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My relationship with sunscreen is complicated because of my skin's sensitivity. On days I opt out of foundation and use sunscreen alone, I find the patches of redness and irritation along my laugh lines and chin stick out like a sore thumb. So when Tower 28 launched SunnyDays, a tinted sunscreen foundation with SPF 30 made with consideration for sensitive skin types like mine — essentially promising not to irritate my skin but also offering skin tone-matching coverage just in case it's already showing signs of sensitivity — I thought the only hurdle left was finding a shade match.
Before SunnyDays came into existence, Tower 28 founder Amy Liu didn't have the best experience with her sensitive skin and many trials with often-irritating chemical sunscreens and hard-to-blend mineral sunscreens. "It made it tricky to find the perfect formula without irritating [my] skin or leaving a white cast," Liu recalls. Highlighting the challenges those with skin conditions like eczema and acne face, she adds, "SPF protection is needed since sun damage can lead to scarring." Found in many cases of hyperpigmentation, Ellen Marmur, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, defines this broad skin condition as "discolored or darkened for a variety of reasons, such as sun damage or acne scarring."
Knowing that, Liu became determined to create the first tinted sunscreen foundation gentle enough to receive the National Eczema Association's Seal of Acceptance, which it now has. "I knew our [sensitive-skin] community needed it, and it didn't exist on the market," Liu says. And she wasn't wrong: After the wait list opened two weeks prior to SunnyDays' official launch date, more than 2,500 customers eagerly signed up.
After 50 iterations and three years (amidst a pandemic), Liu and makeup artist Kirin Bhatty created 14 tinted sunscreen foundation shades, starting with the deepest, Venice, first. "It was really important that all shades had zero white casts or oxidation," Liu says. "The team accomplished this by incorporating a mineral shield, titanium dioxide, and iron oxides as pigments "to reach that perfect tone." By working with these ingredients and taking into consideration how the mineral filter may manipulate color, oxidization was not an issue and true-to-skin-tone shades were achieved.
Tower 28 SunnyDay shades PCH, Third Street, and Melrose
The packaging started as a bottle, but Liu wanted to make sure all of the product could be used without leaving any at the bottom, so she quickly changed it to a tube. Furthermore, the thin nozzle creates a "hygienic needle nose that's basically a one-way so bacteria can't get in and allows you to control the amount of product that comes out," Liu says.
Born and raised in sunny California, I have a soft spot for things that remind me of home, so I love the product and shade names, like Silver Lake, Venice, and Topanga. And because I was brought up where the sun always shines, sunscreen in both my makeup and skin-care routine is an absolute must. Thankfully, Liu felt the same way formulating SunnyDays. "We actually tried for a higher SPF but couldn't do it without sacrificing white cast or blendability," Liu says, having landed on the dermatologist-recommended SPF 30.
Once SunnyDays was in my possession, I unscrewed the lid from its squeezable tube, admiring the long, transparent applicator tip. It's clear, which makes it easy to see and control how much product is coming out. (We've all been there with the first squeeze shooting out, wasting product.) The shade Point Dune is spot-on for my warm, olive-toned skin.
I used a damp makeup sponge for sunscreen protection and light coverage on my entire face, adding an extra dot or two of product where my redness shines through. Since the texture is remarkably light and creamy, additional coverage on my red zone did not irritate my skin nor dry it out, eliminating any concerns about creases and cakey laugh lines as the day went on.
Editorial assistant Talia Gutierrez wears the shade Point Dume
The finish starts out dewy but not the least bit oily, and then settles without oxidizing somewhere between matte and glowy. As for my sensitive skin, my laugh lines and chin were not the least bit irritated during or after application. But don't just take my word for it — four other Allure editors shared their first impressions and honest thoughts on Tower 28's SunnyDays SunnyDays SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen Foundation.
Senior commerce writer Sarah Han wears the shade Mullholland
For senior commerce writer Sarah Han, it's all about results that match a tall order of claims. "Creating an inclusive tinted sunscreen that provides decent coverage and doesn't leave a chalky residue or white cast — let alone, one ideal for sensitive skin — is a supersized order. Or so I thought, until I swiped it on," she says.
"I've tried way more mineral sunscreens that I dislike than ones I can tolerate — plus, my skin can handle chemical formulas quite well — but this formula seriously blew me away," she says. "It blends in easily with just my clean fingers — no brushes needed — and seamlessly masks any redness and dark spots dotting my complexion. It's not overly dewy or matte — more like a sweet spot that just nails the 'second-skin' effect."
Associate digital beauty director Sarah Kinonen wears the shade Fairfax
"I'm not much of a foundation person — it's much too heavy for my sensitive skin — but man, do I love a tinted moisturizer," says associate beauty director Sarah Kinonen. "When I first got my hands on Tower 28's SunnyDays Tinted Moisturizer, I was so excited. I shade-matched to the second lightest shade in the lineup, Larchmont, but I could have gone a little darker, thanks to the warm-weather glow I picked up during the summer months. Regardless, I only need a small squirt or two of the lightweight formula to cover my entire face in a thinly veiled satin finish."
She found the coverage is so good — not too heavy but still enough to conceal redness and the occasional breakout — that she can skip concealer completely. "My favorite part is that once it's applied — I use my fingers to buff it in — it doesn't budge. There's never any transfer to my face mask, which is really all I can ask for these days," she adds.
Deputy editor Kara McGrath wears the shade Melrose
Deputy editor Kara McGrath, who used her fingers to apply it (just like she would a normal sunscreen) recalls her first impression with SunnyDays. "The first time I applied this sunscreen, I literally stopped halfway and started filming myself for my Instagram Story because it was so good that I had to tell everyone about it immediately," she says. "I love the finish — it's more matte than a lot of tinted moisturizers, but you can see from the photo that it still gives you just a whisper of dewiness. I use the shade Melrose, which is such a good match for me, you'd think they used my skin as the inspiration."
Beauty and wellness editor Taylore Glynn wears the shade Melrose
"Carrie Bradshaw once said that all New Yorkers are perpetually searching for either a job, an apartment, or a partner, but I find my personal foundation trifecta to be more elusive," says beauty and wellness editor Taylore Glynn. "Rarely do I find ample dewiness, SPF 30, and substantial coverage all in one option, so I was pumped when Tower 28's new tinted sunscreen promised all three. To get the buildable finish it boasts, I dermaplaned my face — satiny complexion makeup tends to spotlight my healthy layer of peach fuzz — then I used my fingers to buff a nickel-sized amount of shade Melrose on my forehead, cheeks, and chin."
She tapped a little extra liquid around her nose where she tends to get red throughout the day, and a bit more over the smattering of milia on her jaw. "The result was a pretty, lit-from-within glow that totally nixed the redness that usually wins out over the rest of the tinted sunscreens in my medicine cabinet. I did have to touch up my T-zone after a long day of errands, but that's a trade-off I'm happy to make when all my other boxes are checked," she says.
Tower 28 Beauty SunnyDays SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen Foundation
This formula covers all the bases. Now all that's left is for you to try out this mineral sunscreen and foundation hybrid yourself. Trust us, you will not be disappointed.
Tower 28's SunnyDays SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen Foundation is available now for $30 at sephora.com.
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