Since I don’t want to pre-maturely age my skin or get skin cancer, I’m obsessed with sunscreen! I use the term sunscreen and sunblock interchangeably, since the distinction between the two words seems to be gone. I have tried countless sunscreens, and have found that most of them work well as far as keeping me from burning, but few actually work well enough to prevent me from getting some color, and freckles. Most of the experts say the best way to stay protected from the sun is to stay out of the sun during its hottest hours (generally 11am-3pm, or when it’s directly overhead), and to re-apply sunscreen every two hours. They will tell you to look for sunscreens with the ingredients of either Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Avobenzene (parsol 1789), or Mexoryl. Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are physical blockers, while Avobenzene and Mexoryl and chemical blockers.
I remember going to the pool for a few hours once (the sun was overhead, which is bad), and sitting in the shade, with a hat and sunglasses on. I liberally re-applied my waterproof sunscreen with Avobenzene in it once an hour, and when I got back home, I was really dark and freckly! My skin also felt like it was burning as the sun hit it, but I wasn’t actually burned at all. I quickly gave up on Avobenzene. Avobenzene also is not photo-stable, meaning it breaks down when sunlight hits it, and there is evidence that it can actually cause free radicals, which will actually cause your skin to age faster! Yikes! Newer sunscreens on the market may contain Helioplex, which is a photo stabilizer for Avobenzene. Well, I’m still not going to use Avobenzene, even if it’s now supposed to last a few hours longer before it breaks down. Also, Mexoryl is a chemical sunscreen ingredient that was recently approved for use in the US. Unfortunately, the one sunscreen I used with it (La Roche-Posay Anthelios W Gel) gave me horrible breakouts, so I had to stop using it after a week. I wasn’t really able to tell how well it really worked. Mexoryl is supposed to be photo-stable, and it is supposed to neutralize free radicals (rather than cause them), so I may try another product with Mexoryl to find out once and for all if it’s the Mexoryl that clogs my pores, or something else in the Anthelios.
Here’s the good news! I have found sunscreens that actually work to not only keep me from burning, but to keep me from getting any tan or freckles. The secret I found is to go with sunscreens with high levels of Zinc Oxide in them! Zinc Oxide covers the full UVA and UVB spectrum, so it will protect you from burning, and from the sun’s rays that cause wrinkles and skin cancer. In the past two years, the only time I’ve gotten any color on my face is when I went snorkeling for two hours in Hawaii earlier this year. No sunscreens are really waterproof, so they will wash off, at least partially, when you swim. And the water really magnifies the sun on your skin! When I look for a sunscreen for my face, I look for the highest Zinc Oxide percentage I can find, then I look at price, SPF, whether or not the sunscreen is waterproof, if the sunscreen has pore clogging ingredients, and how good the sunscreen actually looks on my face. From my testing, my current favorite is Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Cream SPF 55. It has 13.9% Zinc Oxide, it’s very water-resistant, it doesn’t clog my pores, it looks good on my skin, and it’s a bit expensive, but worth it. I wear this every day, unless I don’t leave the house until after 5pm. Then I use Clinique Super City Block Ultra Protection SPF 40 because it’s cheaper, and it has a nice tint to it, so I don’t need to wear any foundation with it. It has 8.8% Zinc Oxide. On my neck, chest and hands I apply Blue Lizard Sport Suncream SPF 30+, which has 6% Zinc Oxide, and it’s a lot cheaper than the Shiseido and Clinique. I wouldn’t apply this to my face because it has pore-clogging ingredients. This is also the sunscreen I use at the beach for my body. If I know I’m going to be outside for at least a half hour, I’ll apply it all over. Otherwise, I’m bad and don’t put sunscreen on my arms and legs like I should.
I have tried just about every sunscreen I’ve found that has at least 5% Zinc Oxide in it – SkinCeuticals Physical UV Defense SPF 30, Total Block Clear SPF 65, Glycolix Elite Sunscreen SPF 30 (this one leaves a white cast on my face, but it has 17% Zinc Oxide in it. I put this on if I’m just running out to get the mail and don’t care how I look. I won’t repurchase it), and several others. I just bought Dermaquest Zinclear SPF30 from my work because it has a whopping 18% Zinc Oxide. It goes on clear, but the verdict is still out on whether it clogs my pores. It’s also not cheap, so I will probably just stick with the Shiseido.
Finally, to stay protected from the sun I try not to stay outside for more than a half hour a day, unless I’m going to the beach or pool, and then I try to avoid the peak sun hours, and sit in the shade. I always wear sunglasses, and have recently started wearing a hat to the beach. I am obsessed and don’t keep a lot of windows open in the daytime, since UVA rays can penetrate house windows, as well as car windows. I’m even more crazy because I want to switch to compact fluorescent bulbs in my house lights, but I haven’t been able to find out if they emit UV rays or not! Some fluorescent or Tungsten lights do emit UV rays. Also, certain medications can make you more photo-sensitive, so while you may not normally burn easily, if you’re on Accutane, The Pill, retinoids, or even Benadryl and several other medications, take extra precautions.