
Immediately, I noticed how much quicker it absorbs into my skin compared to other zinc oxide formulas, and I use quite a dollop (I’m loyal to the “two finger” application rule). Plus, it dries down to a beautifully dewy finish, effortlessly catching the light on my cheekbones without making my entire face shiny.
I have high standards for a glow-inducing sunscreen, and I’m happy to report that this formula ticks all the boxes. It has become my go-to for no-makeup days when I want just a teeny bit of glow without appearing oily. And to my absolute delight, it’s also on sale on the Paula’s Choice website: You can score 15% off through August 22—and I highly suggest you add to cart.