This Kiehl's sunscreen is a strong but lightweight hero that packs in protection

Our beauty expert's Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Aqua Gel SPF50 review shines a light on this well-loved formula

Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Aqua Gel SPF 50
(Image credit: Kiehl's)
My Imperfect Life Verdict

A powerhouse daily facial sunscreen that protects against harmful UVA and UVB rays, while also having added antioxidant and blue light protection.

Reasons to buy
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    Contains SPF 50

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    UVA rating of PA++++, which is considered extremely high

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    Non-comedogenic, so won’t clog pores

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    Lightweight formula that’s invisible on skin

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    Available in two sizes, 30ml and 60ml

Reasons to avoid
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    Contains alcohol denat., which can be drying

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    There are cheaper options available

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    More of a white cream formula than a traditional gel, despite the name

In need of a new sunscreen? Our beauty expert's Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Aqua Gel SPF50 review is here to deliver everything you need to know about this best-selling sunscreen, as well as why it's one of our favorites on the market. 

We're well-versed that SPF has to be worn every single day, and so having one of the best sunscreens for face in one's skincare routine is non-negotiable. 90% of skin aging is caused by the harmful UV rays that are emitted by the sun, so wearing sunscreen every day of the year not only reduces the damage, but it also helps reduce the risk of developing skin cancer, too. 

Although there was once a time when SPF was pore-clogging, greasy, and generally unpleasant to wear, formulas and technology have come a long way, and it’s now a much easier product to slip into your daily routine. This product is a top-tier example of combining an aesthetically pleasing product with hardworking, protective ingredients.

The need-to-know

  • RRP: $39 / £33
  • Best for: All skin types, including sensitive or reactive
  • SPF: 50, PA++++
  • Key ingredients: Vitamin E
  • USP: Lightweight pollution protection
  • White cast: No

A beauty editor's Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Aqua Gel SPF50 review

The ingredients

The Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Aqua Gel is part of a fairly extensive sun protection range from Kiehl’s and it prides itself on being suitable for all skin types, including those who have sensitive or reactive skin. It’s a non-comedogenic formula which means it won’t clog pores and it’s also fragrance-free and has an extremely lightweight texture.

It has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 50, which is highly recommended to wear every single day by dermatologists and skin experts alike. It also provides high protection against UVA rays (PA++++)—which are the ones that cause premature aging in the skin. They are also able to pass through clouds and windows, and are the reason you should ensure you’re wearing sunscreen every day of the year, even if it’s not sunny outside. 

In addition to the UVA and UVB protection, it also has the added bonus of antioxidants, including vitamin E, which work to defend skin against pollution and other environmental aggressors that can damage the skin.

Use: How do you use Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Aqua Gel SPF50?

As mentioned, this lotion is really lightweight and feels virtually invisible once applied. It’s really easy to use either in your bathroom when applying your morning skincare routine or while you’re on the go, doesn’t leave any sticky or oily residue behind. Instead, it will make you wonder why you didn’t start wearing SPF sooner.

Like all sunscreens, it’s best applied as part of your morning skincare routine; it should be the last product you apply before makeup (ideally you would cleanse, use an antioxidant—like vitamin C—then if your skin needs it, one of the best face moisturizers before finally applying SPF). It’s worth waiting a few minutes to allow each layer to properly absorb which helps them work to their full potential so they’re as effective as can be.

Experience: What is the Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Aqua Gel SPF50 like to wear?

The bottle takes the form of a rectangular-shaped tube. It’s easy to use and the product squeezes out nicely, which makes it a good format for ensuring you’re able to quickly apply the right amount (which experts say should be around one shot glass full for your face and neck, or one whole tablespoon). The flexible plastic also means that, if necessary, you can cut the tube in half when it’s almost empty in order to make sure you use up every last drop. Both the 30ml and the 60ml sizes are relatively small, too, meaning they’re easy to travel with and are suitable sizes to go into your hand luggage if necessary. 

Despite the fact this product has ‘gel’ in its name, it’s actually more of a cream texture, but don’t let that put you off. The product comes out as a fairly lightweight, moisturizer-esque lotion that absorbs into the skin quickly and easily. It blends out really nicely, doesn’t pill and it also looks and feels invisible on the skin, too—a far cry from the sun lotions of yesteryear, which were the complete opposite.

Value: Is the Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Aqua Gel SPF50 worth it?

Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Aqua Gel SPF50 is currently priced around $40/£30 for a 30ml bottle and $50/£40 for 60ml—so if it’s value for money that you’re looking for, then it’s better to pay a little bit extra to get double the amount of product when you compare the two price tags. And while it's certainly more expensive than some of the other best dermatologist-recommended sunscreens, such as CeraVe, we think it's worth it for a well-formulated, comfortable to wear product. 

This sunscreen is available to buy from a number of retailers, including Kiehl's' own site, as well as websites like FeelUnique and LookFantastic, where it is sometimes available to purchase using a discount code. Or, if you’d rather buy in-store, it’s also stocked in shops including SpaceNK, Selfridges, and Harvey Nichols. 

My Imperfect Life's verdict on the Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Aqua Gel SPF50

Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Aqua Gel SPF50 is a bestselling, much-loved product for a very good reason. It ticks every box in terms of having a high level of both UVA and UVB protection, plus it has the added benefit of anti-pollution and antioxidant ingredients which help make it a good choice for city dwellers. It’s an incredibly lightweight formula that applies beautifully onto the skin, it’s virtually invisible once applied and it also makes for the perfect base for makeup if you wanted to apply it on top. 

The choice of two different-sized bottles—one 30ml and one 60ml—is good, too, as it means you can either try a smaller version without committing or you can invest in a larger size which works out quite a bit cheaper. It’s worth noting that Kiehl’s is a well-respected, popular brand that has been creating effective and hardworking skincare since 1851. All in all, this SPF is an excellent choice for anybody who’s yet to build sunscreen into their daily routine, or for somebody who is on the lookout for a new product to try.

Lucy Partington

Lucy Partington has been a beauty journalist for eight years, writing for titles including Stylist and Cosmopolitan. She’s a true skincare nerd who’s on a lifelong quest for a glowing complexion and loves nothing more than learning about new ingredients and products. She’s obsessed with having perfect eyebrows and collecting eyeshadow palettes she’ll probably never use.