holiday shopping, skincare, black friday sales

How to Gift Skincare: For the Skincare Aficionado

How to Gift Skincare This Holiday Season

The Skincare Aficionado

As the 2nd instalment in our Holiday series in how to gift skincare, we are tackling the Mount Everest of people to give a gift to: the aficionado.  They are the tastemakers in your life.  They may not be paid for it on Instagram but they have the covetable ability to influence.  You find yourself wondering where they got that new scarf, how do they make bell bottom jeans look cute again, and most importantly, what do they use on their skin.  You may be wondering then at the hubris in attempting to give them skincare.  How would that even work? Can you do it? Of course you can- we have the inside track on what to give this insider who knows it all.  The key? Give something with a cult following but real street cred in the active department.

The Omni-Potent Powerhouse

Power, Power and More Power

Retin+Erase, CyberDERM, holiday gift shopping

Our Retin+Erase has a cult following for a reason.  Sure a fancy La Mer product might have a high price tag, but this little gem has the enviable status of having the highest known concentrations of this type of active in North America.  It’s a hybrid molecule that is a part of the Vitamin A derivative family- think a close relation to prescription retinoids and retinol.  If you were to gift the equivalent 1% active concentration of either a retinoid or even a retinol, your friend might not appreciate that you’ve caused their face to molt as though it had been sandblasted. In other words, it would be a tad harsh.  Our Retin+Erase is so giftable because really everyone can use it without difficulty but still get impressive results.  You can mention that your dermatologist had it exclusively first made for her patients like the best of any Hollywood celebrity physicians.  It’s pretty and luxe feeling to boot- so you have all angles covered!

 The Green Beauty Godess

Natrèceutique, Calm in the Evening skincare, organic skincare

Let’s say your friend instead is more of the green goodness variety- she drops the word ‘toxic’ easily, explains to you about the carcinogens in your favourite neighbourhood pizza, and sips delicately from her daily green smoothie.  You might need to modify your gift giving tactic.  You could mention that you’ve heard about the ‘zero-irritant’ trend in green beauty and read the worrisome study that some essential oils can themselves be dreaded endocrine disruptors. Yikes! What is a green beauty diva to do? Fortunately, our new line Natrèceutique blends the best in luxury green beauty with the latest in Western medicine.  It also happens to be zero-irritant free and contains no essential oils, fragrances of any kind or any common skin allergens like tea tree oil or aloe.  Instead, it contains a short curated list full of plant derived goodness like our Inca Inchi Oil at a 10% concentration, harvested sustainably. It also features the lesser known actives like Ectoins or AOX (Norwegian Spruce extract) with more commonly known superfoods like Turmeric.

holiday skincare, Simply Zinc Ultra SPF 50

Finally, it can be a challenge for anyone to find a ‘green’ sunscreen that meets the most stringent criteria while also being aesthetic. Fortunately, both our Simply Zinc Ultra SPF 50 from our clinical line CyberDERM and our two formulas from our ultra matte Ava Isa SPF 45 line check both of these boxes.  Gift one of these babies and your friend or loved one will be impressed and have the ultimate in protection for their skin every single day.

There you have it- you have no need to be intimidated by your know it all skincare enthusiast.  Show them the light on these au courant products and they will be truly appreciative this holiday giving season.

Also, if you are reading this pre Black Friday 2018- make sure to sign up for our newsletter. We’ll be sending out a promo code limited to the first 50 people who use it. We don’t typically put our skincare on sale so sign up now! Click here to sign up.


the sunscreen company, holiday skincare guide

How to Gift Skincare: For the Newbie

How to Gift Skincare This Holiday Season

Skincare is fast overtaking the other elements of the beauty market like colour cosmetics in 2018. It has become the ultimate humble brag to post the #nomakeup selfie where minimalist makeup lets your skin shine as the number one star.  People are also proudly posting their #shelfies to show off their collection of skincare bottles.  This is all to say, that skincare products, rather than a new bottle of perfume or eye shadow palette, have become objects of lust- things that people want to treat themselves to and receive as gifts.  As the holiday season approaches and you start to formulate gift ideas, giving skincare is actually a legitimate gift idea but the question remains, how to you give it?  For our next couple of blogs, we are going to be tackling how to give skincare for the different types of people in your life.  First up- the skincare newbie.

Skincare Newbies

We all have those people in our life that ask what you use for skincare only to get a complete look of being overwhelmed as soon as you start to list off your 12 step skincare regimen.  Some people have been soap and water types for all of their lives but as they get older feel it’s not working for them anymore.  Others may be your growing teenager or college student that never had major skin issues like with acne but are starting to looking to take on more as they become a young professional. For the person looking to dip their big toe into the world of skincare- this is the list for you.

The Basics

Let’s get Clean

Olait cleanser, holiday skincare guide

A gentle cleanser is such an easy way to start in the way of gifting skincare- everyone needs one! For the minimalist, an elegant cleanser will be an upgrade from what they are using, tell them to back away from the paraben laden Cetaphil.  Our O+Lait Oil to Milk Melting Cleanser is fun because it has a different application method than your standard cleanser. You apply it to dry skin as a clear hydrating gel, you then apply water and watch as it transforms to a super silky milky emulsion.  You can apply it to dry skin and then leave it on for up to ten minutes so it doubles as a hydrating treatment too.  It’s jojoba oil and glycerin mixture means your starting them off on the right foot of not stripping the skin with a sulfate based cleanser.  Their skin will feel a lot more hydrated and they will get to feel like they are treating themselves to something different. They can also brag to their friends about how they are using a different type of cleanser and start to feel like skincare aficionados themselves.  Hopefully they make it a new habit (it’s said to take 30 continuous days to make one), one that will pay off over their lifetime, all thanks to you!


Intensive Soothing Serum, Natrèceutique holiday skincare guide

A simple way to make a huge impact in someone’s skincare routine is to show them the way of a serum. Even the newbiest of the newbies will be using some form of moisturizer, whether it was the Pond’s cream their grandmother used, to the coconut oil from their kitchen, to the big tub of Vaseline they use for everything else.  In a perfect world, it would be good to move them away from thick, occlusive moisturizers that may make the skin look more hydrated but is not treating the skin in any shape or form.  I’ve seen people’s eyes light up the first time they try a serum because it really is the best way to drive hydration deeper into the skin and make it look lit from within.  I find that more mature skin really appreciates our Nu-Shroom Hydrafill Serum, especially as part of their makeup routines, as it creates a beautiful canvas for their makeup.  People who are looking for a more natural option or want more hydration/less plumping love our Intensive Soothing Serum from our Natrèceutique line.  Both products also happen to be quite pretty on the shelf with their heavy-bottomed glass containers. They feel luxurious so they feel like a treat, one that actually treats the skin and thus the perfect giftable combo!



Did you know that a recent study showed that using sunscreen alone with no other corrective skincare product helped people resolve their most common skin complaints like pigmentation, uneven texture and lack of clarity by up to 52%! It’s thought that the skin has a natural way of regenerating itself as long as we protect it from the damaging UVA and UVB rays of the sun.  In other words, defend your skin and it will pay you back dividends.  There are of course the life saving benefits in preventing skin cancer, with some estimates claiming a possible prevention rate of up to 70%.  Getting a young person to start using sunscreen as part of their every day routine is honestly life changing.  Even getting a former sun worshipper to start will dramatically change the look of their skin over time.  People with more mature skin types will appreciate the hydration of our Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25, some may feel they can forgo an extra moisturizer in the morning.  The young Millenial or teenager in your life, or for those who self-identify as haters of sunscreen, will appreciate the light weight texture of Ava Isa SPF 45- once applied it completely disappears on the skin and can act as a make-up primer.

As an added incentive, take 20% off all Ava Isa SPF products by using promo code AVAISA20 (expires Dec. 31 2018)

There you are- choose one new product for your newbie and put a bow on it or wrap it up as a trio.  Take a little time in the card to explain how to use their new product and they will forever think of you every time they look in the mirror and love their improved complexion.  Good job!


weed in skincare, CBC in skincare, weed in Canada

Weed is here in Canada, what does it mean for your skincare?

Weed is here in Canada, what does it mean for your skincare?

The short answer, is not much.

Today is officially the day where weed is now legal across our great country- Canada.  It’s a tricky beast of an issue- there are so many questions that relate to it in a thousand ways. People are definitely ‘buzzed’ (Ha! Mom joke) about the potential for cannabis in its different forms in skincare. The truth is- it’s still the wild west when it comes to understanding what form if any it will be allowed in skincare, what are its benefits from a scientific and not just an anecdotal perspective and what are the risks.  It’s indeed a ‘growing’ industry (last pun for the day, I promise) but one full of uncertainty and questions with no answers. Here is what we do know.

The Regulatory System for Skincare in Canada:

First a quick note about the different ways skincare can be sold in Canada.  There are three routes that skincare can be sold based on what the product claims to do and what level of medical oversight due to potential risks Health Canada feels is necessary.  The lowest category of risks belongs to products that Health Canada calls cosmetics- whether they are colour cosmetics (like make-up) or skincare.  Health Canada maintains a list of ingredients that cannot appear in cosmetics like most forms of cannabis and/or ones that have restrictions on them, for instance a limit on concentration.  The 2nd class of product are considered drug products but are low risk enough that they are consider Over-the-Counter.  Sunscreens that have a labelled SPF are considered this type of product and can either have a Drug Identification Number or a Natural Health Product Number, depending on the type of ingredients.  A product can contain typical sunscreen actives and be considered a cosmetic product if it makes no sun protection claims and is not marketed as a sunscreen.  Finally, there are prescription drug products that require a physician to write a prescription for.

Until today, cannabis was available in a medical grade form by prescription but was not permitted for use in cosmetics or as a natural health product.  Any form other than the prescription form was considered illegal and thus subject to the laws that dealt with it as an illicit drug.  Today with official legalization taking place, let’s see how that may or may not change.

The three forms of Cannabis related actives and what is currently allowed in skincare

When we talk about cannabis based topical products, there are typically three categories.  Hemp seed oil based products, which are allowed in cosmetic skincare, is the most widely used form and has been since the 90’s.  The Body Shop was one of the first to use it. It contains no cannabidiol or derivative whatsoever and is analogous to any other plant based oil. It’s purported to be rich in Omega fatty acids and is thus comparable to something like the Inca Inchi Seed Oil that we use in our Natrèceutique line.

The newest rage in the skincare industry is CBD, otherwise known as cannabidiol or Cannabis Sativa Flower Extract. This uses the whole plant as its source rather than just the seeds.  It contains no THC, however, and does not deliver any psychoactive high.  It’s currently not allowed in any cosmetic skincare product in Canada by Health Canada and appears as a prohibited item on the Cosmetic Hot List. Health Canada is relatively weak on enforcing restricted and prohibited ingredients in cosmetic skincare though so it does not mean that there are no products available.  These products are just not strictly legal and the companies in question most likely have not submitted  a cosmetic notification form to let Health Canada know the product is being sold.

Their legal status is not set to change today with the legalization of weed. Health Canada has not implemented any framework for approving cosmetics that contain CBD’s and its unclear to pretty much everyone if and when they will.  Earlier in the year, insiders predicted that products containing less than 10 ppm THC will be one day be able to get a Natural Health Product Number.   This means they might allow for CBD products with declared concentrations in Over The Counter topicals in the same way they regulate sunscreens. This would allow them to maintain a level of oversight over products and brands would have to specific levels of quality control and transparency. However, at this point, I have not been able to confirm whether this will actually happen.

Alternatively, CBD might become a permitted ingredient in cosmetic skincare but with restrictions in concentrations and products will not be able to make any health claims.  This route will also mean that products will not list the concentration of CBD as an active ingredient so consumers would have a more difficult time assessing concentrations across products.

The third category are topical products that actually contain THC or tetrahydrocannabinol.  This is the active that gets you the ‘high’ associated commonly with cannabis use.  It might seem perplexing but while you can smoke or ingest products with THC, you will not be able to pop into your local Sephora and buy a lip balm containing it.  In other words, it’s not an active that we or other skincare suppliers will have access to. It’s unclear whether government mandated suppliers will have topical products.  As of today, cannabis oils with different combinations of THC and CBD can be sold through whatever means each province has set up as their avenue of distribution.  Presumably, people can purchase the oils and DIY homemade topical applications or perhaps these dispensaries will have ready made versions.  These topical though will be restricted to these dispensaries (on-line or physical locations) so no Sephora products or private brands will be able to sell them.  In any case, products containing THC are outside of skin deep beautifying or wellness applications.  Which brings us to what are the possible benefits of each type…

Benefits in Topical Use

As mentioned, hemp seed oil is really just another choice of plant based oil. You can weigh its pros and cons against any other plant oil like our Inca Inchi Oil or Hibiscus Oil. You’re looking at what phytonutrients are available in its profile and then you will want to look at is extraction method and purity.

The CBD portion of skincare is the one that has been a huge emerging trend but one with plenty of questions. It’s reported to work on certain receptors within our body, separate from a psychoactive point of view, that can help with pain management and anxiety, which is why it’s merged into a wellness product as well.  From a strictly skin deep benefit, it seems that it’s mainly an anti-inflammatory and thus potential benefits relate to eczema, psoriasis, acne etc.  However, what concentration is required to be beneficial? Since it’s not permitted for use in cosmetic skincare, it’s virtually impossible to get samples for research and development purposes.  There is a route by Health Canada for applying for clinical trial studies for Natural Health Products but it’s a much more involved process than for a cosmetic product that makes no health claims.  It requires proper authorization from Health Canada to begin, physician and an external review board oversight. It’s unlikely then that smaller companies will undertake the necessary steps to properly start the important initial research. As more data emerges from larger corporations, and as regulations are more firmly set, then it makes sense smaller entities will start to offer products in a legal setting. This legal setting will most likely involve pre-market approvals by Health Canada with defined limits for % of active, defined health claims that can be made and will mandate that only specially licensed facilities will be able to manufacture products according to Good Manufacturing Practices and quality control.

I’ve not come across any skin related benefits to using THC based topicals. I doubt it will become a mainstream skincare active but we will have to see how the ebbs and flows of the industry with this new heyday of legalization.

For the moment, we as a skincare company have no products in research in development that use any of the above cannabis products. With our close proximity to medical professionals capable of running proper Health Canada approved clinical trials, it’s possible that we could take steps to further advance research for CBD as an active.  There is certainly a lot of hype surrounding the ingredient but that has never been an incentive for us to take action.  The world is full of interesting and exciting ingredients for skin rejuvenation and wellness.  Let us know what you think because your interest, as opposed to hype or observing trends, is an actual incentive for us to act.  Share in the comments what you think!

Deciem dupes, The Ordinary Dupes

Our Products as Dupes for Other Brands

It feels funny to think of our products as dupes for any other company (although if we were forced to compare there are some similarities with Drunk Elephant but that is another post) but we do get asked how to our products compare with the cheaper options at The Ordinary.  We fully admit that we do not come close in terms of pricing and we never will with The Ordinary.  We have two different business models and we are a different size of company completely.  We are not going to compete on price, at times The Ordinary pricing equalled our cost of goods. We also feel that we offer exceptional value in terms of the quality of our products from our sunscreens to any of our other skincare options. Having said that, I will put a sweet little promo code at the bottom of this article though just to say thanks for considering us.

Our Retin+Erase vs. the Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane and other iterations:

This is the most obvious one to compare as we are one of the handful that offers this incredible active of a retinoid ester or Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate. It’s a unique molecule that is proprietary to the supplier Grant (the Gran in Granactive). It has excellent tolerability and efficacy, like a cross between retinol and a prescription retinoid in terms of molecular structure.  We always caution people to not get confused with the math- we have a 1% active concentration of the retinoid ester itself and 10% of the raw material granactive.  To put it in equivalent terms, The Ordinary has .5% active at its highest concentration or as they put it 5% of the raw material itself. We therefore have double the concentration and actually the maximum allowed concentration in Canada.  I’ve been astounded though how well tolerated the product is- most people are able to use it every day whereas they might struggle with a 1% equivalent in retinol.  Our Retin+Erase is pretty simple otherwise, it has 4 total ingredients.  You need a pea sized amount for the entire face so the 15 ml bottle lasts up to six weeks if you were to use it approximately once a day.

Our Nu-Shroom Hydrafill Serum and/or our Natrèceutique Intensive Soothing Serum vs. Marine Hyaluronics and/or Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5:

Our Nu-Shroom Hydrafill Serum is quite the little gem in our line up, as is our newest addition from our Natrèceutique line, the Intensive Soothing Serum.  They are both lightweight humectant based serums so they draw water to the skin’s surface for a nice plumping effect.  These two products are your best bet for glowing skin where your make-up applies smoothly.  Your Nu-Shroom contains a natural form of hyaluronic acid, derived from Silver Ear Mushrooms. It also as a host of botanicals like Portulaca Pilosa for plumping (was actually first used for a lip plumping application), Irish Moss for hydration and sesame extract for tightening. I love Nu-Shroom Hydrafill for the morning.  This is actually my husbands favourite product from our line up as well- he might be drinking it as we seem to go through a fair bit.  Our Intensive Soothing Serum uses another humectant called Propanediol to draw water to the skin, however it also contains a whopping 5% date extract.  The Date was grown from an original seed that dates back 2000 years.  There is emerging data about its effect on improving capillary function and thus reducing redness. It’s calming but in a very active way, thus the intense part of the name.

Our PM Anti-Age vs. EUK 134

This might be the biggest stretch of the imagination since we are comparing an $89 night cream to a single active product for $8.80.  Both products contain EUK 134, which is a powerhouse little anti-oxidant that I think gives Vitamin C a run for its money.  I know that people love Vitamin C but my particular issue with it is that its neither stable within a bottle (hence stories of oxidation of finished products where their Vitamin C formula changes colour) but it’s also not stable on your face.  Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can break down after one cycle of free radical scavenging into hydrogen peroxide molecules that are equally damaging to the skin. EUK 134 mimics two essential enzymes that our bodies natural produce called Super Oxide Dismutase and Catalase.  Enzymes can continuously mop up free radical and are not limited to one cycle and they do not break down into hydrogen peroxide molecules.  The difficulty with EUK 134 is that its benefits seem theoretical, it’s hard to picture the importance of free radical scavenging and what it means for your every day skin.  However, whatever you think of Vitamin C, I would say EUK 134 is the better antioxidant.  The price difference in our products comes by virtue of the fact that our PM Anti-Age contains 4 other powerhouse ingredients. Turmeric is the most obvious in the product and really delivers lovely skin brightening in addition to all of the other health benefits associated with associated with turmeric.  It also includes Renovage, an ingredient with fairly technical merits that in theory work to prolong the life span of collagen and elastin molecules in the skin.  Gorgonian Sea Whip is a sustainably harvested algae as an anti-inflammatory. Cranberry Seed Oil is harvest from the harsh nordic North and has one of the highest antioxidant values.  Our skin does not age in one single way but along multiple different pathologies hence different actives for different benefits. I imagine that most people were using The Ordinary EUK 134 product in tangent with multiple other products to try and derive a similar benefit.


I’m not calling our sunscreens anyones dupe. I firmly believe we have innovated these next generation of sunscreens to be in a different league in terms of protectiveness and aesthetics.  We’ve overcome the difficulties in working with zinc oxide and our Bio UVA Ultra proprietary technology means that you cannot even compare our concentrations with other brands. The 15% zinc oxide concentration in Ava Isa is not comparable to a 15% in any other brand as it could be anywhere from 60-100% more protective in the UVA range.

So there you have it, an imperfect dupe list.  Our customers for the past 10 years might have shopped with both companies- even I used to buy The Ordinary Squalane since I liked to add it to my routine every once and a while.  We know the lack of similarly price products is tough but we are another Canadian company, exclusively made in Canada, with a loving team behind us that supports all of our retail partners in the North American skincare industry.  Our products take years to research and develop them. We use niche and incredibly innovative ingredients and use them in high concentrations and then round out the formula with equally prestige ingredients.

For those who stuck around to the end of this post, here is the promo code as promised- hopefully incentive to give us a try if you’ve never before.  Use PROMO CODE NOORDINARY30 to get 30% off as a one time coupon per customer.  If you are feeling sad, hopefully it cheers you up a little!

Warmest regards,


pur opulence, montreal beauty blog, the sunscreen company

Pur Opulence and The Sunscreen Company Brand Overview

Kiara from Pur Opulence had a chance to feel out some of our most popular products from across our three brands Ava Isa, CyberDERM and Natrèceutique. Check out her thoughts and recos- a great summer read.

Click here to read:


All About Sunscreen with Life with Zandra

Check out Sara, our Executive Director, and her chat with vegan lifestyle blogger from Calgary Life with Zandra.  They chat about what makes for a great sunscreen, sunscreen myths and so much more.

Check it out here:

Ava Isa SPF 45, sunscreen, The Sunscreen Company

How our Ava Isa SPF 45 Ultra Matte Sunscreen Line Came to Be

The Story of Ava Isa

The idea for our new line of ultra-matte sunscreens Ava Isa came to me while I was pregnant with my daughter Ava Isabella.  We’d been discussing for a long time the troubling statistic that in young women aged 25-30, skin cancer was the number one cancer killer (more on that in a bit).  Our amazing chemist, Tom Heinar (who we talked to in this interview) came to me saying he had just had a great meeting with a supplier that makes these beautiful pigments and he thought they would be great in a sunscreen.

I myself had been looking into a primer for that summer, something that would give me a little bronzy pop on my skin. I was curious about what makes a great primer so I bought several different ones from Sephora.  However, the sticking point with them was it was annoying to use a primer and then a sunscreen.  Some of the primers had an SPF with them but they were really bad sunscreens.  I could imagine all of these young women forgoing their sunscreen just to get the illuminating benefits of the primer.

As a team, we connected the dots and said wait- we can make an impact here.  We didn’t want people making that choice and we knew we could offer a better solution.  We make great sunscreens. Can we offer skin optimization like other products? Thus began the year and a half project of formulating Ava Isa.

Ava Isa SPF 45, sunscreen, The Sunscreen Company

Me and the too cool real-life Ava Isa.

Why name it after my daughter?

When you stop and think about the fact that skin cancer is the #1 cancer killer for young women, it is absolutely nuts.  Why is there this blip of high incidences of skin cancer in this demographic? In the past, skin cancer had been something that would show up in mature adults who had a lifetime of UV exposure.  For it to be literally killing this young generation of people had the entire company thinking about the reasons. We knew that the UVB biased sunscreens of the 90’s that continue until today had to play a role.  These high SPF’s took away sunburns but did not protect against UVA.  They made the world one big tanning bed and removed our natural signalling process to get out of the sun. There is a generation that received a huge onslaught of damaging UVA rays and their immune suppressing impact.  We think this is one reason for the increase of skin cancer in young people.

With this in mind, we had the idea of what Ava Isa could be and its potential impact.  I wanted to give that potential legacy to my daughter.  When we were putting together the branding, marketing and packaging- I pictured her at the age of 25.  What would she like? What would make her proud?  And the mom in me wondered how it might protect her.

The Tint

We had 3 main goals in creating Ava Isa- get some nice tints under our belt that were fairly universal, nail the texture of the sunscreen itself and incorporate our learnings about how to make sunscreens ultra protective.

For the tints, we started with a couple of different variations.  We didn’t want them to replace foundation so we knew these ones would not be different skin tones.  Instead, we wanted more skin illumination.  The tint that could now be found in Aurora Rose was one of the first ones we came up with. It’s a nude/pink.  It does not have any shimmer to it because we didn’t think that would play well with the ultra matte texture.  It has a slightly cool tint to it (as opposed to a warm one).  For a great skin swatch, you can check out Michelle Villet’s review on her new site Skincare Edit of Aurora Rose.

We also played around with a bronzing version that we will get right one day and it will be called Lakeside Bronze- an ode to our Canadian roots.  We didn’t quite get that one right but we are continuing to work on it.  In the end, we decided to launch with an untinted version called Pure so that people could have a choice. Depending on how the line does, we hope to launch new tints as we go further.

AvaIsa Ferns.jpg copyThe Texture

If you’ve had a chance to trial Ava Isa, you will know it’s our most matte option.  It dries down on the skin almost instantaneously and is weightless.  People who hate the way sunscreen can feel on the skin or who can have oily/combination skin absolutely love this texture.  If you happen to be more on the dry side of things or have really mature skin- Ava Isa will not help with hydration so might not be the right option. If you prefer a more dewy look for your skin, then I’d recommend our Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25.  The texture is similar to a matte lipstick- for some people it’s exactly what they are looking for but others its not their best option.  The quick dry texture also means that you need to apply Ava Isa almost like a make-up.  I like to use the quadrant method on my face where I decant the product on the back of my hand and then use my finger to apply to the quadrants of my face. I make sure to blend, i.e. rub, the product in and pay specific attention to the edges where you might miss rubbing.  If you apply the product with a little more care and make sure to rub it in, it is 100% transparent on the skin and beautiful.  However, for people like my husband who applies sunscreen where he just smashes it into his face, Ava Isa might leave a white streak where it dried before you could rub it in.  So the lesson is- don’t apply sunscreen like my husband.

The Protection

Tints and texture are all well and good but mean nothing if we didn’t bring our A game when it came to making Ava Isa protective.  First, it’s a true SPF 45.  It’s 15% zinc oxide, which in theory would not be able to get you an SPF 45.  Our patent pending innovation Bio UVA Ultra amps up our protection in both the UVB and UVA range.  We use a certified organic natural ingredient to help improve the dispersion of the zinc oxide to make it much more efficient. Zinc oxide has a natural limit of a UVA Protection Factor of about 12 if you max out the concentration of zinc oxide at 25%. It is a great active that is our only real option for true broad spectrum protection in North America but it has its limits.  Our Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25 has a UVA PF of 9, our old Simply Zinc SPF 30 had one of just under 12, and Ava Isa has one of 15 (our new Simply Zinc Ultra has one of 20).  We are putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to protection and we are getting better and better.

So you can see when we say that we made Ava Isa with “Love and Protection In Every Bottle”, we weren’t kidding.  The mom in me wants to go around the medicine cabinets of the world and tell people to forgo the sunscreens with 2% zinc, to skip the primers with the outdated SPF formulas.  They are not protecting you.  However, the mom in me has also learned that you can’t cajole people into not doing something. Ava Isabella is a toddler now so I’ve learned that lesson.  You need to listen to what people want. In this case, beautiful skin with beautiful ingredients.  You can build in the protection- it might not get the same kind of acknowledgement but it will keep them safe.

natural sunscreen, physical sunscreen, zinc oxide sunscreen, The Sunscreen Company

SUN PROTECTION MYTHS: Physical Sunscreens and More


Think zinc oxide sunscreens act like physical barriers? What about the different between natural sunscreens versus chemical ones? What makes a safe sunscreen and what are some common myths.  The Sunscreen Doc, our co-founder Dr. Denis Dudley, tackles some of the most pervasive ones on his blog.

Click here to read and feel free to keep asking more questions or let us know what you think!


reef safe sunscreen

Reef Safe Sunscreens and the Hawaii Ban

What Does Reef Safe Mean and All About the Hawaii Ban

We’ve been fielding a lot of questions as of late as to our perspective on the recent Hawaii ban. It’s such a definitive action in an industry where regulations move so languidly and industry is often left to self-regulate.

There is no question that for the most part, the ban in Hawaii on oxybenzone and octinoxate is a good thing.  This is coming from us as a zinc oxide sunscreen provider that has a formula that contains octinoxate.  We’ll get to that important detail.  However, we’ve been beating a drum against oxybenzone since the creation of our company. Some might say it was one of the reasons we started our company. Certainly a sunscreen that is defined as ‘safe enough for a pregnant woman to use’ will never include one formulated with oxybenzone so it is refreshing to see the first piece of definitive legislation come out against it.

Having said that, there is no question that the Hawaii decision is also partially political in nature.  If it was merely science-led, then the data against for reef degradation is limited to oxybenzone.  There is substantial reason to condemn oxybenzone with respect to coral bleaching or what is otherwise known as the ossification of coral. It’s been shown to be toxic to the symbiotic organisms that co-habitate with coral, and are essential to its existence. It’s also beens shown to impede the corals ability to fight of viral infection and withstand rising water temperatures as part of global warming.  It’s the characteristics of oxybenzone that are most likely the cause for these adverse effects.  It’s a filter of small molecular weight, less than half the size of a nanometer (compared to nano zinc oxide which is typically 70-100+ nanometers in size). It is photo reactive and breaks down in sunlight to create Reactive Oxygen Species. It’s been shown repeatedly to permeate human tissue and there is considerable evidence that points to its role as an endocrine disruptor.  It’s reasonable to extrapolate that this toxicity to the larvae within the reefs is a similar biological response, some form of hormone disruption on a larger scale.

The inclusion of octinoxate is curious in the sense that it’s a form of a half step.  There is limited science in terms of directly correlating the same coral bleaching to octinoxate, however, it is reasonable to extrapolate it might have a similar effect based on very similar shared characteristics with oxybenzone. Both conventional octinoxate and oxybenzone are of small molecular weight, photo reactive and potential endocrine disruptors.  However, so are other organic/carbon based filters like avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, and more.  In fact, avobenzone is even more similar to oxybenzone in that they share the similar chemical structure of a benzene ring.  The same structure that means in a chemistry lab they would be handled with care under a chemical hood and with significant handling measures to prevent contact.  However, these other filters were not included. It’s reasonable to ask why?  It’s most likely a case of where the precautionary principle butts against practical limitations.  You can imagine how weighty a ban would be if it included most organic based filters.  With skin cancer still on the rise, it would also be difficult to limit sunscreen options where 95% of available ones still include these organic filters.

On Encapsulated Octinoxate

I know some might read our questioning of the ban as part of a vested interest as our formula Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25 contains encapsulated octinoxate.  Although this ban does not allow for any exceptions and this means that users cannot bring this formula to Hawaii shorelines, we feel all others can feel confident in its every day use.  We would never consider using conventional octinoxate for all of the reasons we listed above.  We feel it can be blackballed for the same reasons we would forgo oxybenzone.

Encapsulation remains an innovative solution or work around to the issues with these small molecular weight filters.  The octinoxate we use is doped in a silica bead (which is derived from sand), making it roughly the size of 5-7 microns, meaning it’s 10,000 to 14,000 times larger than conventional octinoxate.  It therefore cannot permeate living tissue, either human or animal. The octinoxate does not come into contact with the tissue or coral itself as it remains within the silica bead. This is how encapsulated octinoxate does not have the same issue with photo-allergy that often plagues conventional octinoxate.

The process of encapsulation turns these small problematic filters into large particles, similar in characteristics to zinc oxide and other minerals.  It’s unfortunate that it has not been more commonly used in the industry but it’s lack of use relates more to cost and formulation challenges and not its intrinsic merit.

Implications of the ban

The most immediate implications will be that consumers will see more and more of the label claim ‘reef safe’.  However, the term is not regulated in terms of what it means and most likely will never be regulated.  A quick Google search for ‘reef safe sunscreens’ returns a whole host of options, some of which include formulas with oxybenzone.  As is customary for this industry, consumers are going to have to be educated label readers.

Formulas containing high concentrations of zinc oxide remain the most prudent choice for consumers.  We encourage consumers to look for sunscreen providers who are credible and know the science behind their offerings.  Consumers should also look to other sun safety measures while on holiday like the use of sun protective clothing.

There is a path forward for consumers to be both health and environmentally conscious and we as a company, The Sunscreen Company TM, will continue in our efforts to lead the way.

sunscreen launch, summer, zinc oxide, The Sunscreen Company

What You Need to Know from the other Canadian Company Launching Sunscreens this summer

An Interview between Tom Heinar and Sara Dudley, Co-Founders of The Sunscreen Company TM

What You Need to Know from the other Canadian Company Launching Sunscreens this summer

Name: Tom Heinar

Credentials: Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Biochemistry

Years in the Business:

39 Years in the Business Total, 36 Years in Cosmetic Formulations

Previous Companies: Estée Lauder, Revlon Canada, Unilever and more plus own private consulting company Cosmetic Formulation Services

Sara: You have been in the business a very long time.  What’s your relationship with The Sunscreen Company TM and why the focus on sunscreens?

Tom: I’ve been with The Sunscreen Company TM since its earliest days in 1995.  My co-founders and I have been working and developing sunscreens so intensively in that time that I’ve made it clear on any other projects that I work on that I would only formulate sunscreens for us as a company.  We’ve developed some really key innovations in sunscreen formulations, one of which is patent pending, and they are only available through here.

Sara: What are some of the innovations?

Tom: We’ve found a way to improve not only the SPF of all mineral formulas but also the UVA protection factor, which is critical to making the best sunscreen possible.

Sara: So you can have a high SPF (SPF 40-50+) in an all mineral sunscreen? Is it a true SPF?

Tom: Yes, you can absolutely have a high SPF in an all mineral sunscreen, i.e. use only inorganic filters like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.  When people say the SPF is fake, they are alluding to the fact that you can game the SPF test by including things like anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories in the formula that take away skin redness but only use low concentrations of the active filters.  The SPF test uses human subjects and a measure of skin redness so if you take away skin redness then you can get an artificially high SPF.  That is commonly done in the industry, however it is not something we would do.  

All of our formulas use high concentrations of zinc oxide, a minimum of 15% but as high as the maximum of 25%.  We do use other minerals like titanium dioxide and some proprietary mixes of others to give a real SPF of 45-50, depending on the specific formula.

Sara: You mentioned a patented innovation. What is it?

Tom: We’ve developed a proprietary dispersion method that makes the minerals we use much more efficient in protecting against both UVA and UVB rays.  It’s an Ecocert certified organic ingredient that holds the active ingredients in uniform suspension so that you get even protection.  Zinc oxide has a tendency to want to clump together so by keeping it in uniform suspension you make it more efficient.  A 15% concentration of zinc oxide then begins to act like a 25% concentration, and a 25% concentration is even better.

In short, we’ve found a way to make the most protective zinc oxide sunscreens- ever.  

Sara: What about the idea that an SPF 30 blocks up to 97% and an SPF 60 only blocks up to around 98%? Is a higher SPF necessary?

Tom: That is true but it’s only part of the story.  In years passed, we have tried to get people to move away from just focusing on SPF because it only really talks about protection against UVB. It missed the critical factor of what the UVA protection was.  

Five years ago, we wanted people to use good high concentration zinc oxide sunscreens in order to get better UVA protection.  A lot of the other, conventional sunscreens were what we called UVB biased, i.e. might have had an SPF 100 but really poor UVA protection.  So we didn’t want people sacrificing their protection against UVA to get a high SPF.

Things have changed now though.  You don’t have to compromise between the two.  You can get excellent UVA protection with high concentration zinc oxide sunscreens and get high UVB/SPFs as well.  When we talk about having next generation sunscreens, that is what we are talking about.

Sara: What are some use cases where people might care about having a higher SPF?

Tom: Certainly for some Canadians mid-winter, who have minimal daily exposure outside- or doing activities like commuting to work, a lower SPF is ok.  However, if you are going to have extended exposure, then a higher SPF is better as long as you are not trading off your UVA protection.  

Sara: Are these sunscreens aesthetic?

Tom: Yes. We’ve always said there is no point formulating a sunscreen that is protective if it doesn’t look good on the skin. It’s not offering any protection if it stays in the bottle so to speak.  People really liked the transparency and matte quality of our previous formulations.  Our next generation of formulas are equally as good.  

Sara: Can you discuss some of the technical innovations in the new Ava Isa SPF 45 line?

Tom: That product was intended to be incredibly matte and dry on the skin to feel weightless.  It’s thixotropic, meaning it seems to be thicker but as soon as you put any pressure on it, say pushing it through the opening of the bottle, it thins out.  When you rub it on the skin, it drys almost instantaneously so you don’t feel any heavy sensation.  That took a considerable amount of work during development to get that texture.

It also includes our patent pending innovation so it’s 15% zinc oxide makes it more protective than our previous 22% zinc oxide (former Simply Zinc SPF 30) in the UVA range by at least 30%.

Sara: What about the upcoming Simply Zinc Ultra SPF 50?

Tom: That formula is a complete revision from its previous version (Simply Zinc SPF 30).  It contains 25% zinc oxide, so the maximum allowed in many countries.  It is very light in texture as well and has close to the same viscosity as water.  It has really light weight vegetable oils from saturated fats like coconut alkanes, and it again dries down on the skin almost instantaneously.  

It also contains our patent pending innovation so to our knowledge and according to our testing, it is one of the most protective zinc oxide sunscreens available, in the world.  

Sara: What is next in sunscreen formulations?

Tom: We always are looking for ways to improve.  We are looking at the impact of blue light and its effect on melasma and photo-aging. We will always look at ways to make zinc oxide even more protective, although I think we’ve gotten as close to perfect as we can with that.

We’ve also developed a formula that mixes a 22% zinc oxide with 9% Tinosorb M and 1% Tinosorb S.  They are incredibly safe and effective filters from Europe that are not allowed in the US.  It’s unfortunate because that is truly as close to a perfect sunscreen as we can get but we are restricted from selling it in North America.  It will change the game when we can sell it though and we are looking for global partners to help us.

We’ve really taken the time to specialize in sunscreens.  We want to live up to our name as The Sunscreen Company TM.  When you do that, the possibilities are endless.