Review: Neutrogena Beach Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70

This summer, I discovered a love of frolicking in the surf with my son. I also discovered how poorly my precious Nivea Sun Protect Water Gel and my Biore Aqua Rich Watery Gel fit into my new beach lifestyle. While amazing for everyday use, neither of these sunscreens is water-resistant, and frequent reapplication makes both extremely cost-prohibitive for beach use. I can’t slack off on body sunscreen the way I used to, either, since I’m using photosensitizing actives on my arms and legs.

I wanted the freedom to play in the water with Young Master Fiddy like a deranged mama seal with a high-energy pup, so I needed to improve my body sunscreen game without breaking my bank account. That’s why I ended up tossing a big yellow bottle of Neutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen Lotion (SPF 70) into my cart during a grocery run one sunny, desperate day.


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Western skincare products and the K-beauty routine

BUT FIDDY, you say, NEUTROGENA SUNSCREEN? THAT IS NOT AN ASIAN PRODUCT! HOW COULD YOU?!?!?!?!?! And I totally understand if that’s what you’re thinking.

Asian skincare routine with Western products

It may look 100% Asian at first glance, but the Darphin* products in this routine are French, and Curology isn’t an Asian product, either.

It can be easy to assume that K-beauty and AB skincare bloggers who use a lot of Asian products do so exclusively (and, if you’re new to this scene, easy to assume that Asian or Korean products are automatically better and should be used exclusively). After all, we typically only talk about the Asian products we use, because, well, that’s what our blogs are about, as my fellow Snailcaster Snow pointed out in her recent post on K-beauty and cultural appropriation. For me, however, I think the time has come to start talking about some Western products. Not many, but a few.

I’m ready to talk about some Western products now because a product doesn’t necessarily have to be Asian in origin to belong in my beauty wardrobe, and I don’t think a product needs to be Asian in origin to belong on this blog, either. It just has to fit into my K-beauty-inspired skincare philosophy. That philosophy is all about layering targeted treatments for your individual skin concerns in order to create an extensively personalized skincare routine to achieve your skin goals. It’s also about sun protection. Lots and lots of sun protection. Here’s where the Neutrogena sunscreen comes in.

Neutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70 Review

Neutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen SPF 70A couple of years back, I had a truly terrible experience trying to use Neutrogena’s Ultra “Sheer” “Dry” Touch sunscreen in the recommended 2mg/cm2 amount on my face. I didn’t think I’d ever go back to this brand’s sun protection again. Just goes to show how much I know.

Purpose: Neutrogena Beach Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70 is a broad-spectrum, water-resistant chemical sunscreen that protects skin from UVA and UVB radiation in very active or very wet outdoor conditions.

Best suited for: Body skin; skin that can tolerate chemical UV filters.

Do not use if: Your skin is sensitive to chemical UV filters, silicones, silica, or anything else in the ingredients list.

When and how to use: At least 15 minutes prior to sun exposure, apply generously over all uncovered skin and let dry. Reapply after every 2 hours of sun exposure, after 80 minutes of sweating or swimming, after towel drying, and/or after any activity which might result in product being wiped off of skin.

Neutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen SPF 70 ingredientsNeutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70 active ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, homosalate 10%, octosalate 5%, octocrylene 4.5%, oxybenzone 4%

Neutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70 inactive ingredients: Water, styrene/acrylates copolymer, dimethicone, potassium cetyl phosphate, benzyl alcohol, silica, diethylhexyl 2,6-naphthalate, dimethicone/PEG-10/15 crosspolymer, trisiloxane, cetyl dimethicone, beeswax, ethylhexylglycerin, sodium polyacrylate, xanthan gum, ethylhexyl stearate, acrylates/C12-22 alkyl methacrylate copolymer, behenyl alcohol, trideceth-6, disodium EDTA, glyceryl stearate, PEG-100 stearate, caprylyl glycol, chlorphenesin, fragrance

CosDNA

Notable ingredients: Since this is a sunscreen and we should have no expectations for it beyond protecting our skin from sun damage without irritation, breakouts, or other skin troubles, let’s just look briefly at the UV filters Neutrogena uses here.

It’s often said (sometimes by me) that US sunscreens are inferior to Asian and European sunscreens. The more limited selection of UV filters the FDA has approved for use compared to those available for Asian and European sunscreen formulations means that US drugstore brands like Neutrogena typically don’t make the most cosmetically elegant sunscreens or offer the highest quantifiable UVA protection. They have less to work with, and sunscreen formulation is a particularly complex and confusing beast. I had to get help from a cosmetic chemist friend, Stephen of Kind of Stephen, just to make sure I wasn’t passing on myths or misinformation in my quick overview of sunscreen filters below!

Neutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen Lotion close up

You’ll only find the word Helioplex on Neutrogena sunscreens, but the actual ingredients in Helioplex can be found elsewhere. The patent has expired, according to Stephen, so now only the name is exclusive to Neutrogena.

What Neutrogena is working with in the Beach Defense Sunscreen Lotion is a handful of chemical (a.k.a. organic) UV filters. These typically result in a more cosmetically elegant formulation overall: reduced white cast and greasiness compared to sunscreen products made with the physical (a.k.a. inorganic) UV filters zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. But of course there are trade-offs. Chemical filters can be more irritating to some people’s skin, and avobenzone, one of the more common chemical sunscreen ingredients, breaks down with UV exposure if not properly stabilized with another chemical filter. Fortunately, while Neutrogena does make use of avobenzone in the Beach Defense lotion, the brand stabilizes it in its trademarked Helioplex broad-spectrum avobenzone and oxybenzone blend.

Theoretically, as long as you use sunscreen correctly, you can expect the full benefit of the advertised UV protection. The question is whether the sunscreen can be used correctly without being so dreadful that UV damage seems like a more reasonable option.

Performance

You may have noticed that the header image for this post is a gratuitous close-up on some hardcore white cast. It’s almost as bad as how Laneige Triple Sunscreen* looks after drying down. White casts can be deceptive, though. There are white casts that stick around and turn every beach day into an unintentional geisha cosplay day*, and there are white casts that look bad upon application but then vanish, leaving no white tint behind. Surprisingly (for me, at least), Neutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70 belongs to the second category.

When first dispensed, the Beach Defense Sunscreen Lotion is a thick, smooth white lotion. It’s quite thick compared to something like a Japanese “water gel”-type sunscreen but spreads much more easily than most physical sunscreens, and even when applied generously, that hardcore white cast vanishes within minutes.

Since the Beach Defense Sunscreen Lotion uses only chemical filters, it doesn’t create that intense flashback effect (a.k.a. Surprise Ghostface) when photographed. Also nice is its very minimal scent. When first smeared on, the product smells lightly of sunscreen, but after a few minutes, the smell fades with the white tint.

For all those reasons, the Beach Defense Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70 is more cosmetically elegant than I expected, both for a US drugstore sunscreen and also for a sport-strength sunscreen. It isn’t perfect, though, nor is it even close to being cosmetically elegant enough for me to consider it as a face sunscreen. If applied generously, as directed, it will dry down enough to stay put but leaves a thick, shiny, and moderately greasy-feeling residue, at least for me. This holds true whether I put the sunscreen on in one thick layer or in multiple thinner layers as Stephen helpfully recommends.

Applying in two or more thinner layers does help with drying time, though. The Beach Defense SPF 70 lotion takes quite a while to sink in and settle down on skin, 20 or so minutes in my experience and my (coastal yet arid) climate. Splitting the day’s dose up into two or more portions won’t shorten the “drying” time, but it does shorten my perception of the total drying time by giving me something to do instead of just pacing around trying not to touch things for a third of an hour or more. As a bonus, people who apply their sunscreen in multiple layers tend to receive better protection overall!

I’ve alluded several times to the need to apply this sunscreen (or any other sunscreen) generously. If you’re serious about sun protection, this is a must, since applying less than 2mg/cmwill result in a drastic, nearly exponential drop in SPF. One of the reasons that finding acceptable sunscreens is so challenging is the fact that many sunscreens (especially, but not just, Western sunscreens) look and feel like shit when used in the correct quantities.

(This is also why powder sunscreens and sunscreen in makeup are next to useless, by the way.)

I generally eyeball the thickness of my sunscreen application to make sure I’m putting on enough, or at least close to enough, product. With the Neutrogena Beach Defense SPF 70 lotion, I can generally do so without problems. One issue I’ve noticed, however, is that when I accidentally go just a tiny bit overboard, that protective layer of product will pill up so much that it looks like I put peeling gel ALL OVER MY BODY and then decided to let it rub off all day. Just a touch too much of this sunscreen causes my arms and legs to gradually develop a layer of white flakes, leaving a trail of balled-up sunscreen wherever I go, like a UV-phobic version of Hansel and/or Gretel. The product also temporarily turns white again if hit by water, which can look…strange.

I do err on the side of caution when it comes to sunscreen, though. I’d rather use too much than too little. If you’re less extreme than I am about sun protection, you may never experience the pilling and shedding or the Return of the White Cast.

Even when I haven’t used the Beach Defense SPF 70 lotion to excess, I find the sun protection it gives more than adequate. Actually, this product does a much better job of shielding my skin than I’d expected given that it’s a US product without clearly marked UVA protection levels.

I’m being more diligent about body sunscreen this summer than I’ve ever been before for a couple of reasons. One, I’d like to fade my years-old farmer’s tan and be all one color from head to toe for once in my life, instead of an NC15-NC35 patchwork. And two, my efforts to fade that tan now include chemical exfoliation on my arms and legs, using photosensitizing AHA products. Without adequate sun protection every time my limbs see the sun, they’ll get even more sun damaged than they’ve ever been before.

Beach

This is my neighborhood, so I think you can understand why my limbs see the sun a lot.

Freckling, tanning, and burning are the only signs of sun damage immediately visible to the naked eye, so they’re the markers I use to judge whether any given sunscreen product delivers enough protection. Absence of burning even after extended periods of time indicates enough UVB protection, measured as SPF, but that’s only the beginning. Any sunscreen product will provide the SPF on the label when used as directed. I’m more interested in the freckling and tanning, some of which comes from UVB but the rest of which comes from UVA radiation, which is responsible for most visible skin aging due to sun damage and which oxidizes and darkens already-existing melanin in the skin. Even some PA+++ Japanese and Korean sunscreens don’t absorb and convert enough UVA radiation to prevent my skin from freckling or tanning. Neutrogena Beach Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70 does, however, even with my photosensitizing near-daily AHA use. I’ve been using this sunscreen for a couple of months now and am confident in its broad-spectrum UV protection.

Conclusion: It’s not a perfect sunscreen by any means, and I wouldn’t use it on my face due to its fairly heavy residue and tendency to pill if overapplied, but as a sport-strength body sunscreen, Neutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70 is surprisingly usable. It’s also much cheaper per ml in the US than comparable Japanese sunscreens, making it more practical for frequent full-body use at the recommended quantities. I’ve gone through several bottles of it and will use up at least a couple more by the time this summer’s over.

Rating: 3.8/5

Rating scale:

1 – This should be taken off the market, or this failed at its one primary job.
2 – Caused me some problems or doesn’t work very well; would not buy again.
3 – Meh. Neither great nor bad.
4 – Pretty good. Would buy again unless I find something better.
5 – I’ll never be in the market for a replacement unless this one is discontinued.

Where can I buy Neutrogena Beach Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70?

Neutrogena sunscreens like this one are widely available at drugstores and big box chains in the US. You can also buy it online:

What body sunscreen do you use, and how diligent are you about it?

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24 responses to “Review: Neutrogena Beach Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70

  1. I’ve been looking everywhere for a cost-effective (body) sunscreen since I very nearly burnt to a crisp while wwoofing this summer. My AB pick would have been the Rhoto Skin Aqua UV gel but that stuff works out to around 4$/ oz which feels like a pretty crap deal. It really shouldn’t have to be a trade-off between safety and time spent enjoying the outdoors. Thanks for this!

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  2. I think you need to spend some time reading EWG review on sunscreens and the indication that Oxybenzone is linked to women with endometriosis. It’s a hormone disruptor and should be avoided at all costs. There is nothing cosmetically elegant about this sunscreen. There are a slew of inexpensive HEALTHY sunscreens that I would consider before even looking at Neutrogena, who are one of the worst offenders on the EWG scorecard. Check out Alba. https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/executive-summary/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks so much for doing this review Fiddy! Your blog has made me swear by the Asian beauty routine and espouse it as the best, but sometimes we also have to be practical and source from somewhere that’s nearer and cheaper. Sunscreen is definitely one of those categories! I’m looking forward to you doing more reviews like this that incorporate American brands into the Asian beauty routine.

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  4. Hey Fiddy! This post came on time for my upcoming vacation on a (hot and sunny) little Brazilian paradise (no, not Rio – eew.). Have you stuck with your Bioré Watery Essence as a face sunscreen (despite all the frolicking in the water)? Got word that the blue Bioré (Perfect Milk?) would be more appropriate for beach days than the Essence and the other Milks, Do you agree?
    Thx much for another skin-saving post!

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  5. Hi Fiddy! I just ordered a bunch of stuff from Jolse. I’m wondering how the free samples work. Do you get to choose them while checking out or it’s randomly chosen by the company? And the status of the tracking says awaiting shipment, does that mean it hasn’t been shipped yet? If so, how long will that take? (the payment has been made)

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  6. I just started using Biotherm Soin Solaria Visage 30 SPF. It’s not cheap at $35 CAD, but it is water resistant, and hasn’t caused my super sensitive skin to dry out yet.

    And your blog has been an inspiration for getting into Korean Skincare! Keep the awesome posts coming! I’m not at all opposed to using North American products, as there are some pretty amazing products out there. I just wish some of them were cheaper like some Korean ones!

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  7. I use Ocean Potion products for myself and my so (for our bodies. I have a variety of AB sunscreens for our faces). They smell great, and spread as easily as a lotion with no lingering white cast. We apply before leaving the house, and hourly after that. We are usually at the YMCA pool, and they do 10 minutes of “adult only” swimming every hour, on the hour. I use that time to reapply our sunscreen.

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  8. Tried to put a comment about chem screens on Cat’s blog, but it gets squiffy with the autocorrect. Readers should be aware that sensitivity to chem sunscreens can come on after years of their use, and not be immediately apparent that that’s the cause. Took me the better part of the summer 2 years ago. I live at the beach and love the ocean, so I live in sunscreen. How would you connect it with a (my) temperature drop to 93, flushing, lightheadedness, and the need to sleep it off for 3 hours? Esp when it was fine, the year before? Was not even able to do the beach that year. I got sick within 5-10 minutes on my porch. Boy, did I feel stupid, when I figured it out. Decided that since I had had 2 months exposure, I’d read outside in the shade for a bit. Did not apply anything. No immuney, trying to raise the temp sweats. Felt NORMAL. Moved into the sun, still normal. Omg, I had myself convinced I had lupus. (I do have other immune issues…). So, think I love the white cast. Just wanted your readers to know that they should approach sunscreen as they do everything. Patch test and be wary. It was quite scary, disrupted my whole summer, and took ~10 weeks to figure out. Figured out aloe in far less than that.

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  9. I really like Supergoop Everyday SPF 50 With Cellular Response Technology. I buy it in a pump bottle and keep it by the door and everyone is in the habit of putting on sunscreen when they put their shoes on! No one has been burned as long as we make sure to re-apply as indicated and even if we slack on the re-application, only my youngest got a little pink (After 3 hours in the water).

    I like how it sinks in quickly and in low on the fragrance.

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  10. If you’re looking for extremely high protection sunscreens that are also cosmetically elegant, then La Roche-Posay can’t be beat. I’m sure you have heard of it – it is a European brand that falls under the L’oreal umbrella, and all LRP sunscreens (the European, not American formulations) contain the Mexoryl SX and XL filters. Their ultra light fluid for example is an all-chemical sunscreen with PPD 42 – compare that to the Watery Essence’s PPD 16. That’s almost three times the UVA protection, if not more, because I think it’s calculated exponentially. It also contains mattifiers for oily skin like silica, perlite, and dimethicone, and it doesn’t leave a white cast because there’s nothing in it to leave a white cast. I used the Watery Essence on a daily basis but the lack of sebum and water resistance as well as the relatively low PPD made me switch to LRP, and it’s just a whole lot better because it’s also photostable because of the Mexoryl, so I don’t have to reapply it as often. The main drawback of the Watery Essence is that it doesn’t protect that well against UVA-I because the filters are skewed towards UVA-II, but the Avobenzone and Mexoryl in the LRP covers the entire spectrum.

    It’s unfortunately hard for Americans to get their hands on the European LRP sunscreens, but there is one online store in the US that imports and sells them – pharmacymix, which I use. I think you’ll like it a whole lot more than the Neutrogena!

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    • I am a former LRP user — sort of funny we’re sunscreen opposites. Since getting into K-beauty I really love the Biore sunscreens (watery essence and perfect milk, for different situations) whereas I used the mineral and chemical versions of LRP for different seasons for about 2 years. I like the Biore versions better — the chemical versions of LRP migrate like crazy on my face (and into eyes + hair) in the summer, and the mineral versions leave a white cast (and I am pretty pale), so I mix with some foundation. But, that being said, I have been seeing LRP in CVS Pharmacy in the impulse buy section of all places, and I used to order it on Amazon. I stocked up and got a bad batch (3 tubes) of the mineral, though, which was a wasteful bummer at $30/tube. I’m trying to use it up on my arms, but it is like sandpaper. Probably it wasn’t stored correctly.

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      • By ‘CVS’, I’m assuming you’re American. I emphasised in my post that the LRP sunscreens I’m referring to are the European versions with Mexoryl. The European and American versions are like night and day – completely different. American sunscreens are more outdated than their European and Asian counterparts because of the FDA’s restrictive regulations, and so LRP has had to ‘water down’ the formulas for the American market, resulting in sunscreens that are nothing like the original European products. Some of the European LRP options are so cosmetically elegant that I’ve been able to ditch my Watery Essence without feeling like I’m sacrificing on user comfort for higher protection.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Awesome info on how to score European LRP! I’ve been looking for EXACTLY THIS – European sunscreen manufacturers have access to many of the same chemical UV protecting ingredients that the dumb-dumb US FDA still hasn’t approved (grumble grumble) – I’ve been dying to try LRP as many of my European friends swear by it. I’m off to give pharmacymix a visit!

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      • Also check out frenchcosmeticsforless for a good selection of european sunscreens (LRP, Bioderma, ROC, Vichy, etc). The prices are very reasonable and they order every week.

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  11. There’s this new brand being carried by Target called Bare Republic. It’s about the same price range as Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Dry Touch range is down in Florida. It uses only inorganic filters and claims to have singularly included ingredients that are good for the skin. I have the spf 30 lip balm, and it feels smooth and soft and leaves no white cast. While I haven’t tried their lotions yet, I have tried items by their parent company, Coola. I would love to hear your thoughts!

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  12. Welcome to the club! Been using exactly this sunscreen on my body for at least a few years now (like you say, it’s tough to put up with on your face, plus it burns like hell if it gets in your eyes). Like it for all the same reasons you list, and as recent recommendations say, waterproof is the way to go in hot weather when there might be any sweating at all. Funny though, while I do layer generously I’ve never had an issue with pilling. Maybe it’s because it’s humid where I live so it never dries completely. Instead my problem is I have telltale white streaks on pretty much everything in the summer. I wipe my hands off after applying, try to give adequate drying time, etc. It’s no use. White marks on my car, front door, sometimes black clothing. But it’s the price we have to pay for protected skin, right?

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    • OMG. Do you get the white streaks when you get splashed anywhere that you have this on? I don’t remember if I mentioned that in the review but I noticed it the last time I went to the beach (and may have to go edit it in if I didn’t mention it already). I went in the water and came out white from the waist down!

      BUT TOTALLY PROTECTED SO IT’S FINE. IT’S FINE.

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  13. Hey, thanks for the sunscreen overview! I’d love to hear about any other US sunscreens you’ve tried. I have a current fav, but am on the lookout for another affordable body sunscreen.

    My go-to body sunscreen right now is a Coppertone one. They change the packaging a lot, but the one marked ‘for kids’ or ‘for babies’ and ‘tear-free’ is usually how I tell it’s the one I want. It’s a octinoxate/octisalate/zinc oxide sunscreen. I like it because it doesn’t have aveobenzene in it, which stings my eyes like CRAZY. I used it for two summers doing ecological field work in Texas, and it works extremely well at preventing burning and tanning (when used correctly, etc etc).

    It definitely has a white-cast problem when applying, but does settle, since it’s a combo physical/chemical sunscreen, and the overall feel is greasy. The flip side is that it stays put. While you do still need to reapply, I could not sweat this sunscreen off, even after a full day outside in 100+ degrees. I haven’t used it for swimming/beaches as much, but it also has stayed put well for those activities as well!

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    • Thanks for the input! I think I may have tried that one as well (last summer I sometimes used a Coppertone for my body that was just fine). It’s good to try new options but even better that you already have a solid product in your routine!

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  14. Hey Fiddy, quick question–how much sunscreen are you applying for your layers? It seems for me that no matter how little of this I apply, I get some pilling–I’ve moved to a quarter-sized blob on my arms and I’m still getting flakes.

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  15. HI Fiddy,
    This one isn’t stocked in Australia. The one we have is spf 50.
    It contains Butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane 3% w/w, Homosalate 10/% w/w, Octyl Salicylate 5% w/w, Octocrylene 4.5%, Oxybenzone 4%.
    It lis advertised like this.
    NEUTROGENA Beach Defence Water + Sun Barrier Lotion SPF 50 198 mL

    Neutrogena Beach Defence Water + Sun Barrier Lotion SPF 50 198 mL
    CLICK ON IMAGE TO ZOOM

    SPF 50, Broad spectrum UVA\UVB sun protection, 4 hours water resistant, Lightweight, Fast absorbing, Oil free, PABA free.

    Do you think this is the same or similar to the product you recommend? Do you think there is a lot of difference between spf 50 and 70.
    The US one is fairly expensive for us in Australia through ebay.
    Thanks,
    Gail

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