Elta MD is a cosmetics company that sells a wide variety of skincare products, but they're known for their sunscreen. The brand claims to be the "#1 Dermatologist-Recommended Sunscreen Brand."
But is there really a difference between expensive and cheaper sunscreen brands? Are the ingredients used by Elta MD backed by clinical research? Do their products contain any harmful additives? And how do real users rate their products?
In this review we’ll answer these questions and more as we review every ingredient in two of Elta MD's most popular sunscreens: Elta MD Tinted Sunscreen and Elta MD UV Clear.
Elta MD Tinted Sunscreen Review
Elta MD sells a tinted sunscreen called "Elta MD UV Clear Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 46." Tinted sunscreens have two main benefits according to Elta MD’s site: to reduce white residue from standard sunscreen and to reflect more light.
Zinc oxide is an effective physical sunscreen ingredient, which means it sits atop the skin and reflects or absorbs UV rays. A clinical trial published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology proved this ingredient to be safe and non-toxic, and it's a physical sunscreen ingredient we recommend.
Octinoxate is a chemical sunscreen ingredient that we recommend avoiding. A 2018 medical review found this ingredient to be potentially harmful to human health, and octinoxate has been banned in Hawaii due to its potential to damage coral reefs and other ecosystems.
Iron oxides are an effective sunscreen ingredient because they're proven to work synergistically with zinc oxide to provide added UV protection.
Niacinamide and sodium hyaluronate have anti-aging effects as we documented in our recent Disco Eye Stick reviews article.
We consider Elta MD Tinted Sunscreen to be likely effective for sun protection, and to potentially have an anti-aging effect due to the inclusion of two other functional ingredients. However we cannot recommend it overall because it contains a chemical sunscreen ingredient that we consider questionable from a health and environmental perspective.
One of the most popular YouTube reviews of Elta MD Tinted Sunscreen is published by a channel called "Abbey Yung" and has over 85,000 views at the time of updating this article. The video appears unsponsored and the creator does a product demonstration and shares her thoughts on the product:
Elta MD UV Clear Review
Elta MD UV Clear has the exact same active ingredients, at the exact same concentrations, as their tinted sunscreen. Thus our conclusion about the active ingredients is the same: likely to be effective as a sunscreen but we cannot recommend this product due to the octinoxate.
The only notable difference in the inactive ingredients is the lack of iron oxides in this formulation. For this reason we consider this formulation inferior to the tinted sunscreen, since iron oxides are proven to add sun protection.
Overall we do not recommend this product.
One of the most popular YouTube reviews of Elta MD UV Clear is published by a channel called "The Bauer Beauty Experience." The creator is an esthetician and the video appears unsponsored:
Where to Buy Elta MD
While we don't recommend Elta MD overall, consumers are often curious about where they can find the best price on their products so we wanted to publish a pricing breakdown by retailer.
We're using Elta MD Tinted Sunscreen (1.7 ounce) as the basis for our pricing breakdown as it's their most popular product.
Elta MD website: $34.50
We would typically recommend buying from the cheapest retailer, but in this case we recommend avoiding the Walmart product because it doesn't appear to be sold by Elta MD, but rather by a third-party seller named "Bernhard Alexander LLC."
We always recommend that consumers purchase only from the brand or from authorized retailers. The risk of counterfeit products may be higher when purchasing from third-party sellers, especially when the price discrepancy is as vast as seen here.
Elta MD's website charges shipping for orders under $75, so Amazon seems like the best place to buy Elta MD.
Elta MD Customer Reviews
Elta MD products are sold on Amazon which is a more objective resource for customer reviews than a brand's website in our opinion. Their most-reviewed product on Amazon is their UV Clear sunscreen, which has over 33,000 reviews and an impressive average review rating of 4.7 out of 5.
The product has an "A" rating on Fakespot, which is a software tool that detects potentially fraudulent Amazon reviews. This is a good sign about the legitimacy of the product and brand.
The top positive review from a verified purchaser is written by a user named "Seo Young Myaeng" who claims that the product is effective for their sensitive skin:
"And after trying about 8 other sunscreen brands, I've decided to stick with this one. I've been using it for about a month and it's not very harsh on my skin, nor does it cause white cast when I reapply it (at least on the second time. Haven't tried reapplying more than that). It's not too oily so doesn't feel disgusting and I haven't experienced any breakouts yet."
The top negative review from a verified purchaser comes from a user named "Peace" who claims to have experienced side effects from the product:
"I purchased this in early May, and now probably my my 5th-10th time using it in late July, I have had a terrible reaction. I have painful hives all over my face, neck, ears, and chest. Everywhere I had put the sunscreen. It has been three days since I last used the sunscreen and the hives are not going away. I am putting Benadryl on my face to hopefully end the allergic reaction, as well as using a gentle cleanser to make sure it doesn’t actually cause any acne."
Our Sunscreen Recommendation
The sunscreen product we recommend is called MDSolarSciences Mineral Moisture Defense. It's a physical sunscreen free of questionable chemical sunscreen ingredients like octinoxate. Its active ingredients are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide; both effective physical sunscreen ingredients backed by clinical research.
This sunscreen is also free of any questionable inactive ingredients like fragrance or artificial dye.
Elta MD Tinted Sunscreen costs $34.50 and contains 1.7 ounces, which equates to a price-per-ounce of $20.29. MDSolarSciences sunscreen costs $39 and contains 4 ounces, which equates to a price-per-ounce of $9.75.
Interested consumers can check out MDSolarSciences Mineral Moisture Defense at this Amazon link.
Elta MD Pros and Cons
Here's our take on the pros and cons of Elta MD as a brand.
- Effective sunscreen ingredients
- Very favorable customer reviews
- Some anti-aging ingredients
- Questionable chemical sunscreen ingredient
- Contains preservatives