In just two months since Ultra Violette’s Skinscreen SPF collection landed in the UK, it’s sold out SIX TIMES, with one product selling every two minutes globally. Woah! This is one of those moments where I am kicking myself for not buying shares in a company, because – urgh I feel sick writing this – I knew it was coming.
About a year away I got chatting to a colleague about how unsexy sunscreen had become for daily (non-beach) use and how they lacked the elegance and finesse we’d come to expect in active, high-tech skincare. Basic instructions of ‘apply to clean dry skin only’ felt counterproductive to our beloved layers of acids and serums beneath. The existing everyday SPFs out there (although brilliantly protective) were either clunky and thick or so runny they’d make your eyes sting, and often left a white-ish cast that excluded darker skin tones. And I heard one of them namedrop a new Australian brand that was going to rock the market.
Sure enough a year on, beauty editors, aestheticians and influencers are going nuts about Ultra Violette’s electric blue tubes of joy. They’re plastered everywhere on social feeds and they’ve had the main-grid seal of approval from skincare royalty such as Michelle Wong, Caroline Hirons and Dr Justine Kluk.
There are so, so many reasons why this brand is surrounded by a glitter cloud of marketing magic. The intense Yves Klein blue packaging is instant shelfie catnip. The witty wording, tongue-in-cheek mood and glam imagery is a breath of fresh air in the SPF yawntown. Calling itself ‘Skinscreen’ shifts our perception from yuk beach sunblock to high-performance daily skincare. The timing is perfect: it arrived in the seismic wake of Gwyneth Paltrow’s “I use SPF like highlighter” gaff, whereafter any chat about sunscreen turned from a-bit-preachy to pro-safety cool.
But I’m curious: as an evangelical daily SPF50 wearer, are these products genuinely as brilliant as they seem? Six weeks ago I cracked open my set, dived in and hustled them out as hard as I possibly could.
The first thing I noticed was the wording on all the tubes and bottles. “Formulated and created in the toughest place to get a sunscreen approved: Australia.” Boom. That’s my trust hooked in. I need this assurance that these products will futureproof my face, protect me from skin cancer and prevent my pigmentation marks from getting darker and more obvious.
Next, I read “apply lotion directly to face as the final step of your skincare routine.” Yes. YES. Now we’re talking. My carefully curated, bordering-on-religious morning skincare strategy gets way more love and attention than my kids or my husband. I am all here for replacing my current moisturiser for one that treats in the same comforting and nourishing way with SPF50, all while playing nicely with what’s been applied beneath. Hope levels right now? So, so high.
So here’s the lowdown on the skinscreen wardrobe I’ve been playing skin dress-up with:
This pump tube contains a medium-thick lotion that my dry skin drinks up like a 5pm Friday margarita. It feels quenchy, dewy, plumpingly lush and the finish on my skin is glossy, glowy and gleamy – precisely what I love in my final layer of skincare. There is no white cast, given that it’s a chemical sunscreen formula.
Queen Screen SPF50+ Lightweight Skinscreen, £36, Space NK. In this dropping-pipette glass bottle is a much runnier lotion, aimed at normal to dry skin. The first time I try this I pretend I’m a TikToker elegantly dripping the gleaming white serum straight onto my cheek from the pipette but I bugger it up quite spectacularly because I don’t want the dropper tip to touch my cheek so it lands on my black jumper and lots of swearing follows. Anyway, lovely silky consistency if you prefer lightweight textures and it feels like a designer makeup primer. It has a very obvious rose scent too, which the others don’t. And no white cast.
Another pump tube, this time with a satin-finish gel-cream formula for compromised, oily or acne-prone skin. Ultra Violette calls this ‘the Harry Styles of SPF: gentle, friendly and totally in touch with her sensitive side.” Cute! I see a slight white cast at first, but it disperses quickly. I personally prefer Supreme Screen’s decadent texture and finish, but I can see this as a BFF on really hot days when I want a fresher, barely-there feel.
The Testing Trial
I trialled each of these products individually several times on top of these four different morning skincare scenarios (after cleansing):
- Full moisture mega-load: acid toner > essence lotion > vitamin C serum > HA serum > eye cream > light facial oil.
- Warm-weather light hydration: acid toner, essence lotion, HA serum, eye gel.
- Light facial only.
- Clean dry skin only.
- I have to admit: they all layered beautifully (even over the oil once it had sunk in). Even on clean dry skin with no serums, I never felt that late afternoon tight pull. I also mixed a 3 drops of self-tan booster (Clarins Radiance Plus for face) into each formula to see how it emulsified. All good there, no separation at all.
As for makeup application, I gave each Skinscreen 5 minutes to absorb and tried a rotation of my favourite bases over the weeks. Sheer ones, such Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturiser and Clinique Moisture Surge Sheertint settled perfectly (although Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue separated a bit). Pigment-rich foundations such as It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better, Nars All Day Luminous and Estee Lauder DoubleWear sat brilliantly, particularly over Queen Screen with its thinner texture.
This is going to sound all kinds of mad, but for the sake of this review and the realness of wearing sunscreen, I also tried two mini experiments. Often I get stinging, streaming eyes from SPF, so after applying one morning I rubbed a teeny bit of residue into my lower lid to see what would happen. Obvs there was an initial ping, but it disappeared quickly and – amazingly – didn’t trigger the tears. Then to replicate the sensation of sweating while sunbathing, I applied Supreme Screen on clean dry skin, let it soak in for 20mins then put my head over a bowl of hot water with a towel over my head.
As the steam collected and my face heated up, the beads of sweat built up and my face started to dribble in that delightfully rank way that makes me remember how horrific summer in the city actually feels. After flannel-dabbing my skin dry, there was no uncomfortable tight feeling whatsoever, so the moisturising ingredients really clung on well. In a real-life beach situation I would retreat to the shade, reapply and wait. Most importantly it didn’t all pour straight off my skin in white streaks, so thumbs up there.
The ‘C’ Word
There’s only one thing that makes me eye-roll in Ultra Violette’s branding: the word ‘clean’ on their tube of Clean Screen. This really, really grinds my gears. It’s no secret I find this word utter marketing rubbish – I wrote about Clean-timidation and I will gladly win this argument if you come @ me. Nothing is clean. Everything is a chemical. End of. I get that it rhymes with Screen and it infers it’s more compatible with sensitive skin, but it’s still BS and plays into everything that’s morally wrong about consumer hoodwinking. I asked their team why they felt this word was necessary, given their overall brilliantly progressive zero-gimmicks approach. ‘It’s a combo of word association for people with acne and sensitive skin,’ says Ultra Violette co-founder Ava Matthews. ‘The finish of the product evokes that fresh clean-skin feeling as it’s the lightest texture-wise and gives a natural skin finish.’ Let’s agree to disagree.
Aside from that, Ultra Violette is everything you want in a cool, cosmetically elegant, pro-science skincare brand, which celebrates modern SPF technology as the most important part of any skincare routine. The buzz, the sales stats, the want-it-now hype? I have never seen anything like this happen with an SPF. That colleague who whispered Ultra Violette at the watercooler was so, so right.
5 more everyday SPFs that sit really well over your skincare and under makeup:
- La Roche Posay Anthelios Age Correct SPF50, £25, Look Fantastic
- Estee Lauder Perfectionist Pro Acqua UV Gel SPF50, £36, Look Fantastic
- Garnier Ambre Solaire Anti-Dryness Super UV SPF50, £6, Boots
- Glossier Invisible Shield Daily Sunscreen SPF35, £20, Glossier
- Kate Somerville UncompliKated SPF50 Soft Focus Makeup Setting Spray, £34, Cult Beauty