Finally, a Sunscreen That Makes Reapplying Every 2 Hours Actually Possible

Ruby Feneley reviews Ultra Violette, Preen Screen a new spray on sunscreen.

Ever tried a spray on sunscreen? If you have, you may be familiar with the sensation of a hot jet of chemicals squirting in a localised area of your face, frequently, your eyes.

Panicked rubbing in? Check. Makeup looking like a hot soup? Check. Passers by in the street and colleagues thinking you’ve been crying? Triple check. Needless to say, after a few unsuccessful tangles with spray on sunscreens, I’ve pretty much abandoned the category.

A few weeks ago my conscious uncoupling with spray on sunscreens hit a road block. I was offered the opportunity to try Preen Screen, SPF50 Reapplication Mist ($42) a new launch from one of my favourite sunscreen brands, Ultra Violette. As a huge fan of Ultra Violette, I considered myself conservatively hyped. After all, I’m a daily user of their Queen Screen, Luminsing Sun Serum SPF50+ ($47)

If anyone could win me over, Ultra Violette could.

Before getting into my experience, I’ll first unpack the every-two-hours rule, which is why we’re getting into spray on sunscreens anyway.

The Importance of Sunscreen Reapplication

By now, we’re all well aware we should be starting our day with sunscreen. Beauty journalists like myself, skincare influencers and your mum are barking at you about it. You might be sick of hearing from us! With so many makeup friendly formulas on the market, the “starting your day” part is easy. Topping up throughout the day? A little less so.

The Australian Cancer Council recommends reapplying sunscreen every two hours, and always reapplying after swimming, sweating, sports activities or towel drying. When you’ve gone to the trouble of applying makeup, removing it, applying sunscreen, and reapplying your base every two hours can feel not only impractical, but impossible.

This is why recently spray on sunscreens have become popular. 

Kendall Roy wondering why he doesn't have an easier way to top up his SPF.
Kendall Roy wondering why he doesn’t have an easier way to top up his SPF. Image Credit: HBO/Binge

As a beauty editor, swimming, sport and sweating aren’t regular features in my day. Makeup and sun exposure are though. I wear a full face of makeup to the office, because I was born extra, and I sit next to a floor to ceiling window. While this makes me feel like a character on “Succession” (vibes) it also means my chances of incidental sun exposure are much higher than my non-window seated colleagues.

Hopeful I wasn’t putting my face as at risk as I had a creeping feeling I definitely was, I checked in with my friend Hannah English, pharmaceutical scientist, skincare expert and all-round sunscreen guru. The news was bad.

Why You Need to Top Up, Even in the Office:

“The reasons you need SPF around windows is that they don’t fully block out UVA radiation,” she told me. Okay, I kind of knew that. Unfortunately, UVA radiation actually penetrates deeper in to the dermis than UVB radiation. English kindly explains: “The dermis is where the structural proteins are, the ones that hold your skin up and keep it tight. Over time, they get looser naturally but as you can see in the truck driver photo, the window side is more noticeably effected.”

As I push my colleague out of their chair to swap desks (what they don’t know won’t hurt them) you may be asking, “what truck driver?!”

English is referring to the viral images of 69 year old truck driver William McElligott, in which the striking effects of sun exposure through windows, over time, can be seen. It’s a cautionary tale scary enough to make any office drone with a great view of the city uncomfortable.

The takeaway? Sunscreen reapplication is worth the trouble, as are those window stockings for your car. I can’t window stocking my office (I’ve asked) so a regular sunscreen top up is a messy part of my day.

How Does Preen Screen Work?

Ultra Violette co-founder, Ava Matthews, tells POPSUGAR Australia Preen Screen has been six years in development, and was designed to address some of the common pain points in the “spray” screen category. These were: stinging eyes, an oily finish, dislodging makeup and inaccurate dosage. Ava Matthews and co-founder, Bec Jefferd, went through a number of chemists before finding their perfect formula.

Matthews says that ensuring the sunscreen didn’t sting the eyes was the one of the most challenges parts. “We spent ages working through this and added a slew of calming ingredients to the formula to help offset that,” she says, “we’ve also used newer, innovative SPF filters to help lessen the overall chemical load, and worked with filters that typically see far fewer allergic reactions.

“It was really created to help with reapplication of SPF that many of us find so cumbersome and annoying. I’d apply your normal SPF in the AM and then use Preen to reapply throughout the day.”

Pre-Preen Screen Routine

Given Matthews says Preen Screen was designed for reapplication, and that’s what I’m in need of, that’s how I use it.

I started with my regular skincare and makeup routine to give it a real “day in the life” test.

The Sydney winter cold snap has been leaving my skin sensitised, so I started my routine with some gentle products. My number one serum for days when my skin is itchy and red is Skincetuicals, Phyto Corrective Gel Soothing Serum ($109). This was followed Rationale, #2 The LIight Creme, ($192) a gentle vitamin C day creme that provides antioxidant benefits, without the “zesty” sensation vitamin C products can leave behind.

I then waited a hot second and applied my favourite Queen Screen, followed by my hydrating tinted skin serum Westman Atelier, Vital Skincare Complexion Drops ($113). Due to lifestyle reasons, I required a heavy dollop of Anastasia Beverly Hills, Magic Touch Concealer ($51) under the eyes. Complexion complete, I set with It Cosmetics, Bye Bye Pores Pressed Silk Airbrush Finishing Powder ($58) and my usual truckload of blush.

As I said, I’m not a beauty minamalist.

I find spray on sunscreens tend to mess with my mascara, so I tested with a non-waterproof product and current favourite, the new Too Faced, Better Than Sex Mascara in “Chocolate” ($47). Is it better than sex? Depends on the day and the person but, in my humble opinion every mascara range should include a soft, sweet and chocalatey option.

Ruby Feneley Ultra Violette, Preen Screen before and after.
Before and after applications: My makeup was undisturbed, but if you like a matte base you may want to top up your powder! Image: Supplied

My Preen Screen Experience

Preen Screen comes in a sleek navy blue and hot pink bottle — like all of the packaging in the Ultra Violette range, it’s on point. Ultra Violette excel at making sunscreen sexy. Usage instructions direct holding the product 20cm from your face, and spritzing in a “X” and then a “T” shape. Close your eyes, and then wait a few seconds for the product to dry down before opening.

I was impressed at first spritz. As mentioned, my biggest frustration with spray on sunscreens is they tend to “jet” onto my face. This not only looks slightly suspicious, it defeats the purpose of a spray sunscreen in the first place. The mist on Preen Screen is super fine, no unwieldy “jet” to be seen.

Because the spray is diffused, I could tell its covering 100 percent of my face. The formula also settles gently, leaving my makeup undisturbed.

I would note: you’re still spraying sunscreen directly in your face with Preen Screen. Just like with any liquid sprayed directly in your face, it’s a good idea to close your eyes and mouth before you pull the trigger.

To really put its makeup application disturbance properties to the test, and to get maximal additional protection, I gave Preen Screen a few additional blasts.

Within a few seconds the product had dried down. As you can see in the before and afters above, my makeup was completely undisturbed. I did have a slight “glow.” If you have oiler skin, or prefer a matte look, I would leave Preen Screen to set, and touch up with powder, but I had no complaints.

All in all? Preen Screen has earned a permanent place at my desk, and I now have a mini for my handbag. 

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