This article is part of our series battle of brandswhere we compare category-leading products to similar offerings to determine which ones are really worth the money.
Trader Joe’s caused a buzz in the beauty world when it released an invisible matte sunscreen last year, with the internet quickly comparing it to Supergoop!’s acclaimed Unseen Sunscreen. The hashtag #traderjoessunscreen has gone viral on TikTok and now has 9 million views. Skin-care enthusiasts and experts alike are scrambling to test it out—and now so are we.
Both sunscreens use chemical filters to absorb UV rays and protect your skin from harmful sunburn and skin cancer culprits. Super grunt! Has the exact same active ingredients (avobenzone, homosalate, octyl salicylate, and ottocrine) as Trader Joe’s sunscreen and offers the same SPF 40 protection.
A chemical filter makes the formula feel lightweight and invisible, unlike the chalky feel and haze that some mineral sunscreens can have. The two formulations also share isododecane and dimethicone crosspolymer as key ingredients.
As cosmetic chemist Javon Ford confirmed in TikTok, similar formulations of these products provide a very close comparison in terms of perception. The price difference can be attributed to the quality of dimethicone crosspolymer and methylsilsesquioxane, ingredients that Ford notes can be very expensive.
When shopping for sunscreen, you need to look for broad-spectrum products. This means that sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB rays, both of which can damage skin cells and eventually lead to skin cancer. Super grunt! and Trader Joe’s sunscreens have broad-spectrum protection, however, you’ll notice the Supergoop! The sunscreen has an additional PA+++ rating. So what does this mean?
The PA+ rating system was developed in Japan to indicate how much UVA protection a sunscreen provides. (The SPF system, on the other hand, measures how much protection a product offers from sunburn-causing UVB rays.) The range runs from PA+ to PA++++, with the latter offering the highest amount of protection.
UVA rays make up 95% of the ultraviolet radiation on Earth, and while they don’t cause sunburn like UVB rays do, you get a tan from UV radiation when the rays penetrate your skin and cause cellular damage. Additionally, UVA rays are present at a consistent intensity during the day and can pass through clouds, fog, and glass.
PA+ systems work in conjunction with SPF ratings because they measure UVA and UVB radiation separately. However, many sunscreens today are broad-spectrum and must meet FDA standards for UVA and UVB protection to be labeled as such. As mentioned earlier, Supergoop! TJ’s sunscreen is broad spectrum, so even though Trader Joe’s sunscreen doesn’t have a PA+ rating, you can be sure it’s at least the FDA standard level of UVA protection. In the case of Supergoop! Sunscreen, the PA+++ indicator simply provides further information to consumers that it provides a high level of UVA protection.
Both have a gel-like consistency and apply with a soft, velvety feel and a matte finish. In texture, they’re comparable to silicone primers—and both say they make great primers, too. I have not experienced any pilling with any other skincare or makeup products I have used before or after the sunscreen.
The difference is subtle, but as Ford pointed out in his TikTok, Supergoop! The sunscreen has a more “buffered” application compared to Trader Joe’s alternatives, which both have a drier oily feel (due to the silica – both formulas are oil-free). The Trader Joe’s sunscreen also has a longer drying time, while the Supergoop! feels like it melts into the skin almost instantly.
One area where I think Trader Joe’s sunscreen clearly wins is product design. The Daily Facial Sunscreen has a convenient flip cap, while the Unseen Sunscreen has a screw cap. It’s a small thing, but the possibility of having to unscrew the top and misplace the cap does add some unnecessary elements.
After going viral, Trader Joe’s sunscreen quickly sold out on store shelves, the only place you could buy it directly from the brand. In stores, this sunscreen is just $9—a quarter the price of Supergoop! Invisible sunscreen. However, since buying direct can be tricky, people are turning to third-party sellers like Amazon to solve the problem. It costs more — around $21 — because of the seller’s shipping and processing costs.
On the other hand, if you need sheer SPF, Unseen Sunscreen is easier to find. You can buy online from the brand, or at Sephora, Ulta, or verified Supergoop! Amazon store.
If you’re on a Trader Joe’s run, it’s worth checking out the health and beauty section of the Trader Joe’s Daily Facial Sunscreen to save some money. But if you can afford it, Unseen Sunscreen remains a top-recommended SPF that fits seamlessly into your routine. Soft, unscented and completely transparent, these two sunscreens provide an invisible layer of sun protection.