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:

About The Brand: Paula’s Choice

For years, Paula’s Choice was the best kept secret in the skincare world. While most women wasted their time on overpriced department store skincare that didn’t deliver on its promises, a small tribe of skincare fanatics swore by this little know brand that only featured science-based actives. Whether a moisturiser promises to get rid of acne, minimise wrinkles, or fade away dark spots, you could count on it to do the job.

The founder, Paula Begoun, is famous for telling it like it is – she got fired from her makeup counter job for telling her customers the truth about what skincare products can and can’t do! So no wonder she infused the same philosophy into her brand.

Sadly, Paulas has recently sold the company to people who are more than happy to ignore the science and create gimmick products that follow the latest marketing craze. Still, most of the line (the old products created when Paula was still at the helm) are still solid and I wholeheartedly recommend it. Just don’t get sucked in by the new offerings, that’s all I’m saying.

Key Ingredients In Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer With SPF 30: What Makes It Work?


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 & Ingredients

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.


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.

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

How Does Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer With SPF 30 Compare To Other Paula’s Choice Sunscreens For Dry Skin?

Even though Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer With SPF 30 is my fave sunscreen for dry skin, the brand says it’s suitable for all skin types. Let’s see how it compares to the other sunscreens from the brand then, so you can pick the best option for your unique skin type and needs:

  • Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief SPF 30 Mineral Moisturizer for Normal to Dry Skin ($33.00): A mineral sunscreen with a rich texture that hydrates skin and protects it from UV rays. Plus, it’s infused with skin-soothers to reduce redness and irritation. Available at Paula’s Choice.
  • Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief SPF 30 Mineral Moisturizer for Normal to Oily Skin ($33.00): A gentle mineral sunscreen enriched with skin-soothers to calm down redness and irritations. For a mineral sunscreen, it’s surprisingly lightweight, making it an excellent choice for oily skin. Available at Paula’s Choice.
  • Paula’s Choice Clear Ultra-Light Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 30+ ($37.00): A lightweight, chemical sunscreen for oily skin. It hydrates skin without adding oil to it. It absorbs excess oil. And it fights free radicals to prevent premature wrinkles. Available at Cult Beauty, Paula’s Choice, Sephora, and SpaceNK.
  • Paula’s Choice Hydralight Shine-Free Mineral Complex SPF 30 ($33.00): A mineral sunscreen that’s lightweight enough for dry skin but feels a little greasy on oily skin. It’s infused with antioxidants to boost the sun protection of the sunscreen and prevent premature aging. Available at Paula’s Choice.
  • Paula’s Choice Resist Skin Restoring Moisturiser With SPF 50 ($37.00): A rich formula with shea butter to moisturise skin, antioxidants to prevent premature aging, and niacinamide to hydrate and soothe. Available at Paula’s Choice, Sephora, and SpaceNK.
  • Paula’s Choice Resist Super-Light Wrinkle Defense SPF 30 ($37.00): My fave sunscreen for oily skin, it has a mineral formula with a light tint that absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave a greasy residue behind. Plus, it’s enriched with antioxidants to fight premature wrinkles. Available at Cult Beauty, Paula’s Choice and Sephora.
  • Paula’s Choice Resist Youth-Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 50 ($37.00): A lightweight formula for oily skin that’s perfect for the hottest months of the year. Silica absorbs excess oil while antioxidants boost sun protection. Available at Cult Beauty, Dermstore, Nordstrom, Paula’s Choice, Sephora, and SpaceNK.
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Ultra-Sheer Daily Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($33.00): A lightweight moisturiser infused with antioxidants that protects from UV rays, fights free radicals and absorbs excess oil. It’s most suitable for oily skin during the fall and winter months. Available at Paula’s Choice.
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Daily Moisturising Lotion SPF 30 ($33.00): A rich mineral sunscreens enriched with ceramides to strengthen the skin’s protective barrier and antioxidants to fight premature aging. It’s most suitable for dry skin during the winter and fall months. Available at Dermstore, Nordstrom, and Paula’s Choice.

What I Like About Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer With SPF 30

  • Lightweight, creamy texture that absorbs quickly.
  • It gives skin a glowing finish.
  • It’s fragrance-free.
  • No white cast.
  • It works well under makeup.
  • No pilling.
  • It protects skin from UV rays.
  • It helps fight free radicals.
  • Beautiful and practical packaging.

What I DON’T Like About Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer With SPF 30

  • A tad too emollient for oily skin.
  • It’s not water-resistant.
  • It may not be strong enough for the hottest summer days.

Who Should Use This?

Anyone can use this sunscreen, but it’s more suitable for dry and sensitive skin types. Oily skin may find the glowy finish makes your skin look too shiny. And, of course, if you’re looking for a waterproof sunscreen, this isn’t for you.

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.

Is Paula’s Choice Cruelty-Free?

Yes, Paula’s Choice is cruelty-free. The brand doesn’t test on animal, doesn’t outsource it to third parties, and doesn’t sell in countries where animal testing is required by law.

Price & Availability

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

The Verdict: Should You Buy It?

If you’re looking for a moisturising sunscreen for your dry skin, this is an excellent option to consider. I just wish the bottle was bigger.

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).