Paula's Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer with SPF 30 review

Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer with SPF 30 isn’t a moisturiser with SPF. It’s a moisturising sunscreen.

This isn’t just semantics. You need a ton of product (one third of a teaspoon for your face + neck) to reach the SPF level stated on the bottle.

With a sunscreen, you know you need that much. With a moisturiser, you tend to use way less. Now you’ve compromised your sun protection and let yourself open to sun damage.

Shame. When used as the sunscreen that it is, Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer with SPF 30 provides excellent protection from both the sun and pollution. Here’s how it does it:

What’s In Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer With SPF 30?


If you’re a regular here, you know zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are my fave UV filters. Here’s what makes these two white minerals so special:

While we’re on the subject, mineral filters like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide work just like chemical filters: they absorb UV rays and transform them into a less damaging form of heat (energy). The difference? Mineral UV filters also reflect and scatter away a small amount of UV rays. They do double duty. 🙂

The catch? Mineral filters can be thick, greasy and leave a ghostly white cast on the skin. Not this one. The texture here is as elegant as can be.

Related: Mineral Vs Chemical Sunscreen: Which One Should You Choose?


Pollution and UV rays both cause free radicals, the nasty molecules that destroy collagen, elastin, cellular DNA… They’re the nasty buggers that make you age prematurely.

Enter antioxidants. Think of them as your skin’s police. They patrol your skin looking for free radicals. When they spot one, they neutralise it before they can wreak too much damage.

The more antioxidants your skin has, the better. Thankfully, Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer With SPF 30 is loaded with them. Here are the highlights:

Related: The Most Common Antioxidants Used In Skincare: Which One Is Best For You?

Struggling to put together a skincare routine that minimises wrinkles, prevents premature aging, and gives your complexion a youthful glow? Download your FREE “Best Anti-Aging Skincare Routine” to get started (it features product recommendations + right application order):

The Rest Of The Formula

NOTE: The colours indicate the effectiveness of an ingredient. It is ILLEGAL to put toxic and harmful ingredients in skincare products.

  • Green: It’s effective, proven to work, and helps the product do the best possible job for your skin.
  • Yellow: There’s not much proof it works (at least, yet).
  • Red: What is this doing here?!
  • Water: The base of this (and most) skincare products.
  • C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate: It can be used to improve the texture and feel of products. Here, it’s mainly used as an emollient, a fancy way of saying it keeps skin soft and supple by creating a barrier that reduces water loss.
  • Glycerin: One of the most common humectants used in skincare. Humectants are ingredients that draw moisture from the air into your skin, helping to keep it hydrated for longer. The more hydration your skin has, the softer and suppler it gets.
  • Isononyl Isononanoate: An emollient that creates a protective barrier on the skin that keeps moisture from evaporating. As a result, it makes skin feel softer, keeps it moisturised for longer, and helps prevent irritation from the elements. It’s also used to improve the texture of a formulation.
  • Butylene Glycol: Although it has some humectants properties like glycerin, it’s mainly used here as a texture enhancer.
  • Cetearyl Alcohol: Another ingredient that does double duty. It’s here both to improve the texture and feel of the sunscreen AND to create a protective barrier that keeps moisture in. The more moisture stays in, the softer and smoother your skin feels.
  • Potassium Cetyl Phosphate: One of those ingredients that doesn’t really do anything for skin. It’s here just to improve the texture of the formula by helping the oily and watery parts stay together and not split up into a gooey mess.
  • Dimethicone: One of the most used types of silicones in skincare, it fills in fine lines and wrinkles, so they look smaller to the naked eye. Unfortunately, the effect is only temporary. Once the effect runs off, your wrinkles are still there, as deep as before. Dimethicone also has a particular molecular structure made up of big molecules with wide gaps in between. This makes it able to create a protective barrier on the skin that keeps moisture in and, at the same time, allow skin to perspire. One more thing: Dimethicone itself doesn’t cause breakouts. But if your product has comedogenic ingredients and your skin’s acne-prone, the combo may lead to pimples.
  • Glyceryl Stearate: It enhances the texture of the sunscreen, making it more pleasant to use.
  • Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract: Derived from liquorice, it has powerful soothing properties that reduce redness and irritation. Licorice also helps fade dark spots, but not in the small concentration used here.
  • Actinidia Chinensis (Kiwi) Fruit Extract (antioxidant): Derived from kiwi, it’s a rich source of antioxidants, including polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids, and vitamin C. These antioxidants neutralise free radicals, little molecules generated by UV rays and pollution before they can destroy the collagen and elastin in your skin that, if left unchecked, would result in wrinkles and sagginess.
  • Argania Spinosa (Argan) Kernel Oil: Argan oil is super moisturising. Rich in fatty acids, it creates a protective barrier on the skin that keeps moisture in and germs and irritants out. This protective barrier also helps your skin withstand the attacks of the elements, especially in winter time. Plus, it has some antioxidant properties to boot.
  • Tetra-peptide-30: A synthetic peptide containing the amino acids proline, glutamic acid, and lysine. It calms down irritations, brightens skin, and may even help fade away dark spots. Most of these claims come from studies done by the manufacturer. The jury is still out there on how well peptides work when applied topically on your skin.
  • Linoleic Acid: A fatty acid found in plant oils, it’s super moisturising. It creates a barrier on the skin that protects it from environmental damage, makes skin softer and smoother, and even has some soothing and anti-acne properties.
  • Bisabolol: One of the active ingredients in chamomile, it has soothing properties that can calm down irritation and redness.
  • Phospholipids: Naturally occurring into the skin, they’re fat composed or fatty acids, glycerol, and phosphate. They have several jobs in skincare products. For starters, they draw moisture from the air into your skin, helping it to stay hydrated for longer. This also means that it can keep skin soft and hydrated without being occlusive, adding more oil, or causing breakouts. Plus, they have antioxidant properties and help deliver active ingredients deeper into your skin.
  • Lecithin: Made up of fatty acids, it has powerful moisturising properties. It creates a barrier on the skin that protects it from environmental damage and prevents moisture from evaporating, keeping your skin softer and suppler for longer. It also helps improve the texture of the sunscreen.
  • Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols: Another ingredient that creates a protective barrier on the skin. A healthy skin barrier is key in keeping skin soft, supple, younger-looking and free from irritation. It also has some antioxidant properties too.
  • Xanthophylls: It has some weak antioxidant properties that help prevent wrinkles in the long run.
  • Pullulan: It improves the texture of the sunscreen, so it’s a pleasure to use.
  • Sodium Gluconate: It’s a chelating agent that binds with metal ions found in water to enhance the stability of other ingredients. It also has some mild hydrating properties.
  • Xanthan Gum: Derived from sugar, it doesn’t do anything for skin and a lot for the product. It improves the texture of the sunscreen, prevents the formula from separating into its oily and watery parts, and thickens the consistency for a smoother, easy-to-spread texture.
  • Sclerotium Gum: A sugar-based ingredient, it thickens and stabilises skincare formulations.
  • Alumina: A naturally occurring mineral, it’s used to thicken the texture of skincare products and to absorb excess oil from skin.
  • Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride: Derived from coconut, it makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Citric Acid: It’s used to adjust the pH of skincare products.
  • Triethoxycaprylylsilane: A silicone used to coat mineral sunscreen actives to give them a nicer texture, so they’re pleasant to use. When used in skincare formulations, it can also reduce oxidative stress.
  • C13-14 Isoparaffin: It’s used to dissolve other ingredients in the formula.
  • Acrylates Copolymer: A film forming agent that forms a pliable layer on skin when dry, making skin feels softer to the touch. It also imparts water-resistant properties to sunscreens.
  • Polyhydroxystearic Acid: It’s used to coat mineral sunscreen active ingredients so they disperse evenly on the skin.
  • Caprylyl Glycol: It has mild hydrating properties that makes skin softer and smoother. It also acts as a preservative, stabilising skincare formulations.
  • Polyacrylamide: A multi-tasker that acts as a film-former, suspending/binding agent and emollient in skin care formulas.
  • Ceteareth-20: It thickens the texture and prevents the oily and watery parts of a formula from separating.
  • Aluminum Stearate: A thickening agent.
  • Laureth-7: It keeps the watery and oily parts of a formula from separating.
  • Ethylhexylglycerin: It acts as a preservative, keeping your skincare products safer and effective for longer.
  • Phenoxyethanol: It’s a preservative that kills a wide range of bacteria, keeping your sunscreen safe for use.


This sunscreen has a lightweight, creamy, more emollient than Paula’s Choice Resist Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense, and dries to a glowy finish. I personally love this texture because it also offers some moisturising properties, yet I can layer it on without it feeling too greasy. Having said that, if your skin’s on the oily side, this may be a tad too emollient for you. The Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense formula would be a better fit for you.

Related: My Full Review Of Paula’s Choice Resist Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense


Like all Paula’s Choice’s products, it’s fragrance-free. Is it a good or bad thing? It depends on how you look at it.

I like fragrance-free products because they’re safer to use. Fragrance is one of the most irritating ingredients in skincare. If you have sensitive skin and are experiencing a negative reaction from a product, this is likely to be the culprit. Plus, fragrance has no real benefit, so you have everything to gain and nothing to use by taking it out.

Having said that, if you love products that smell really good, you’ll be disappointed. Fragrance-free products have a smell, but you’re smelling the ingredients and they rarely smell like a bouquet of roses, know what I mean? The natural smell of this sunscreen isn’t unpleasant, it’s just… not much of anything really.

How To Use It

Don’t be fooled by the name. This is a sunscreen and sunscreen is ALWAYS the last step of your morning skincare routine. Apply generously all over exposed areas of skin and reapply as needed during the day. In winter, you may get away with just one touch-up, especially if you’re indoors. In the summer, when the sun rays are stronger, reapply it every couple of hours.

Performance & Personal Opinion

Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer With SPF 30 has a wonderful texture: it’s creamy without being heavy, glowy without being disco-bally, and hydrating without leaving a greasy residue on.

It blends into the skin effortlessly, making it easy to pile it on as needed. It’ll never feel like a greasy mess on your skin. And, while the tint isn’t enough to cover imperfections, it ensures there’s no white cast left on your skin.

Did I mention it works well under makeup? No matter what I paired it with, I never experienced any pilling. Instead, it provides a hydrating and illuminating canvas that makes your skin look fresh and bright.

The sunscreen also does a wonderful job at protecting my skin from UV rays for most of the year. I say most because, on hot summer days when temperatures reach 25ºC or higher, I switch to a SPF 50.

The rest of the time, this does just fine. The addition of so many antioxidants also makes me feel safe against pollution, a constant threat here in London. *sighs*

The only drawback? This isn’t waterproof. If you sweat a lot or do sports, this isn’t the best option for you.

Paula's Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer SPF 30

Who Is This For?

Anyone can use it, but it’s more suitable for dry and sensitive skin types.

Who Is This NOT For?

  • Oily skin. The glowy finish may make your skin look too shiny.
  • If you’re looking for a waterproof sunscreen, this isn’t for you.


The sunscreen comes in a coral tube. I love the colour. I know it’s a minor detail, but there aren’t many products in this bright shade. It looks good on my vanity and puts a smile on my face. Even more important though, the pretty tube is practical to use. I have the travel size for now, but love this so much, I’ll be buying the full size soon.

Does Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer With SPF 30 Live Up To Its Claims?

This illuminating moisturizer shields skin with all-mineral sun protection plus antioxidants to help protect against the effects of environmental damage. True. But it’s a sunscreen, not a moisturiser.
Creates an instant, healthy glow for makeup-optional skin.True.
Lightweight, illuminating cream.True.
12 antioxidants visibly diminish the signs of environment-based aging.Antioxidants prevent wrinkles, they don’t reduce those you already have.

Price & Availability

$29.00/£30.00 at Cult Beauty, Dermstore, Nordstrom, and Paula’s Choice

Do You Need It?

If you’re looking for a moisturising sunscreen for your dry skin, this is an excellent option to consider.

Dupes & Alternatives

I haven’t found another moisturising, tinted mineral sunscreen with such an elegant texture yet.


Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide 5.25%; Zinc Oxide 6.12%. Inactive Ingredients: Water, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate (emollient), Glycerin (skin-replenishing), Isononyl Isononanoate (emollient), Butylene Glycol (texture enhancer), Cetearyl Alcohol (emollient/texture enhancer), Potassium Cetyl Phosphate (emulsifier), Dimethicone (hydration), Glyceryl Stearate (texture enhancer), Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract (skin-soothing), Actinidia Chinensis (Kiwi) Fruit Extract (antioxidant), Argania Spinosa (Argan) Kernel Oil (non-fragrant antioxidant plant oil), Tetrapeptide-30, Linoleic Acid (skin-restoring agents), Resveratrol (antioxidant), Ascorbyl Glucoside (vitamin C/antioxidant), Niacinamide (skin-restoring), Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E/antioxidant), Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (vitamin C/antioxidant), Bisabolol (skin-soothing), Tocopherol (vitamin E/antioxidant), Phospholipids, Lecithin (skin-restoring agents), Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols (antioxidant/hydration), Xanthophylls (antioxidant), Pullulan (texture enhancer), Sodium Gluconate (hydration), Xanthan Gum, Sclerotium Gum, Alumina (texture enhancers), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (skin-replenishing), Citric Acid (pH adjuster), Triethoxycaprylylsilane (texture enhancer), C13-14 Isoparaffin (solvent), Acrylates Copolymer (film-forming agent), Polyhydroxystearic Acid (dispersing agent), Caprylyl Glycol (hydration), Polyacrylamide (film-forming agent), Ceteareth-20, Aluminum Stearate (texture enhancers), Laureth-7 (emulsifier), Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol (preservatives).