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I do not always wear a face sunscreen but, when I do, I choose the best ones based on how long I will be in the sun. I use a face sunscreen as part of my UV rays’ protection strategy. You are about to learn how you can quickly know which face sunscreen is right for you as well as some of my favorite choices.
What do we want from a face sunscreen?
We want it to be safe, meaning not damaging to our skin and overall health.
We want it to be effective, meaning that it has to protect us from both UVA (short-wave ultraviolet-A rays) and UVB (ultraviolet-B).
And we want our face sunscreen to be practical, meaning without a ghostly whitening effect. Nobody wants to look like a ghost unless you are going to a Halloween party.
First of all, all active ingredients of sunscreens – UV filters – can be divided into two groups: chemical and mineral.
Chemical Face Sunscreen Products
Chemical UV filters include the following chemicals: oxybenzone, octinoxate, homosalate, octocrylene, and avobenzone.
Oxybenzone: associated with acting like estrogen in the body; altered sperm production in animals; linked with endometriosis in women.
Octinoxate (Octylmethoxycinnamate): linked with hormone-like activity; reproductive system, thyroid and behavioral alterations in animal studies; may cause skin allergy.
Homosalate: linked to estrogen, androgen, and progesterone disruption.
Octocrylene: relatively high rates of skin allergy.
Because chemical UV filters either are linked with endocrine disruption or skin allergy or both, I do not recommend them.
Mineral Face Sunscreen Products
The sunscreens that I prefer are mineral, which are made with either titanium oxide or zinc oxide or both.
There are two types of sun protection we need: UVB (ultraviolet-B) and UVA (short-wave ultraviolet-A rays). UVA radiation does not burn the skin as UVB does. It is sneaky, because you can receive dangerous levels of UVA without knowing it. Also, UVA protection is not linked to the SPF value. How convenient! In other words, the higher SPF value does not always mean better UVA protection.
SPF simply shows how much time you can spend in the sun without burning your skin. At the same time, UVA radiation is very harmful and may be even more harmful than UVB because it affects deeper layers of the skin.
From racking the EWG Annual Sunscreen Guide for years now, I noticed a pattern that I confirmed from other sources as well. Zinc oxide offers excellent UVA protection while titanium oxide offers only a good or okay UVA protection. Thus, I prefer sunscreens with zinc oxide or a titanium oxide/zinc oxide blend.
Whitening Effect – the Balancing Act
You might have noticed that mineral sunscreens leave some whitening effect. The reason mineral sunscreens make you look like a ghost is that their particles are bigger (non-nanoparticles) and they sit on top of the skin. The thicker layer you have sitting on your skin, the more protection you have from UVA.
The advantages of nano zinc oxide is that it does not cause a whitening effect and it protects from UVB rays better than non-nano zinc oxide. Keep in mind also that non-nano minerals can’t be 100% nano and will have some percentage of nanoparticles. (source)
If you have heard about nanoparticles causing DNA damage, you might be freaking out right now. Don’t!
Yes, there was a concern that nanoparticles (<100 nm) can penetrate the skin and damage the DNA. There are no conclusive studies though.
In fact, this year the EWG came to a conclusion that nanoparticles are not a reason to stress out about. They either do not get absorbed or the absorption rate is less than 0.01 percent of either non-nano or nano zinc that has entered the bloodstream. The study could not determine if the zinc in the bloodstream was insoluble nanoparticles. Therefore European regulators concluded it was most likely zinc ions, which would not pose any health risk. (source) Notice that the conclusion was made by a European regulator who I trust a little better.
As for the effects of nanoparticles on marine life, the long story short is that we don’t know much about it.
I still prefer non-nano mineral sunscreens but I am not as concerned as I have been before if that claim is truthful. It is hard to track that stuff due to non-existing regulations.
Other Ingredients in Face Sunscreen Products
What makes it more complicated to pick a perfect face sunscreen is that roughly 75% of total sunscreen composition is made up of inactive ingredients. And they have to be good, too, right? There should not be any irritating, potentially harmful, pore-clogging ingredients, and the preservation system should be sufficient.
With this said, without further ado, let me provide you with a list of face sunscreens I like.
Annmarie Sun Love – Natural Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 20 (2 oz), $39.95
Active Ingredient: 15% non-nano zinc oxide
Inactive ingredients: *Helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil; *Cera alba (beeswax); *Cucurbita pepo (pumpkin) seed oil; *Cannabis sativa (hemp) seed oil; *Olea europaea (olive) fruit oil; Titanium dioxide, Mica, Iron oxide, Yellow iron oxide, Brown iron oxide, Zinc oxide; Hippophae rhamnoides (sea buckthorn berry) extract; *Mauritia flexuosa (buriti) fruit oil; Lavandula angustifolia (lavender) oil; *Theobroma cacao (cocoa) seed butter
*Organic or wildcrafted
My thoughts: To deal with the whitening effect, they added mineral pigments such as mica, iron oxide, yellow iron oxide, and brown iron oxide to create a tint. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that I am concerned about possible heavy metal contamination in mineral pigments. However, I believe the topical application of pigments with trace amounts of heavy metals within the FDA guidelines is okay. My concern is more about a possible inadvertent disproportionately high heavy metals contamination, the risk of which can be avoided if the companies buy their pigments from a trusted US or European supplier or better yet if the company sends the pigments they buy to an independent lab for testing. However, to test every batch might be cost prohibitive for small businesses. So far, I have not found a company who would be willing to back up their claims of pigment testing.
With this said, Annmarie buys their pigments from a trusted US supplier and they even showed me pigment documentation that reflects that heavy metals are within the FDA guidelines. I also use and recommend their foundation powders.
I tried their old formula of the face sunscreen when they had water in it and as a result had to have a preservative. It worked fine for me. There was a whitening effect and the tint blended with my skin tone. It is probably hard to say whether you will like the tint for your particular skin tone. But the good news is that you can purchase a sample for $5 with no shipping charge, which comes with a $5 coupon. Good deal, huh?
Where to buy: Annmarie website
By Valenti Organics Choco-Coco White Solid Solar Screen (sunscreen) SPF30+, 4 oz, $15
Active Ingredients: non-nano Zinc Oxide – 8%, sunscreen grade non-nano Titanium Dioxide – 10%
Inactive Ingredients: Organic Coconut (Cocos Nucifera) Oil, Organic Virgin Coconut (Cocos Nucifera)Oil, Organic Shea (Butyrospermum Parkii) Butter, Organic Cocoa (Theobroma Cacao) Butter, Organic Carnauba (Copernica Cerifera) Oil.
My thoughts: Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to try this product so as I can’t say how much whitening effect it leaves. If you have tried it, please share your feedback with us. I wanted to include it because I had recommended By Valenti Organics skincare products before and some of you asked me about this sunscreen. The inactive ingredients are all organic and pure. Ms. Valenti strikes me as a person of integrity and who is passionate about doing the right thing.
Where to buy: By Valenti Organics website
Badger Balm Tinted Sunscreen – SPF30 Unscented Cream, 2.9 oz, $15.99
Active Ingredients: Non-Nano, Uncoated Zinc Oxide 18.75%
Inactive Ingredients: *Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, *Cera Alba (Beeswax), Tocopherol (Sunflower Vitamin E), *Hippophae Rhamnoides (Seabuckthorn) Fruit Extract, Iron Oxides (C.I. 77492, C.I. 77499) (and) Jojoba Esters.
My Notes: I tried it on vacation in Hawaii where I needed something more protective from both UVA and UVB rays. The tint was lighter than my skin tone so my face looked like I chose a bad foundation. But it was still a much better option than the un-tinted one. I wanted to include it because the botanical ingredients are organic and good for your skin, it is effective, and it may work for you as well. There are lots of Amazon reviews you can read through to figure out if it is worth a try. Like the majority of companies, they do not test their pigments for heavy metals but buy them from trusted European suppliers.
Hana Organic Skincare Everyday Crème (with 15 SPF), 15 ml, $38
Active Ingredients: 12% non-nano zinc oxide
Inactive Ingredients: *rose, *calendula & *lavender-infused *apricot oil; *jojoba & *rosehip seed oils; *cocoa butter; aloe vera gel; *rose hydrosol; pure filtered beeswax; non-nano zinc oxide; *vegetable glycerin; vitamin E; Leucidal liquid SF ECOCERT; *geranium & *lavender essential oils
My comments: This is my favorite for everyday use! The whitening effect dissipates after a few minutes, and it is very moisturizing. The texture is like a traditional crème that I know many of you like. It is easy to apply. Because there is water in the composition, a preservative has to be used. The common difficulty with traditional crèmes is that that they have to contain water and preservatives. Those preservatives are often a source of skin irritation or even endocrine disruption. I love Karen’s (the owner and formulator) choice of a preservative, Leucidal Liquid, which consists of an isolated peptides secreted by the bacteria during the fermentation process of radishes with Leuconostoc kimchi. Leucidal® Liquid is accepted by Ecocert as an ingredient in certified organic cosmetics. Because the SPF is only 15, when I know that I will be exposed to the sun for longer than 2 hours, I wear a hat.
Where to buy: Hana Organic Skincare website
So what is next?
All in all, finding a perfect sunscreen is a bit tricky. A physical barrier is still important even if you wear a sunscreen. I am glad that I found Hana Organic Skincare crème that I can use as part of my sun protection routine without looking ghostly.
If you used any of these sunscreens, please share your experiences so we can help each other out.
If you think the sunscreen you use follows the guidelines I outlined here, please let us know what the sunscreen is in the comments. Or simply tell us which out of these 4 you would like to try.
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