Institut Esthederm Suncare Guide

I’ve had lots of people asking about Institut Esthederm’s amazing sun products, so I thought that I’d do a quick overview. The fact is that Institut Esthderm do things a little unconventionally – they don’t work with the traditional “SPF” rating and they can’t tell you, really, what level of “protection” you’re getting from a product. This is because their suncare helps the skin to gradually adapt to the sun and protect itself rather than just blocking or filtering the rays. It’s all pretty complicated stuff and Institut Esthederm have been researching, developing and testing these products for decades, but it works. I have used quite a few different products from different ranges now, and not only do they offer superb protection (note that you MUST use a strength suitable to your environment and exposure level!) they also help the skin to develop a more uniform colour.

You have to take a little leap of faith with Institut Esthederm’s Adaptasun range, because of the absence of that all-important SPF rating. We’re very used to grabbing an SPF 30 and believing that it will do the job – if it’s not that sunny we might use an SPF 15, or if it’s really hot we might search out an SPF 50 – but we trust in those numbers, they satisfy our “health and safety” requirements. We know where we stand with the SPF, but with something that claims to make your skin do the work? It’s a little scary, I suppose. But for me, the Esthederm products really are up there with the Rolls Royces of suncare – advanced, hi-tech formulas that minimise the harmful effects of UV radiation whilst grabbing hold of the positive effects. For someone like me who loves to spend time in the sunshine and get a light, safe tan, these products are simply perfect.

So here’s little guide to my tried-and tested products – if you’re wondering which Institut Esthederm products would suit your skin, then hopefully this will be of help!

1) Adaptasun Tanning Face Cream, available for Normal-Strong Sun or for Extreme Sun. (£31.50 with free delivery from This promotes a nice, even colour without letting your skin burn. It doesn’t clog the skin or make it feel greasy and it sits nicely beneath makeup, should you want to wear any. It’s brilliant, but in my opinion, an even better option would be…

…the Bronz Repair Anti-Wrinkle Tanning Cream. (If you want to read the full review, it’s here.) At first I couldn’t see much of a difference between this and the Adaptasun, but after lots of testing I do find that this works a little better at giving my face an even, sunkissed glow. My face doesn’t tan that easily (my body does) and so it’s no mean feat that I can get a beautiful, light tan after just a few hours using the Bronz Repair. It is more expensive (£49.50 with free delivery from but I think that the extra cost is justified – this is an “anti-wrinkle” version and the ingredients have been whacked up a notch or two for a really high-powered sun cream.

2) Adaptasun Tanning Spray for the body. A spritz-on water that works in the same way as all the Adaptasun products, encouraging the skin to protect itself for a fast, safe tan. You really will find that you tan more quickly and evenly after using this spray and it’s really convenient to apply. No stickiness, no greasiness, it just sinks straight in. (£35.10, as before.) I use it in the “run up” to my hols, too – you can do that with any of the Adaptasun products. They almost “prime” the skin for sun exposure.

3) Sun Intolerance High Protection Face Cream (£36.90 helps sun-sensitive skin to adapt to moderate sun exposure. This doesn’t allow someone who usually can’t abide any sun exposure to go and sit on a sand-dune in the Sahara – that would just be asking for trouble! But instead of just shielding the skin, this cream actively helps the skin to become accustomed to the sun whilst minimising the risk of reactions. Clever stuff! Great for the kind of sunshine that you’d get on an average summer’s day in the UK, but if it was baking hot you’d want to tread carefully. As with anything to be used on sensitive or sun-sensitive skin, take baby-steps when trying something new out for the first time!

4) The Wonder Product. UV In Cellium Spray. This is getting its own review soon, because it is absolutely incredible. A water spray that contains many of the same ingredients as the Adaptasun, it again helps the skin to adapt to its environment. You simply spray this on as you would any facial spritz or mist, and you have some moderate protection. It can be sprayed under or over makeup and it’s the most brilliant makeup-setting spray! (£31.50 from FeelUnique)

© 2018 A Model Recommends®: all opinions are my own and any sponsored or paid posts will always be clearly marked as an AD in the title. I accept press samples and receive product and services to review as part of my job. *Outbound links are affiliate links, which means that I receive a very small percentage of any sale made. This does not affect my content in any way and does not cost you anything, but you are most welcome to Google the products on a new page if you prefer. Please see here for full "about" section and disclaimer. A Model Recommends and Ruth Crilly are registered trademarks.



  1. June 8, 2012 / 9:10 am

    There is a very slight chance I may be going to Malaysia in the next three weeks…is it really worth trying for a very sensitive fair person who burns? (God, I hope I find my passport in time and can also figure out to deal with equatorial conditions!)

    • Ruth
      June 8, 2012 / 9:56 am

      @Upa it’s worth using in the run-up, I think, and then tentatively once you get there! But definitely as a “prep” to get your skin accustomed to the sun! x

    • Azwin Aziz
      June 13, 2012 / 11:31 pm

      @Ruth – Another amazing post! If you’re not a model I can imagine you being a beauty journalist – not exaggerating (or you can always be both). I love reading your blog entries as they’re so insightful and easy to read. The other products from Institute are also amazing – the Vitamin A concentrated is pretty much turned into my day/night moisturiser that I’ve stopped using the Estee Lauder AVR at night and for what it does it’s not heavy on oily skin like mine but yet so hydrating. It’s also overtaken Bio Oil to help with my acne scars (YUCK!). A tiny request Ruth, can you consider doing a video/blog post for scalp care? I know this might sound a bit weird but I think a lot of us have problems with this which we avoid – either oily, or dry or combination scalp, I believe we’re all in a battle to getting to the right place with our scalp. My hairdresser have always said drink lots of water and using the right shampoo but I think there’s more to it and I’m confident that you’re the right person to investigate! Hugggggiiieeessssss to Mr Bear!

      @Upa I got really excited when you mentioned you might be going to Malaysia – that’s home for me! Do get a really good sun protectant as it’s serious business with the sun out there.

      • Ruth
        June 13, 2012 / 11:33 pm

        Thanks so much Azwin, I shall put that on the list! x

        • June 16, 2012 / 7:15 am

          Thank you, Aswin! I leave on Friday, 22nd, for my son’s wedding! I am madly hunting up as much info as I can find. Any suggestions/info would be appreciated (at my blog?).

          Ruth, you are a dear and have great timing. After I read your interview on the bridal blog, I thought to put “Malaysia” into the search and found a few thoughts that may steer me in the right direction for my gazzillion questions!

          KL, here I come, ready or not! xx

  2. June 8, 2012 / 9:40 am

    The names on each product tells you all you need to know, don’t they; normal-strong, extreme sun, Sun Intolerance. Innovative approach to sun care too. You explained it beautifully Ruth.

    I would love to try more of this line, but they’re way out of my bijou beauty budget.

    • Ruth
      June 8, 2012 / 9:55 am

      @Ali thanks! I’ll let you know if I ever see any good offers on! x

  3. Ruby Blue
    June 8, 2012 / 9:44 am

    Yay, the Institut Esthederm post we’ve all been waiting for ;) But I still have a question: how often do you have to reapply those during the day?

    • Ruth
      June 8, 2012 / 9:55 am

      @Ruby Blue it says every two hours or so, but I probably only reapply once a day if it’s “normal” British summer (ie not that hot!) If I’m abroad and it’s scorching I reapply the same amount of times as I would with regular suncare x

  4. Mel
    June 8, 2012 / 10:46 am

    Anyone living somewhere they are having a proper summer (unlike UK) should consider these..Heliocare Skin Protecting Pills, they are an oral dietary supplement with antioxidant properties which help maintain the skin’s ability to protect against sun-related effects and ageing. I’m not saying abandon your sunscreen’s SPF’s as you still need to use them.. But these do work and anyone where its very sunny.. I’d say use them. Also have you heard of coffee bean sun screen products? as the husk of the coffee bean has been proven to be VERY effective against sun damage..There are a couple of companies that use this ingredient, because it was shown that coffee bean pickers had unusually youthful skin, considering they work in the sun.. It seems to be highly effective at protecting, and giving the skin good nutrients.. Here though in UK, we’re just damn lucky to get any sun.. comeback blue skies.. I need you!!!

  5. Talli8cakes
    June 8, 2012 / 11:38 am

    So glad you reviewed this line. I’ve been using Institut Esthederm for over a year since seeing the sun care video Lisa Eldrige posted. I have porcelain skin that is usually completely allergic to sun creams and the sun. I do not tan, I just have to look at the sun and I burn.
    I tried this for the first time when I visited a Middle Eastern country in 50+ heat. I did not burn (3-4 applications a day) for the whole 3 weeks I was there. I used the extreme sun glacier and tropics cream. I used it on my face and body (as it was expensive) and I came home with a light golden tan. Since then I now use the anti wrinkle bronze repair on my face all year round. I still use the extreme sun on my body on days when the sun and heat are unexpected but generally I use the normal to strong sun cream (I live by the beach so it’s great for daily protection) I really hope more people take the plunge with this range. Visit your local Space.NK and ask them to test whichever product is right for you to your face and arms. That way you don’t waste money if it’s no good for you! 

    • Ruth
      June 8, 2012 / 12:21 pm

      Ah, another glowing report! xxx

  6. Minshu
    June 8, 2012 / 3:29 pm

    They(not the tanning one) usually leave a heavy white cast on my skin, so I’d have to only use a ridiculously small amount that doesn’t feel like enough protection. Does this happen to you too?

    • Ruth
      June 8, 2012 / 4:28 pm

      Which one, Minshu? x

      • Minshu
        June 8, 2012 / 4:40 pm

        Photo Reverse and no sun. Have you used them before?

        • Ruth
          June 8, 2012 / 5:07 pm

          @Minshu have the Photo Reverse, but it isn’t too bad on me cast-wise. Is the No Sun thicker and whiter? x

          • Minshu
            June 8, 2012 / 5:20 pm

            Lucky you. Even the photo reverse curls up balls on my skin :(

  7. Claire
    June 8, 2012 / 4:36 pm

    Ruth, have you tried any of the other institut estherderm products, besides the suncare ranges?
    I was eyeing the Pore Refiner Concentrate?xxx tx

    • Ruth
      June 8, 2012 / 5:06 pm

      @Claire yes. The In Cellium water is amazing, so are the targeted treatments (vitamin c, vit a) and the hydra system moisturiser is lovely too! xx

  8. MariaBent
    June 8, 2012 / 5:46 pm

    I’m hesitating between “Reverse” and “Intolerance”, more leaning towards “Reverse” (as I have some pigmentation though not much), but got a bit scared by Minshu’s comment.
    Ruth, do you think one can walk on the street with “Reverse”, I mean go to the supermarket, chemists, etc.?

    Have a nice week-end, everyone x

    • Ruth
      June 8, 2012 / 6:24 pm

      @Maria I’m going to get hold of some reverse and No Sun and have a try! xx

  9. MariaBent
    June 8, 2012 / 7:59 pm

    Thanks Ruth, I’d appreciate since these products aren’t cheap.

    By the way, I find Feelunique’s price in Euros not bad at all. Where I live this brand is sold mostly by beauticians, not in shops, and the small difference doesn’t pay for the petrol to drive to the nearest salon.

  10. daniel
    June 11, 2012 / 11:22 am

    The UV In Cellium Spray is amazing, Suncreams always get stuck in my stubble !! no im not a lady with hormone problems:)
    This spray is wonderful , i apply my normal skin care and then a quick spray over the top and thats that. even in the hot sun a few weeks ago my skin was so well protected and it didnt go dry or wrinkly and no pigmentatiion either. I am very amzed how this works but then again who cares :) it does work!!

    • Ruth
      June 25, 2012 / 11:41 am

      Ah, Daniel, I have missed your comments! I think that my security software has been blocking your comments for some reason! Hopefully solved now? x

  11. June 13, 2012 / 2:52 am

    This is super interesting! I especially like the fact that it helps build a tolerance to the sun. I seem to burn with an SPF 30 most of the time!

    Thank you for this great review! :D

  12. Nadia
    June 13, 2012 / 2:02 pm


    I stumbled on your website whilst searching for some info regarding the Institut Esthederm Adaptasun range.

    I don’t have uber pale skin that burns in the sun but I’m not too dark either. I have a light-medium complexion. I tend to tan nicely in the sun. I’m not sure if I should go for Normal skin or Sensitive skin? I use retinol on my face and I know that increases your sensitivity to the sun.

    Do you think I can go for Normal or would Sensitive be better? I have to order this online so if you can help me, I’d really appreciate it. It’s too pricy to risk making a mistake with it lol.


    • Ruth
      June 18, 2012 / 1:20 pm

      @Nadia I think you’d probably be fine with the normal, but perhaps go for the extreme sun version rather than “light” sun and then you can be sure that you’re prepping your skin as much as possible. Is it for general everyday use? x

  13. Naomi
    June 15, 2012 / 1:10 pm

    This stuff sounds incredible! Thanks for the review. I’m looking forward to hearing about the spray as well – it sounds like it might be the answer to the conundrum of how to reapply sunscreen every couple of hours if you’re wearing makeup. I hope I’m right!
    One concern I have about these creams though is if they work by encouraging melanin production does that mean they could potentially encourage sunspots? I currently use Nia 24 SSC to treat and prevent discoloration and wonder whether the ingredients in the Institut products would undo the good work of the NIa 24.

    • Ruth
      June 18, 2012 / 1:25 pm

      @Naomi I’m going to take an educated guess and say NOT, because the whole point is that it promotes even and steady melanin production so that the “colour” rises to the surface evenly. It’s also making the skin cells protect themselves, so it’s supposed to be doing the OPPOSITE of forming dark spots! x

  14. Vitriolica
    July 27, 2012 / 3:23 am

    Hi Ruth! I love your blog and a lot of your recommendations, thanks for always giving such good advice! Anyway, here’s my two cents on Institut Esthederm:

    I live in Singapore where it’s extremely hot and humid (about 30-38 degrees Celsius year-round) and I tried the PhotoReverse for some time, but like Minshu I found that the product didn’t spread well on my skin and would pill if I didn’t spread it fast enough. It also felt like I was leaving a film on top of my skin.

    Anyway, after using PhotoReverse for about 2 months I realized to my horror that I was actually getting MORE tanned!! I work in an office and don’t sit near any windows, so the only time I’m exposed to the sun is when I’m on my way to work and during lunchtime (albeit in fairly strong sunlight). I was quite disappointed that it didn’t work, since it cost a small fortune at 51 pounds.

    I’m not sure why this happened; did I not apply enough PhotoReverse or does it simply not work in countries with higher UV indices? Or should I have applied an SPF sunscreen on top of the PhotoReverse?

    A product that has really worked well for me instead is Heliocare’s SPF90 sunscreen; it really helped to lighten my skin after my disaster with Institut Esthederm. I’ve also tried Heliocare’s oral sunscreen capsules and highly, HIGHLY recommend them! I was recently in Bali surfing for hours under the sun every day (with the sea no doubt washing away my topical sunscreen in no time) and still managed to remain reasonably fair after consuming the oral capsules!


    • Ruth
      July 27, 2012 / 8:07 am

      It will increase a tan, because all of the products help the skin to process sunlight more safely and efficiently. A by-product of this, I suppose, is colour, because it brings the melanin to the surface. That’s what I gather from my frustratingly thin-on-the-ground information! x

  15. desertsun
    October 25, 2012 / 1:15 am

    Hello! I stumbled upon your review while researching for institut esthederm’s no sun sunscreen. I have medium toned skin and a lot more color from tanning, although it was few days only in summer since I am not pale those color really stuck. I tan so easily and I noticed some sun spots developing here and there. No sun seemed like a great choice for someone who is trying to avoid absolutely any color! I am using Vanicream spf 60 right now and fairly happy with it. It is all physical block with both UVB,UVA protection and price is very reasonable. Only thing is, I wear it under my makeup and it makes me put copious amount of powder because it is so greasy-looking and sticky. Even though I only put little foundation, my face looks caked on because of all the powder. Can No sun be worn under makeup? do you think it would require a lot of powdering as well? Thank you for the wonderful review and I will wait for your advice :)

  16. sarah
    June 4, 2013 / 12:33 pm

    I have bought Photo Reverse and I was looking to use it for a month before I go on holiday, to lighten pigmentation on my face, I emailed the company Institute Esthederm to ask if the sun cream is effective in this way even when you are not in the sun (I dont see why it wouldnt be- I looked up all the ingredients and they are used in skin lightening creams) but the company replied that it only works in the sun and to go for their White System range instead if I want a separate skin lightener? Has anyone noticed skin lightening happening and knows whether this cream can work even when you are not in the sun?

  17. Marisa
    July 7, 2013 / 1:09 am

    Hi Ruth,

    I follow you on YT and can not tell you enough how informative I find all your blogs, thank you for sharing your knowledge. I have a question regarding the esthederm line… I’ve been using the “into repair” anti wrinkle sun care for intolerant skin face. I love how it moisturizers my dry dehydrated skin but I’ve noticed that I did get some colour. I worry that I’m causing more damage to my skin. I will be going to their counter this week to inquiry about this, am concerned.
    Also, I’m thinking of switching over to their skin care line… what are your thoughts about their skin care line? Do you like their skin care products?

    Thanks again for all your help… brilliant videos… beauty and brains! Greetings from Montreal, Canada :)

  18. Caroline
    June 7, 2014 / 7:36 pm

    Is there much of a difference in the spray and the lotion? I’m confused as to which one to buy!

  19. Helen
    June 11, 2016 / 10:24 pm

    Hi has anybody used this cream range who has polymorphic light eruption? I have used heliocare products and they do not work for me, neither does piz buin allergy or eucerin. Do you put an spf on top of the no sun lotion? I am going to spain in the summer. Thanks Helen

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