As the sun is starting to feel stronger and stronger with summer on the horizon, I have become hyper-aware of my SPF coverage. It's now a given that I will not dare venture outside without at least some 15 on my face. I'm not quite as vigilant about the rest of my body, though I did panic at the end of a 3-hour car ride over the weekend when my right arm, exposed to the sun through the passenger side window, began to feel burned. As a preventative for wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancer, sunscreen is the best way to prove you're brighter than the sun. To keep my eye area protected during a weekend at the beach, I tried Murad Essential-C Eye Cream SPF 15.

You don't see an eye cream touting sunscreen very often, but this part of the face is one of the most susceptible to signs of aging. Unless you typically wear oversize wrap-around shades, an eye cream with SPF should be an essential accessory for any extended outdoor activity. I thought Murad's cream, with its promises to "restore youthful elasticity and firmness" and "soften the appearance of lines and dark circles," would be the ideal beach prep. Erase lines and restore youth all the while shielding my skin from ultraviolet damage? Yes please. Unfortunately, Murad's promises must have gotten left behind in the city.

Thanks to Murad, I spent much of my day in the sun crying- seriously. After applying the lightweight, odorless cream over and under my eyes, as instructed, I noticed nothing extraordinary when I leaned in to the mirror. There was no disappearing act of the dark circles that greeted me in the morning (well-deserved from sleep deprivation), nor was there any hint of firming or softening action. Once my under-eye skin had fully absorbed the creamy whiteness, the only evidence of its presence was a few streaks of grease.

A few minutes later, the burning began, followed by a steady flow of tears. I dabbed my eyes with a tissue to try to blot out the offending intruder, but when that didn't stop the tears, I had to resort to washing my entire face with an extra gentle cleanser. Being a glutton for pain, I reapplied Murad's eye cream with the false hope that my first trial was a fluke. This time, I was careful to keep the cream a fair distance away from my actual eye.

Hours later in the middle of a perfectly pleasant bike ride, the stinging sensation returned. I had to pull off to the side of the road to wipe both eyes once again. By the time I got back home, not only were my eyes inflamed, but the skin around them appeared puffy and irritated. All of that tugging and rubbing probably did more damage to my delicate under-eye skin than a few moments in the sun. This reaction was not simply the result of smearing sunscreen too close to my eye, since I have used plenty of SPF-packed face and eye creams in the past with no harm done.

What is to blame for Murad's eye-watering effect is an ocean of irritants. Once you get past the chemical sunscreens, there is a mix of emollients both synthetic (butylene glycol, dimethicone) and natural (ie. shorea stenoptera butter, soybean/avocado oils), boosted by caffeine, rice amino acids, phospholipids, and vitamins A, E, and K. This assortment of ingredients would be harmless - beneficial even - if not polluted by loads of far less desirable additives.

There is a high concentration of the emulsifier PEG-100 stearate, which often contains harmful impurities linked to various types of cancers and systemic toxicity. Found in many of Murad's other products, zinc aspartate shows limited evidence of immune system toxicity and skin irritation, according to its material safety data sheet. Far more egregious is triethanolamine (TEA), a pH adjuster with the potential for carcinogenic and toxic effects in humans. In the preservative corner, omnipresent phenoxyethanol is joined by a pair of parabens. All of these nasties penetrate the skin more readily thanks to disodium EDTA, a preservative enhancer and chelator.

As far as moisturizing the skin under the eye, Murad's eye cream might do a fine job if not hindered by pollutants and irritants at every turn. It also might even prevent sun damage, though you'll never find out if your skin is the least bit sensitive or if you happen to sweat. I'd rather avoid the sun altogether than endure another tear-filled trial with Murad's eye cream.

Ingredients:

Octinoxate (7.5%), Octisalate (3.0%), Oxybenzone (2.0%), Water (Aqua), Butylene Glycol, Bis-Diglyceryl Polyacyladipate-2, Caprylic/Capric/Stearic Triglyceride, Shorea Stenoptera Butter, PEG-100 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Silica, Stearic Acid, Lysine Lauroyl Methionate, Rice Amino Acids, Zinc Aspartate, Chitosan Ascorbate, Retinol, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil Unsaponifiables, Cimicifuga Racemosa Root Extract, Caffeine, Siloxanetriol Alginate, Centella Asiatica Extract, Methylsilanol Mannuronate, Phytonadione, Dimethicone, Phospholipids, Tocopheryl Acetate, Retinyl Palmitate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Panthenol, Sodium PCA, Cetyl Phosphate, Carbomer, Triethanolamine, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491)