I usually use California Baby and LaVanila sunscreens for my face, but recently picked up Mustela too.
California Baby is $18.00 for 2.9 oz at Target. It's an SPF 30.
Lavanila is $28.00 for 1.8 oz at Sephora. It's an SPF 40.
Mustela is $15.49 for 1.6 fl oz at Target. It's an SPF 50.
Don't get too hung up on SPF's, because pretty much anything over SPF 40/45 is questionable. I can't wait for the ratings to be redone so people stop thinking they can put on an SPF 100 once and be ok. While it might be a pain in the ass to reapply facial sunscreen, I think it's safe to say sun damage or worse is a far bigger pain. So put your sunscreen on! (Really, it's 2012, you guys all know this already!)
Here's the back of each tube (back of Mustela's box) so you can read the ingredients.
These contain titanium dioxide, and both LaVanila and Mustela also contain zinc oxide. Which, if you've been living under a rock for the past 10 years, means they're going to be white when you first apply them. Don't panic, it'll quickly blend in. Well, they all do on me. I apply sunscreen to my face and give it a minute or two before applying anything else to my face.
California Baby's tube has a wider opening, so it's a larger blob for the swatch pictures. I'm also using my older tube, the new tube I purchased is in the first picture. Same thing, they just changed the design on the tube.
And here's the blobs, taken inside, no flash. While all three are thicker creams, LaVanila is easily blend-able and feels more sheer once it's on my face.
For some reason the labels I added in Photobucket are not showing up :(
Left is California Baby, middle is LaVanila, right is Mustela.
Here's the blobs smeared down my arm. I removed a bit of the California Baby blob to make each swatch a bit more even. The next two photos were taken outside, no flash.
After gently rubbing in, LaVanila immediately disappears into my skin. The other two take roughly a minute, minute and a half, before becoming invisible.
California Baby on the left, LaVanila in the middle, Mustela on the left
The ever beautiful and helpful Phyrra introduced me to LaVanila it a while back, and although a bit more expensive, I feel it's worth the extra money. I love using it for reapplications, since I can easily put a squirt on when I'm out and about without having to worry about the white marks.
I feel comfortable with all three products, and just grab any of the three each morning. I keep a spare LaVanila in my purse for the reapplications, but also an extra tube of California Baby in the car for use on my body. California Baby does offer a roll on (in an SPF 18) but I've never tried it. LaVanila also offers a baby line.
I checked them all on the Environmental Working Groups' Annual Sunscreen Guide, and they all received good ratings.
California Baby EWG rating
LaVanila EWG rating
Mustela EWG rating
If you've never read through EWG's Guide, you might want to take a moment to do so. There's a drop down box where you can select your brand, then scroll through and see how they rate the product. If you don't have a regular brand, or your brand isn't listed, you can also click the "Best Beach & Sport Sunscreens" tab and read through their picks. How much importance you place on these ratings is up to you.
I wish any of the three made a spray on formula. Mommies, you know how difficult it can be to apply sunscreen to a wiggly child who is waiting to run and play! There are plenty of spray on sunscreens out there, many of which provide excellent protection. A lot of friends use Neutrogena's Wet Skin spray on for their kids. EWG's rating does give it an "excellent" for UVB protection, but also high for health concerns. It contains both avobenzone and oxybenzone, but also fragrance which can irritate. There is also concern that the SPF is misleading.
I've seen lots of parents roll their eyes and brush it off, saying at least it's sunscreen, or comment how "everything" is bad for you. Again, it's up to each person how much importance they want to place on EWG's ratings, or even the ingredients in each product. I apply sunscreen to Ian almost daily. He has fair, sensitive skin like me, and while thankfully he doesn't seem to burn at the drop of a hat, I'm also careful to protect his skin. I remember having some nasty burns as a kid, and blistering, nausea, and vomiting aren't really fond memories, aside from the fact that who knows how much those burns increased my odds of problems down the road. I don't want to mess around with my son's skin.
There are inexpensive sunscreen options out there, and many work well. I've seen moms pick up the California Baby at Target, check the price, and put it back. I always tell them it's worth it, particularly for babies and young children, whose skin can be sensitive. Sunscreen is important to everyone, particularly those with fair skin. I also have rosacea, and sun exposure can make it worse.
I hope you've found the pictures helpful, and thanks for looking!