I Thought This Shimmer Sunscreen Was a Total Gimmick...Until I Gave It a Try

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coppertone glow hydragel sunscreen review1
  • Value: 18/20
  • Functionality: 19/20
  • Quality/Ease of Use: 18/20
  • Aesthetic: 15/20
  • Shimmer: 19/20
  • TOTAL: 89/100

Back in the day, 13-year-old me would have sold my soul for a superficial sunburn with the promise of a tan. Now, many years later, my freckles are no longer cute and I know far too much about the dangers of skin cancer to willingly fry myself sans protection. Don't get me wrong, I love being bronze. But sunspots, wrinkles and premature aging are three things I'm vehemently trying to avoid. Nope, my days of tanning oil are long gone—praise my mother and a college education.

That said, I have beef with the sunscreen industry. Nothing pains me more than slathering on sunblock so thick it could pass for mayo. And even after spending 20 precious beach minutes meticulously rubbing it in, I'm still left with a pale, white cast that just won't go away (adorable on grandpa, not so much me). So when I came across Coppertone's new Glow Hydragel sunscreen in SPF 30 and 50, I was immediately intrigued. It promised shimmer, radiance and hydration in a "non-greasy, lightweight formula that rubs in easy and absorbs quickly." Glow? Gel? SPF 50? Can it really be true!? I had to give it a try.

First off, I'm not typically one to reach for anything with the word "shimmer" in it, especially when it comes to body products. But after years of tossing lackluster, half-used sunscreens in the trash, I figured this might be my diamond in the broad spectrum rough. With a socially-distanced Bachelorette beach celebration coming up, I threw one in my suitcase and hoped for the best.

arm with coppertone gow hydragel
Coyne PR

The first thing I noticed? The texture. It was definitely a gel but not the soft, smooth kind I'm used to finding in moisturizers or cleansers. It was a bit gummy, which concerned me initially, but cool to the touch and remarkably easy to rub in. Within minutes I had covered my entire body with absolutely no unwanted residue. It had your typical sunscreen smell but with a fruity kick that made it pleasant to apply. Annoyingly, the bottle was only half-way full, like a bag of chips you'd find in a vending machine. Questionable packaging aside, my aha moment didn't come until I threw off my sunglasses and went to admire my work. "Wow," I said out loud, even though nobody heard me because, ya know, we were six feet apart.

They weren't lying when they said glow. This formula packs a radiance-inducing punch in the best way possible. The shimmer was subtle but unmistakable in the sun. Up close, you could see the individual sparkles, but from far away I looked like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model ready for her cover shot (where's my wind machine?!). It was like the body version of Supergoop's cult-favorite Glowscreen but at a fraction of the price and available in drugstores. Later in the day, I noticed the sunscreen started to pill as I was rubbing it in, but that could have been due to the saltwater, sand and my obsessive need to reapply. The best part about it? That whole "blocking the sun thing" actually worked, it wasn't just a shining, shimmering gimmick. I woke up the next day with a light tan and not a trace of sunburn—and I almost always miss a spot. The second best part? My friends couldn't stop raving about how glowy my skin looked.

The overtly pink tube is now a staple in my beach bag, but I've also started reaching for it before walks around the block or as I'm getting ready for an outdoor dinner date. This stuff makes me actually want to wear sunscreen on days when I'd normally forgo (and for that, I'm stocking up).

The PureWow100 is a scale our editors use to vet new products and services, so you know what's worth the spend—and what's total hype. Learn more about our process here.

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Executive Managing Editor

Catrina oversees content production across all PureWow verticals. When she's not managing editorial schedules, digital issues or newsletter production, you can find her...