June 27, 2018

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion Sunscreen SPF 50 Review & Swatches

I purchased this item and I receive a small commission if you shop using the links in this post.
2 stars out of 5

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion Sunscreen SPF 50 ($9.99) is a new gel broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen that promises a waterproof sun protection with an oil-free formula that won’t clog pores.

The Neutrogena Hydro Boost launched back in 2017 with a selection of hydrating makeup like Hydro Boost Hydrating Tint and Hydro Boost Hydrating Concealer. Around that same time a Hydro Boost Skincare Collection so it was only a matte of time that the brand also added sunscreens the the Hydro Boost Collection.

Most people are comparing this formula to Japanese sunscreens and I sort of get it but I do think the Japanese still have a head up on SPF and this isn’t quite what you’d experience from cult favorites like Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+.

The formula is a thicker gel that’s a very white in color with a slight pale blue-ish tone. I was concerned about white cast but once I applied and allowed it time to absorb the slight whitish cast it left on my skin disappeared quickly. I do take sunscreen very seriously and do use the recommended half teaspoon amount. I’m mentioning this because if you use less you might have a different experience with this formula than I did. The has a very nice texture but it applies quite greasy this is where you want to take the amount I used into consideration since it might be why I experienced such a slick mess during the initial application. My skin is dry and this felt very, very hydrating but a bit greasy as well. It does take a little while to set and for the dewiness to disappear but the goods news is that it does after a few minutes. I typically apply it as the first step in my routine and by the time I get dressed and do my hair I can proceed with the rest of my skincare and makeup.

The wear under makeup is good and I experienced no greasiness or shine as the day progresses. I would highly recommend not getting this in your eyes though as it does sting horribly.

The lovely texture and comfortable wear are all pluses but there are a few issues here one of which is the fact this contains a high level of alcohol, a very strong fragrance, and sodium lauryl sulfate. The alcohol didn’t dry my skin out and this does contain quite a bit of glycerin which could account for the very moisturizing feel but it does contain alcohol none the less. The fragrance wasn’t an issue for me as it’s a very fresh aquatic scent but it is very strong and might upset sensitive users. Sodium lauryl is lower on the list of ingredients but none the less it is here.

I think many of these issues will prove deal breakers for a lot of users. I have to admit to feeling a bit peevish that people are comparing the formula to Japanese sunscreens as this is quite a bit heavier in comparison. So please don’t go into a purchase believing this will be a great dupe for your favorite Asian sunscreen!

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion Sunscreen SPF 50 has a high level of protection, is quite affordable, and has a nice texture and formula but there are quite a few problems with the formula that aren’t easily overlooked.

Tried it?

Do share!

Where to buy

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Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion Sunscreen SPF 50 is 3 oz in size and $8-$12 in price depending where you purchase it. The formula is a gel consistency that I found set very nicely on my skin but inititally it did apply very, very slick and greasy. However, once it set the initial greasiness disappeared and it left my skin quite hydrated without being shiny or oily. Overall, the texture is great but the addition of alcohol, heavy fragrance, and sodium lauryl will likely make this an easy pass for many users.

Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 2.7 %, Homosalate 9 %, Octisalate 5 %, Octocrylene 9 %, Oxybenzone 4.5 %
Inactive Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Alcohol Denat, Caprylyl Methicone, Diisopropyl Adipate, Silica, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Dimethicone, Polyurethane-62, Phenoxyethanol, Hydroxyacetophenone, Pentylene Glycol, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Sodium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/Vp Crosspolymer, Acrylates/Dimethicone Copolymer, Glyceryl Stearate, Fragrance, Chlorphenesin, Menthyl Lactate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Disodium EDTA, Trideceth-6, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Violet 2, Blue 1


  • Lightweight gel texture.
  • Takes a minute to absorb and feels greasy at first but sets to a nice, smooth finish.
  • Wears well under makeup.
  • Affordable, larger size.


  • Sodium lauryl makes an appearance lower on the list of ingredients.
  • Alcohol is one of the first few ingredients in the formula.
  • Pleasant but very heavy fragrance.


If you really don’t care what ingredients you’re putting on your face Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion Sunscreen SPF 50 might be an easy pick up as it is affordable, large in size, and quite easy to apply and wear.

I purchased this item and I receive a small commission if you shop using the links in this post.

About the Muse

Isabella MuseIsabella is just an average everyday geeky girl who doesn’t blend her eyeshadow correctly, wears too much blush, and hopes she never finds her holy grail products because she likes the thrill of the chase so much. Her mission is to bring you super honest reviews on makeup, skincare, fragrance and all things beauty. She’s in no way an expert on the topic and she sure as hell isn’t a super model. But she’s passionate about makeup and is seeking like-minded individuals that like pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, and ones that enjoy spending hundreds of dollars at Sephora without feeling buyer’s remorse. If you’re that person feel free to reach out and leave a comment or follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Bloglovin‘.

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  • Jay

    I absolutely LOVE this sunscreen! Everything I’ve tried from the Hydroboost line (moisturizers, eye cream, sunscreen) have been a hit for me. It doesn’t break me out either. That Biore sunscreen is terrible ugh…I had the exact opposite experience from you! It smelled too strongly of alcohol and burned every time I applied it. God forbid I went to run and my pores opened. This one has that typical sunscreen smell to me but I don’t mind. Crazy how products work differently for people! The cap is annoying though…it always splatters a little bit when I close it. I was using a spray sunscreen but I don’t like applying them indoors.

    • Isabella Muse

      glad you love! ;-D I didn’t get the strong sunscreen smell, just a fresh, aquatic scent! It was quite pleasant but I think it’ll be strong for sensitive users!

  • Jeremy

    UGH I want so hard to like the hydroboost line. I tried the moisturizer when it first launched and this recently when I ran out of my beloved Anthelios clear 60. And although I loved the texture and moisture from this I can NOT stand the fragrance they use for this line. To me it smells like some sort of car air freshener and it’s SO over powering and lasted all day, it made me gag. Had to give this and the moisturizer to friends

    • Isabella Muse

      aw sorry! I don’t really mind it so much but it is pretty darn strong!

  • Kate

    I had a horrible experience with this sunscreen – it did not want to stay put! Even just while I was at home in the AC, it migrated into my mouth and when I was out in the sun, it went into my eyes. I had to flush them out because of how badly it stung. I’m really upset about this sunscreen because I really like their dry touch line.

    • Isabella Muse

      oh no that’s horrible. I had to let it set for several minutes after application because it was very slick, dewy, and almost greasy feeling on my face but thankfully once it set I was good!

  • Christina

    I’m going to try it just for the sake of trying it. LOL! I swear I glob on more than the recommended amount for sunscreen, so I’m not sure how well I’ll like this if you find it a little greasy, but I can always use it on my hands if it is. 🙂

    • Isabella Muse

      likewise. I always cringe when I watch my friend apply a pea size amount of sunscreen I’m like WTF? That’s not protection! ;-D

  • kjh

    SLS is the gold standard of bad ingredients. It’s the major sensitizer….that they test skin chemicals against to see how irritating they are. I think that it can bring about reactions to other ingredients, too.

  • Pattie

    I love this sunscreen…for my body. On my face, though…eesh. It refuses to stay put and burns like fire when (WHEN not if) it gets in my eyes. You’re right, it’s nothing like a good Japanese sunscreen.

    • Isabella Muse

      Every review I read is saying how it’s like Japanese sunscreen and I’m all, “uhh no it’s not!” No burning here but that could be caused by the fact it contains menthyl lactate which they put in as a cooling effect but just irritates skin! *eye roll*

        • Isabella Muse

          lol 🙂 I’m glad I’m not alone here! Because I read/watch this stuff and I’m rolling my eyes and wondering if I’m the only one doing it. “THIS IS A DUPE FOR YOUR FAV Japanese SUNSCREEN!” uh no….!

  • Linda Whitener

    Those stinging eyes you mentioned are the dealbreaker for me with Neutrogena products containing SPF. I can’t use the Healthy Skin tinted moisturizers for just that reason. I’m menopausal, and as soon as a hot flash kicks in, that stuff is in my eyes and I’m miserable until I can wash it off. Fortunately, there are several better options out there.

    • Isabella Muse

      man getting into eyes is a death sentence! Hurts for hours after!

  • Carol G

    I bought this as well to use on my face thinking it would be nice and lightweight and hydrating but you’re right it is so greasy that you have to let it dry forever in order to put your makeup on. So I’m just using it up on my body at this point. It is too expensive to repurchase to use on my body as the tube is small and I paid $13 for it. It wouldn’t last long if you’re using it on your body. I do like the feel of it though but just not for use under makeup.

    • Isabella Muse

      Right? I have get dressed, do my hair, and wait a little after that and I can proceed with the rest of my routine because it takes ages to set!

  • Ginger

    I bought this because I’m spending the summer at a Buddhist monastery where I’ll be in the sun but won’t be wearing makeup. Within two days of using this my face was a great blackheaded mess, which it wasn’t before. Since I’m eating a fresh non processed vegan diet here and not wearing makeup, I can only assume the sunscreen did it.☹️

    • Isabella Muse

      ok forget makeup tell me all about your Summer because this sounds crazy interesting! where’s the monastery? tell me everything! I’m so intrigued!!!!!!

  • Randi MacDonald

    Have you tried this sunscreen? Its 7.47 with free shipping on amazon. I like it a lot.

    Shiseido Senka Aging Care UV Sunscreen SPF50+ PA++++

    • Isabella Muse

      I have! I’m also a very big fan of Shiseido’s anessa’s range!

  • soubida

    Can’t believe they’re STILL using oxybenzone as the active ingredient despite the overwhelming scientific literature proving that it causes coral reef bleaching… staying away from this.