The Sticky Subject of Sunscreen
"Mineral physical blockers zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have a long history of being friendly to the body and are especially nice for sensitive and allergic types."
With my clients, these are the points I usually make regarding sunscreen:
Daily sunscreen use is essential when trying to minimize hyper-pigmentation especially after more aggressive treatments using acids, including my vitamin c facial.
Apply your sunscreen after allowing your moisturizer to sink in. Ten minutes or more. Make-up can be layered immediately over it.
Mineral physical blockers zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have a long history of being friendly to the body and are especially nice for sensitive and allergic types. They are also still the most effective sunscreen ingredients to date against the full UV spectrum. You will see a white cast, especially for the first 10 minutes, but this will fade with a good formulation.
Still searching for a perfect sunscreen with only physical blockers with a matte, non-sticky, non-white finish? Me too. Meanwhile trust that the sticky occlusive nature of zinc oxide is partly why it is so effective. On days when you are wearing zinc you will need to make sure the cleanser you are using is removing it thoroughly.
An SPF 30 does not supply twice the protection of an SPF 15. SPF 30 blocks approximately 97% of UVB rays (when used as instructed) and SPF 15 blocks approximately 94%. Remember the numbers come from the length of time you can be exposed and not burn. SPF 30 allows you to be out 30 times as long as you could be unprotected. In the US our SPF numbers are based on UVB only. Though since 2011 if the product is labeled “broad spectrum” it has been tested and protects against UVB and UVA. A certain percentage of the protection must be from UVA to qualify for this distinction.
Because sunscreen is considered an OTC (over the counter) drug, the active ingredients are listed at the top of the label with the percentage in which they are in the formulation. Other, inactive ingredients appear lower on the label and are listed alphabetically. This is different than cosmetic labeling in which the ingredients are in order of their quantity within the product.
More on the FDA sunscreen measures.
Most people don’t use enough sunscreen (a shot glass for the body) and reapply often enough. I believe this is why skin cancer rates aren’t declining in spite of all the products on the market. Don’t let a higher SPF or water-resistant formula give you a false sense of security either.
Regarding the hormone-disrupting claims: There haven’t been as many studies as we would like to believe especially outside of lab animals. It comes down to whom you feel you can trust to determine the safety of something. I have included some links so you can join me in reading the confusing data from both sides of the spectrum (pun intended). The FDA, the Skin Cancer Foundation and most dermatologists believe the chemical absorbers are safe.
After much trial and error, I have decided to carry Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen for the Face. It offers broad photostable UVA/UVB protection. This formula is enriched with antioxidants like Vitamin E, Green Tea, and Caffeine. It is designed for daily, face protection for all skin types.
With one chemical absorber and zinc oxide, this feels nice on the skin, makes an excellent primer for make-up and is affordably priced at $14.99 for a 3oz tube or $18.99 for a 5 ounce bottle. (In my opinion it is the best of their formulas, so get a bottle to use on your body) See link below for the benefits of caffeine in this formula.
Rutgers Study: More Evidence that Caffeine Lowers Risk of Skin Cancer
Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB
8% Zinc Oxide
5.5% Octinoxate (7.5% is the FDA approved concentration limit on this chemical absorber)
For those wanting an all physical blocker SPF, I recommend the latest Blue Lizard Formula: Sensitive Face Mineral Sunscreen.
This has no chemical absorbers just Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. Reef safe. Broad spectrum coverage. Compared to their original facial formula this one has a more matte finish and therefore may be better for oilier skin types. Like all formulas with any physical blockers, it needs to be carefully removed before bed. I recommend an oil cleanser or creamy cleanser applied to dry skin and worked around to break it down before being wiped or rinsed off. Follow with a second cleanse if needed.
Amy Linville is an artist and esthetician that believes simple, sustainable and non-rushed daily skincare and beauty rituals are the foundation for finding comfort in your skin and looks, no matter your age.
Photos used under Creative Commons from Pen Waggener, Brett Jordan