Prevention magazine just named L’Oreal Sublime Sun Sheer Protect Sunscreen Oil SPF 50+ ($8.79) best sunscreen as part of its 2013 Beauty Awards. This is a new launch from L’Oreal and it takes an unusual approach, so I was intrigued to see if it would live up to Prevention’s accolade.

For an inexpensive drugstore formula, L’Oreal Sublime has a few good things going for it. Firstly, it is an oil, not a cream. And, to some extent, I have to agree with Prevention’s editors that anything that makes sunscreen easy to put on  makes it a winner. What’s more, the oils in Sublime are naturally moisturizing and bring much-needed antioxidants.

Antioxidants in sunscreen add another “active” level of protection, according to recent research. L’Oreal’s Sublime has argan, sunflower and grape seed oils, and there’s some additional antioxidant boost from tocopherol (vitamin E).

Nonetheless, L’Oreal Sublime Sun Sheer Protect Sunscreen Oil SPF 50+ is not a winner in my book. For me, the bad outweighs the good. In order to get an SPF 50+, L’Oreal has packed in most chemical sunscreens known to man. Homosalate is there at a whopping 15%, even though the European Union’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products limits it to 10%. Some of the others included here, such as octocrylene can penetrate into the skin and act as a photosensitizer, resulting in an increased production of free radicals. 

Even some of the inactive ingredients are less than benign. Octyldodecanol can not only cause irritation, but increase the ability of other ingredients to be irritating. Then there’s ethylenediamine/stearyl dimer dilinoleate copolymer, a surfactant of which one component, ethylenediamine, is a known toxin. Meanwhile, there are numerous studies that show linalool to be cytotoxic.

For a sunscreen with antioxidants, I'll be sticking with Prana Reflect Antioxidant Skin Cream SPF 45.

Ingredients: (Active) Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 15%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 7%, Oxybenzone 6%

(Inactive) Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Octyldodecanol, Alcohol Denat., Ethylenediamine/ Stearyl Dimer Dilinoleate Copolymer, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Fragrance, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Tocopherol, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Benzyl Salicylate, Limonene, Benzyl Alcohol, Linalool, Hexyl Cinnamal, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Coumarin, Citronellol, Geraniol, Citral