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.

EUK-134

Ingredient Spotlight on EUK-134

CyberDERM review, CyberDERM products, Sun Whips, EUK-134, Anti-Oxidants
EUK-134- The Super Anti-Oxidant from Canada as found in CyberDERM’s PM Anti-Age
Spotlight on EUK-134
 
Ingredient Name: EUK-134
CD Product Used In: PM Anti-Age, click here to go to Product Page.
Official Name: It’s a mouthful- Ethylbisiminomethylguaiacol Manganese Chloride
Skin Benefits: Like a juice cleanse for your skin cells.  Mimics essential enzymes like Super Oxide Dismutase and catalyse that keep your skin cells their healthiest possible.  Constantly mops up free radicals and hydrogen peroxide molecules that other anti-oxidants can break down and leave behind. It operates in a continuous loop of free radical scavenging so it’s a hard little worker that never quits! Has clinical studies to back its claims to help protect against the DNA damage that UVB rays can cause, click here to read article in Journal of Investigative Dermatology.  
Origin: Made in Canada, Montreal to be exact!
Recommended Use: .01-.05%
 Cost: This material is priced in grams as opposed to traditional KG- $250/10 grams.
Natrèceutique, Intensive Soothing Serum

Introducing Natrèceutique Intensive Soothing Serum

New Natrèceutique.

We do not typically launch an entirely new brand with so little fanfare.  We have a lot going on behind the scenes at the moment and we’ll be doing some larger scale reveals with a little more pomp and circumstance.  Frankly, these are beautiful products and they deserve a little celebration.  For now though, for our loyal customers, we are so pleased to quietly present a new product from a new brand.

What is Natrèceutique?

The idea for Natrèceutique was born when we attempted to sell an all-natural luxury product line in our sister clinic and ended up discontinuing it. Customers liked the idea of it but we were constantly in conflict with our referring dermatologists.  They disliked the long list of ingredients.  They hated the use of essential oils.  They were not having the use of fragrances, whether they were natural or synthetic. They were not a fan of Vitamin E as a preservative or other naturally derived ingredients that are sensitizers, especially in their patient population that very often has compromised skin.

It seemed a missed opportunity that the Western medical world and the green beauty world could not speak to each other.  Our original skincare line started as a medical one but we shared a lot of ideas with the green beauty space.  We are huge proponents of being critical of ingredients that get absorbed into your body.  We have never used what we consider ‘filler’ ingredients, i.e. cheap, synthetics that are intended to make the product look or feel better but do nothing for the skin.  We had fallen in love with a large number of all-natural ingredients with impressive mechanisms of action and we’d been using them in high concentrations to get the best results.

It made us think, if a dermatologist were to create an all-natural line, what would it look like?

It would be Natrèceutique or as we like to think of it, Nature Distilled.

What’s different about the line?

We were pretty clear about what was not going to be in the line. No essential oils.  No known allergens or sensitizers like Vitamin E.  We were going to keep the ingredient list ,as we always do, simple.

You cannot create a line though out of what is not in a product.  We’d amassed over the years a list of beautiful actives of natural derivation that we were excited about.  We also wanted the line to have the same credibility as our clinical line.  We started to explore the pharmacopeia of natural ingredients.  We dug deep into the vast world of polyphenols and their complex chemistry.  We also looked at medical journals to see the natural roots of many common medicines.  In fact, most Western medicine have nature based ancestors before they begin down the path of being processed and synthesized.  We also had our deep understanding of the pathology of the skin and common skin concerns due to our dermatology background.  All combined, we had a wish list of fantastic natural actives. We furthered refined this list with criteria for preserving the ingredients through distillation processes that maintained their integrity and for sustainable harvesting practices.

How is the line going to make my skin better?

We’d always received the consistent feedback that while people loved our original clinical line, some women with mature skin needed some extra hydration. I always reminded people not to confuse the thickness of a product with hydration.  I tried to point out the myth that a Pond style cream was delivering extra moisture when really it just had occlusive ingredients and thickeners in it.  I also pointed out that the harder work in terms of hydration is to improve the cellular mechanisms within the skin that preserves its own natural hydration rather than just adding it back in through a product.  That’s all true.

However, after having my daughter, postpartum skin hit and for the first couple of months I could experience first hand what some of our customers had been feeling.  As my doctor said, my body at that moment had a lot in common with a post-menopausal woman.  I could see how dehydrated my skin was- it’s internal ability to retain moisture was temporarily gone.  It thought this whole preserving skin for the future is great, but I need moisture and I need it now!

I think I owe those women who wrote into us an apology for not realizing what they were saying, sooner.  I had to take a trip in their skin to truly appreciate their concerns. I’m happy to say that the products in Natrèceutique will hopefully support them while delivering our other benefits.

Their are a couple of key ways to provide richness and hydration that actually benefit the skin.  I like plant oils because they have a rich polyphenol chemistry to them that can nourish the skin.  We chose to use Inca Inchi Oil at 10% in a lot of the formulas (launching soon) because it has a well balanced ratio of Omega 3’s, 6’s and 9’s.  We also include Hibiscus Oil because of the anthocyanins that give the flowers their beautiful colour, the same ones shared with a lot of berries.

I find that oils need to be complemented with something that provides a barrier protection to be effective. It’s the same issue I had with my daughter when I tried to use pure coconut oil on her bottom instead of diaper cream.  It was great for hydration and being an anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial but it had zero barrier abilities so we got in trouble and she had a bad bout of diaper rash.  For Natrèceutique, we included this award winning emulsifier that includes a small amount of beeswax.  It just provides the slightest barrier protection so that the hydration in the product has some staying power.

What is the Natrèceutique Intensive Soothing Serum all about?

The Intensive Soothing Serum is an oil-free humectant based hydrator.  This means that it does not include the Inca Inchi and Hibiscus Oil blend but features a fermented corn sugar that draws water to the skin’s surface.  It’s a similar concept to hyaluronic acid.  It’s more intensively hydrating than our current Nu-Shroom Hydrafill Serum so is a great option to supplement with.  I’ve been using this product every night for the past several months and most nights, I will only use a dime sized amount before then layering on something like our H20 Hydration or PM Anti-Age.  Once a week though, I’ve started to saturate my skin by using almost a quarter size of product. It creates an invisible mask that slowly sinks in throughout the night.  You wake up with a very dewy complexion that I’m a fan of- especially since my postpartum dehydrated skin days.

It uses 5% date extract because we are committed to using ingredients at their effective concentration based on their supporting clinicals, irregardless of cost.  It’s a potent anti-oxidant that has evidence showing it also improves micro-circulation so is beneficial for rosaceous or inflamed skin.

It’s all in all a simple product but in my mind, that is the beauty of the line.  Keep things simple when they need to be. Be curated and intentional.  There is no reason then why both worlds, medical and green beauty, can’t get along.

All the best,

Sara

An Image from our Old Website when a softer look and feel emerged

What’s New with Us. Turns Out a Lot.

Are Hearts Are Full with the Changes Upon Us.

Are Hearts Are Full with the Changes Upon Us.

What’s New with Us. Turns Out a Lot.

We’re in for some exciting changes this fall- ones that we’ve been prepping for these past several years.

What kind of changes are we talking about?

6 new products, including 2 new sunscreens.  2 new packaging changes. 2 new brands. 1 new identity.

1 New Beginning.

There is a lot of unpacking to do in those couple of sentences and we promise to reveal things as we can.  In the interim, I thought I’d take a little time in this blog post to give some history and context about these upcoming changes. For today, let’s start with…

1 New Identity.

We’re actually in our tenth year of operations and we’ve definitely evolved over the years.  Have you ever seen those articles that show what companies like Google or Amazon looked like when they first started? I always find them fascinating because it’s easy to forget the history of a brand and the little stepping stones it took to get to where it is today.

Our First Look- A little Edgier Indeed

Our First Look- A little Edgier Indeed

In the beginning, we were all about “Less Chemicals. More Efficacy. Please”.  I thought I was pretty savvy with the added ‘please’, in italics no less. How Canadian of us.  Our thinking at the time was to move away from the cosmetics with 40-50 ingredient lists.  We knew we could deliver products that were simplified at their core but delivered efficacy so to speak because we chose great actives and used them at high concentrations.  The green beauty movement was just nascent in early 2008 but we were already starting to think about the massive amounts of chemicals that people were being exposed to every day.  Both my parents were concerned- my mother as a dermatologist and just seeing how sensitized people’s skin became.  My father as a retired high risk obstetrician and endocrinologist and examining everything through the litmus test of safety of whether a pregnant woman should be using it.

We actually started with three products, including our AM Hydrating Whip.  We didn’t market it as a sunscreen at the time but it was the earliest iteration of our current Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25. People’s response to it was overwhelming- they loved the aesthetics of it and the way it made their skin look.  What ultimately converted people though was the story behind sunscreens.  Once they learned about the gap in safety and efficacy between many commercially available sunscreens and ours- people could not believe it was the first time they were hearing this story and they wanted to share it with everyone they knew.

An Image from our Old Website when a softer look and feel emerged

An Image from our Old Website when a softer look and feel emerged

Four years later, while working on our Simply Zinc Sun Whip SPF 30, we realized we were on to something.  We had built an expertise in making sunscreens that was unparalleled in the industry and we had the will and the way to continue.  Hence, we became CyberDERM-The Sunscreen Company TM.  By 2016, we had 5 cosmeceuticals and 2 Sun Whips that could provide the staples in skincare that any professional could recommend to their clientele.

Our Current Look and Name

Our Current Look and Name

We’d also been working behind the scenes on continuing our research in developing the absolute best sunscreens in the world.  That was our ethos and what we’ve been working at non-stop.  We’ve developed a sunscreen with the highest potential UVA protection factor from any that we’ve seen.  Unfortunately, until Health Canada and the FDA approve the widespread use of Tinosorb S and M, that formula will not be launching in North America.

We’ve also developed a patent pending innovation that we think is truly a game-changer.  Launching in all of our new sunscreen formulas going forward, we’ve developed a proprietary way of dramatically increasing the UVA protecting factor of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sunscreens.  We’re calling it Bio UVA Ultra- best of all it uses a simple, Ecocert certified organic material that is sustainably developed and controversy free.

We’re launching two new sunscreens this fall under a new brand name.  These beauties are worth their own post in its entirety so we won’t go into much more detail for now.  With all of our efforts in developing sunscreens and with the introduction of two new brands, we thought it was time to go all out and make it clear what we are about.  Going forward, we are going to be known as The Sunscreen Company TM.  As The Sunscreen Company TM we can’t wait to present to you three brands made with love and fourteen products full of protection and care.  Thanks for sticking with us through this transformation.

All the best,

Sara

sunscreen, bad ingrediens, avoid sun burn

3 Little Known Things That Should Never Be In Your Sunscreen

sunscreen, bad ingrediens, avoid sun burn

These 3 Things Should Never Be in Your Sunscreen.

If you’ve followed our blog or our company for a while, you’ve probably sensed our discomfort with the ingredient Oxybenzone.  We think it should be banned from our bodies.  If you have not read our many reasons why it’s an ingredient worth avoiding- click here to read why you could consider it one of the most dangerous chemicals in your house.

If you’re all caught up on that, we thought we’d share this month some lesser known no-no’s in sunscreen formulations.  I’ll admit when I scan labels these are the red-flags that jump out at me and make me wonder whether the formulator simply did not know any better or chose to ignore the most relevant science in our field.

In short, here is a list of little known things that should not be in your sunscreen

1. The Combination of Octinoxate and Avobenzone

This one is a doozy but fortunately relatively rare.  If you see it, put down the bottle and walk away.  For me, there is really no excuse to have these two ingredients combined.  We know better and should do better.

These two ingredients on their own are not great in their most current, prevalent form.  To my knowledge, most forms of these ingredients come in their commodity form as being small-particle sized.  They are potential photo-allergens.  They also have their own stability issues.  We use an encapsulated form of octinoxate in our Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25. This dopes the octinoxate molecule into a silica bead and makes a small particle (that normally would get absorbed into the body) huge.  It makes it roughly 6-7 microns large so that it sits on the surface of the skin and actually does not come into contact, reducing any chance for allergy.

What you may not know though, is these two ingredients are like each others Kryptonite.  Avobenzone breaks down in sunlight, which is an unfortunate characteristic for a sunscreen filter.  It requires stabilization from ingredients like octocrylene or Mexoryl SX and Xl.  However, when combined with Octinoxate, they each precipitate the breakdown of each other.  This breakdown is so precipitous that not only do both your UVB and UVA protection of the sunscreen breakdown, free radicals are also generated.

Octocrylene as mentioned does abate the photodegredation of this combination somewhat but not sufficiently to make it a viable solution.  In theory, you could encapsulate both ingredients to keep them from coming into contact with each other.  However, this technology is not widely available and remains expensive and hard to work with.  The better solution would be to simply avoid this combination- if your product includes it, it’s worth questioning whether the manufacturer really understands sunscreen formulations.

2. Essential Oils especially citrus based ones

I’m not altogether against essential oils.  I see them as powerful and complex compounds.  The chemistry within a single drop is astonishing.  A knowledgable practitioner can use them to great effect- if used judiciously and strategically.  What I’m not comfortable with, is the increasing trend in skincare to use a dash-of-this-dash-of-that style of formulating with them.  You are starting to see a lot of craft style brands essentially sell mixes of essential oils where some times 10+ essential oils are mixed together.

I do not think they should be used in sunscreens.  When you take the complex chemistry of the skin, the sun and essential oils- I think you are mixing up host of potential reactions that are hard to predict.  One thing is clear though, you should never, ever use a product that contains lime or any citrus based essential oil during the day on sun exposed skin.  Dermatologist frequently see what is called photodermatitis- the sudden appearance of brown streaks or spots when lime juice or extract on the skin is exposed to sun light.  This pigmentation can take a long time to fade, however more severe reactions can occur with blistering or redness occurring as well.  As one Facebook user can attest, essential oils can cause really severe

essential oils, sun burn, burn skin

What Can Happen with Essential Oils and the Sun

blistering as you can tell by her alarming pictures.

This is another mistake in formulating a sunscreen that shows a lack of understanding about photobiology and dermatology.  I wish I could say it was a ‘rookie’ mistake but you see it in brands all of the time.

3. Anti-Inflammatories and Anti-Oxidants (if replacing concentrations of filters)

On their own, there is nothing wrong with anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants.  Plant derived anti-inflammatories include chamomile and Vitamin E.  We are a huge advocate for stable anti-oxidants like turmeric, resveratrol etc.  However, our issue with these two types of ingredients is when they are used to replace sunscreen filters as protection against the sun.  These ingredients can be used to increase the SPF of a sunscreen by gaming the current SPF test.

The FDA mandates that the in-vivo test for SPF is used, meaning it’s tested on humans as opposed to being tested in-vitro, which literally means tested on glass.  SPF is calculated by looking at the level of redness produced by directing a photo lamp at test subjects.  We are starting to learn that the photo lamp itself is problematic and not equivalent to natural sun light.  Another great limitation of the test is that it uses redness as the equivalent of sun protection.  Therefore a sunscreen formulation can focus on taking away redness in the skin by including anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants, and this will provide a higher SPF while not necessarily providing better protection.

I’m going to share the best metaphor I’ve ever read about these ingredients and sunscreen.  For the life of me, I can’t remember where I’ve read it so pardon my lack of an appropriate citation. Consider UV light like a gun.  Sunscreen filters are like a bullet-proof vest in that they shield you to varying degrees from getting shot.  They’re not perfect and some are better than others in making sure you do not get injured. Anti-oxidants do not prevent you from getting shot but they are equivalent to having a doctor on hand to help stitch you up after wards.  In other words, they do not prevent harm but they help heal it afterwards.  Anti-inflammatories within the context of sunscreens do not prevent you from getting shot nor do they help you heal afterwards.  They put a gag in your mouth so you can’t yell from the pain. For the SPF test, they stop redness from emerging  which is your body’s way of expressing sun damage.  You have to be very wary of formulas that prevent the expression of damage but not the damage itself!

How do you know if your sunscreen is relying on anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants to elevate their SPF? Look at the medicinal ingredients.  I’ve included a handy little SPF calculator in this post here. In short, if your sunscreen has something like 3% Titanium Dioxide and 2% Zinc Oxide, then it can have a max SPF of 11.  If it has an SPF 30 or more but has a long list of botanical extracts, then something is off.  In the coming days, we’ll discuss some new proprietary ways of increasing the SPF with non-medicinals that actually improve protection and do not game the SPF test.  In the interim, if the math does not add up, it’s worth being suspicious.

That’s it for now! Share your comments and questions below!

Warmest regards,

Sara

IMG_4187

How to Keep Your Young Child Sun Protected

IMG_4187

How to Keep Your Young Child Sun Protected

I know the struggle is real when it comes to keep our little ones protected from the sun.  I have an under 2 year old daughter who oddly doesn’t want to keep her fashionable hat on or stay in the shade.  Trying to apply sunscreen to a wriggly, constantly moving toddler who loves to say, “nope” while running gleefully away? It’s tough to say the least.

I know that we do not offer sunscreens marketed as ones’ for kids.  Our 50 ml size and price make it prohibitive for many families to apply our Sun Whips on their children to their entire bodies.  We’ve heard your requests for larger sizes and it’s definitely on our radar! We’re still a relatively small company but we are working on finding a way to make larger volumes so that pricing and seasonality of a larger format sunscreen will work.

In the meantime, there are some kid friendly zinc oxide sunscreens that you can use on your kids.  The EWG Annual Sunscreen Guide is out with great recommendations (including our two Sun Whips featured again with the best safety rating of 1).  Just remember, the higher the % of zinc oxide, the better (at least until we get better access to other filters in North America).  Here are some additional tried and tested tips for keeping your kids sun safe this sunny season.

1. Ditch the sprays

sunscreen, sunscreen for kids, CyberDERM

Baby A Checking Out her Favourite Sunscreen

Have you seen the recent controversy for Banana Boat Kids Free Clear spray sunscreen SPF 50+? Here in Canada, at least two young children have reported 2nd degree burns after sun exposure and using these specific sunscreens.  For my take on these specific cases, click here.  In general though, I say ditch the sprays, especially for young kids.  You have no way of knowing that you are applying sufficient amounts and providing even coverage.  There is some concern re: inhalation.  I definitely advocate for avoiding sunscreens that contain alcohol as their main solvent in addition to my usual complaint against oxybenzone and other potential endocrine disruptors.

2. Thicker sunscreens for kids is ok

I know no kid wants to walk around looking like Caspar the ghost.  There are transparent sunscreens to be had like our formulas, I’ve tried ThinkBaby before and thought it was quite good.  For kids and for your body, it actually pays to use a formula that is slightly thicker and maybe even slightly whitening since you can see where you’ve applied it.  This is true for those hot beach days where you know that if you miss a spot, your kid will most likely burn there. To be honest, I recently tried applying to my daughter one of our super light weight prototype formulas that essentially disappears on the skin seconds after you apply it.  It felt great but with her twisting and turning, I had a hard time being sure I didn’t miss a spot.  Our Simply Zinc, while completely transparent and matte, takes about 30 seconds to feel as though it’s absorbed on the skin. I applied it thickly on my daughter while on holiday and I had a good sense of where I was putting it.

3. Make the 1st application the best, and do it naked.

I always recommend putting your sunscreen on every single day, first thing in the morning. Hence why the “Every Morning’ in our Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25.  For those hot summer days where you have more exposed skin and more intense UVB, make your first application the best one.  To this end, it’s best to apply it naked.  Apply it from tip to toe and you know that you will avoid the nasty tan line or tan burn when trying to apply while having clothes on.  If you get a good first coat of sunscreen, especially when its tenacious zinc oxide based, you can get away with less precise re-application because let’s face it- you’re more likely to be on the move.

4. Distraction

I know you’re saying at this point, “I thought this lady had a kid?” I know the squirmy creature you call your child probably does not want to sit naked while you apply copious amounts of sunscreen on.  I quickly discovered the magic of distraction.  For us, we limit tv time for our daughter so she is pretty mesmerized by it when she gets to watch it.  Hence, we plonked her down with her favourite cartoon and we had free reign to apply as much sunscreen as we needed as long as we did not block her view.  Find your magic distraction technique and use it without guilt because keeping our kids sun protected is a great gift.

5. Sun protection clothes

I saw a lot of kids sporting sun protective clothing this past holiday.  It’s a life saver! There are lots of options, and some of them are really cute.  It just provides a fail-safe when you are facing heavy exposure.  Just remember to apply sunscreen first while naked and then put on clothes after so that if you switch outfits, you know you’re still covered 100%!

Finally, keep in mind the usual recommendations- seek shade, limit time in the peak sun from 12-3 pm, try for hats and sunglasses (it helps if you’re rocking these too to set a good example). Keeping our kids protected from the sun is just another way that parenting can be hard- but it’s worth it.  You’re saving their skin so do your best! Feel free to share any tips you might have.

Best regards,
Sara

green beauty, toxic, all natural

Label Freedom

green beauty, toxic, all natural

Moving Past Labels, in search for Freedom.

I was reading through this post by MindBodyGreen about the biggest health trends in food and I gave a collective wistful sigh when I read trend # 4, “Label Free is the Way to Be”.  I thought, “if only”.  I think it represents a a beautiful aspirational way to live in all things, not just food related. Doesn’t it make sense when you are living outside of a hashtag that your day to day would not be confined to limiting labels.

As a brand, I know it can be problematic to live label free.  Labels make marketing easy.  If a brand is a promise to your customer, a label reduces that message into one tidy and compact little morsel.

We’ve certainly had some people experience some confusion when it comes to our brand depending on how they first come to us.  We started as a line that was created specifically for my mother’s dermatology office.  If you asked us in 2008 what we were, we’d say, “Easy, we are a clinical line”.  In 2011, after completing my MBA at Queens (I’m a very proud alum!), I felt we could use a re-focusing if not exactly a rebrand.  We’d been selling our Every Morning Sun Whip  SPF 25 as a cosmetic (i.e. made no SPF claims) to our patients exclusively and their feedback was startling.  They loved the product.  We were also in the process of formulating our Simply Zinc Sun Whip SPF 30.  We wanted a product that would be a Natural Health Product, which would mean having a high concentration of zinc oxide in order to provide sufficient UV protection.  We were also deeply committed to including ingredients that were controversy free and that meant looking at the medical community but also the emerging green beauty world.

With these two products in hand, I could see that we had built up an expertise in sunscreen that was rare in the industry.  We were bringing together worlds that didn’t necessarily speak to each other.  It was with this commitment to making the best sunscreens in the world that we became “The Sunscreen Company TM”.

When I mention confusion though, our products do straddle both the clinical and green world.  Bloggers especially love our Simply Zin Sun Whip SPF 30 for its ingredient list and aesthetic finish.  Physicians love our Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25 because it offers an excellent zinc oxide alternative to conventional sunscreens.  Then we have our label-free customers, who just want a truly safe and effective sunscreen and find us to be a credible and trust worthy solution.

Our cosmetics straddle the line too.  We are launching a cleanser this year that will have 8 ingredients total in it, all of them excluding the water will be Ecocert Certified Organic.  We have a retinoid ester product that is in limited release while we update its packaging that has 4 ingredients total that uses a synthetic retinoid ester in a whopping 1% active concentration.  We’ve always used the guiding principle of finding the best actives in our industry, using them in their most effective and high concentration and then using functional ingredients that provide a benefit to the skin and are controversy free.

I’ve been seeing a shift in our industry though that is troubling. I love the idea of people being proactive about their skincare and finding as much information about products as they can.  However, in an Instagram age, there seems to be race for some to the top for ‘purity’.  It’s as though we are trying to out compete each other and say ‘are you only against these ingredients?  Because I’m against all of these”.  The word ‘toxic’ is thrown around quite casually and it seems new insinuations about ingredients spring up on a constant revolving basis.  It’s true that new information comes up but I often take a look at the source material for these new allegations and very often the consensus is that the ingredient is overall quite safe to use.  Other times, I’ll see that ingredients are blacklisted either by confusing them with another or because they share a similar name to another controversial ingredient.

An example of this- butylene glycol is often confused with butyl glycol, more commonly known as butoxyethanol.  Butylene Glycol receives a hazard score of 1 on the Environmental Working Group (EWG).  There is a mention about a low risk for irritation but upon further investigation, one study showed some potential for ocular irritation when the ingredient was applied neat to the area. Overall, it’s a fairly inert and safe ingredient. It’s used for functional benefits for a formula, for instance the tetrapeptides we use come pre-dispersed in it as a wetting agent. Butoxyethanol receives a hazard score of 5 on the EWG and is listed by the European Union as likely toxic or harmful.  That’s a big difference, made confusing by similar chemical names!

Many most likely question what could the harm be in being over-restrictive in scrutinizing ingredients.  What is the issue in being too careful?  My concern is that it can put the wrong focus on products overall, especially as it relates to sunscreens.  I’ve always argued that sunscreens have different implications in their criteria for being safe and effective when compared to cosmetics.  The safety of a cosmetic is not necessarily impacted by a lack of efficacy.  For a sunscreens though, they are inextricably linked. It doesn’t matter if all of the non-medicinal ingredients are organic and plant derived if the product also only has 2% zinc oxide.

Frankly, I’ve also seen hints of green becoming the new mean where people’s tone of voices become as toxic as the ingredients they are pillorying. I read an interview from a founder of a beauty line that I really respect but her tone came off as caustic and really negative.  I could see people thinking that the lifestyle she was promoting was unattainable.

The concept of label-free living sounds so appealing. I wish we can take a collective breath and ease up- the quest for purity should not descend into puritanism.  That unattainable quest for perfection won’t make your skin or your soul more beautiful.

Let me know what you think-

Warmest regards,

Sara

tanning, sunscreen, sun safety

Tanning and Sunscreen: The Beach Holiday Conundrum

 

tanning, sunscreen, sun safety

Baby A Embodying the No Tan Movement

It’s March break time- the time of year us #WearetheNorth Northerners head south if we can. We get one question from many of our Sun Whip Worshippers this time of year.  It’s often whispered to us in hushed yet slightly hopeful tones, “Will I tan through this sunscreen?”

It’s a conundrum we understand.  On the one hand, a tan has been the symbol of a holiday well-spent since the emergence of the Coppertone Baby.  It’s the standard compliment you receive on your return home.  A tan equals a “Oohh, don’t you look relaxed.” Even I’ve been susceptible to it (even while working here!), I used to just want to get a ‘hint of colour’.

However, the change happened for me when I hit my thirties.  All of a sudden, the adage that any kind of tan means sun damage resonated when I would look in my magnifying mirror, fully lit after getting a vacation ‘glow’.  It’s true- from a foot away, I looked bronzed.  From the unrelenting gaze though of my self-inflicted torture device, I was a dehydrated mess.  All the work that I had done throughout the year in terms of anti-aging and hydration felt undone by two weeks away of mediocre sun safety.

This brings us back to the question of whether you can tan through our Sun Whips.  The short answer is ‘it depends’.  I’m of mixed heritage, Type 3- I can tan fairly easily with olive undertones.  After two weeks in full Caribbean sun, if I apply our Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25 first thing in the morning and then don’t reapply and/or use any other sun safety measures like hats, clothing, sunglasses and seeking shade- I can get a tan with it.  I won’t burn but I can get a light tan.  I’m going to be clear though and just say it- don’t do it!  We advocate for a NO TAN policy.  That means I re-apply my Sun Whips regularly, I wear large broad rimmed hats (they are very fashionable, I swear!), and I seek shade when I can.  This means that I don’t have to play catch up with my skincare routine when I get home and I feel like I’m keeping those pesky signs of aging at bay.

tanning, sun safety, sunscreen

Me and Baby A Rocking the Sun Protected Look While in Sunny California

It’s a hard stance to swallow and I’m sorry for that.  Even my husband still grumbles about being ‘pale’.  When I first met him, he’d spray himself with an oil that smelled like a pina colada.  I have an easier time putting sunscreen on our 1.5 year old.  There is good news though, especially for women.  There are some tricks and tips to getting a glowing look without the sun damage.

  1. Dewy Skin and Strobing

I love the way both our Sun Whips make your skin look.  I have combination skin and find that I can control how dewy I’d like to look after applying them based on my make-up.  Very often, I’ll use my jane iredale BB cream under my eyes and around my nose and then quickly blend with my powder over top focusing on my t-zone.  It gives me the right amount of sheen without looking oily or greasy.  If you prefer fully matte skin then you can just apply more powder.  I then use a highlighting stick (I like Ilia’s) on my orbital bone, the inner corner of my eyes and my cupid’s bow of my lips.  I prefer a pink blush on my cheeks but you could certainly apply a bronzer.  I prefer to forgo too heavy a contouring- I find it can look a little muddy if excessive.   But presto! You have luminous, even toned skin…let the compliments begin!

2. Bronzed body

A little highlighter can go a long way on your body as well.  I like jane iredale’s Golden Shimmer applied over top of a Sun Whip for during the day.  At night, you can take any nice quality carrier oil and mix in some 24 carat dust (by jane iredale again) or mix in your favourite bronzer.  The oil gives your legs and arms a pretty glimmer.

3. Self-Tanning Lotion

I’ve honestly given up my self-tanners for the most part.  I had one applied for my wedding and was happy with the results. I just find that I don’t have the time. I’m also a perfectionist so even if 99% of the application is spot on, I’ll always focus on the one dot where it doesn’t look seamless.  Having said that, I know some pros who can apply it swiftly without issue and love them to death.

I challenge you on your next holiday to refresh your thinking about tanning.  It’s true the Customs Agent might not believe you were on a beach when you’re coming back home but they might not also believe your true age either while you are redefining what it means to #beageless.

sunscreen, sunburn

When Your Sunscreen Burns You

When Your Sunscreen Burns YouScreen Shot 2017-05-31 at 12.32.18 PM

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 12.32.10 PM

Solar Simulator Estimated SPF of Sunscreen with the above actives

Editor’s Note: Since this post’s original publication, Canada has also been reeling from several incidences of infants receiving severe 2nd degree burns while using sunscreens specifically marketed for children. In looking at one of the product reported, Banana Boat Kids Free SPF 50+, it fortunately does not have some of the red flags that I have seen in other children spray sunscreens like alcohol and oxybenzone.  My quick assessment of the product leads me to suspect that it’s unlikely to be a true SPF 50+ with ingredients of 3% avobenzone, 6% octocrylene and 10% homosalate.  In looking at the solar simulator, a helpful on-line tool for estimating SPF and the UVA protection factor, this ingredient load would give an SPF of 15-17.  I would also consider whether the avobenzone was fully stabilized from photo-degrading (i.e. breaking down in the sun) by the octocrylene.  Finally, spray sunscreens are always problematic because you can just never be sure that you are applying adequate amounts evenly.  I understand they are convenient for children (I have a wriggly toddler so I REALLY understand) but stay tuned for some tips for applying sunscreen and providing the best protection against the sun for young children in our next blog post.

In today’s digital age, it’s common place for alarming stories to bubble up and go viral, typically with the pictures to match.  Pictures of bad sun burns can sometimes make for fun Buzzfeed columns but when children are involved and their burns are significant, the stories are heartbreaking.

The news cycles in Australia and New Zealand are replete right now with the story of a brand of sunscreen manufactured for their skin cancer council called Peppa the Pig.  This was a brand of sunscreen especially marketed towards kids so the several pictures of young children with 2nd degree burns were shocking to everyone.   Many questioned- how is this possible?

We source our zinc oxide from Australia and in our minds, we always imagined it to be the land of sunscreen.  You can imagine the need for it.  It’s one of the few places in the world with a predominantly fair population with never ending and intense sun.  I was surprised then when I was corresponding with a beauty e-commerce owner in Australia about what she felt was the complete lack of good options.  She said they also faced the same issue with consumer confusion.  Many were starting to get the message that they needed to wear sunscreen every single day but most stumbled in trying to decipher what to use.  So many people were still getting caught in the trap of relying on the front of the box where their only real cue for information remains the SPF.  As we’ve stated many times (here and here), SPF can be a misleading piece of information, especially if it’s the only piece of information you are looking at.  The real source of information remains the ingredient list, however, I concede that is a daunting task to wade through complex chemical names and percentages (if available!) even for professionals.  We continue to use a tool called the Sunscreen Simulator- it’s an online tool created by a provider of sunscreen filters that allows you to graphically see what your protection looks like.  It’s not perfect but it’s one of the few tools we have.

In taking a cursory look at the family of Peppa the Pig products, they do contain some ingredients with questionable photo allergy data.  Encazamene is a filter that we do not have here in North America. There are studies that show it has potential issues with photo-allergy.  We also would never use it in our formulations as it’s a small particle sized filter that can enter the body.  The products also contained Avobenzone, which is ubiquitous in the market.  It also has a small risk of photo-allergy (about 1% in the general population) but we also would never use it since it can enter the body.  Moreover, research is mounting about its potential as a serious endocrine disruptor with a similar profile as oxybenzone. Click here to read more about that.

The Peppa the Pig situation prompted the very understandable consumer reaction of calling for more regulation.  This incident does represent a failure on the part of regulatory bodies. However, it’s not an issue of lack of regulation but one of focusing on the wrong pieces of information.  In an ideal world, we would have a global standard for sunscreen regulation.  We wouldn’t have the current situation where some countries had better access to better sunscreen filters than others.  We would settle on a robust standard for measuring the UVA protection of a sunscreen and would represent that in a meaningful and clear way on the label for sunscreens.  We would find a better test for measuring SPF that does not allow manufacturers to ‘game’ the test and falsely inflate their SPF .  We would review every single filter, both old and new, from an integrated medical perspective.  In short, we would look at its effectiveness but also at its potential impact on our health, including hormonal health and the environment.  We’d use the precautionary principle to say that if an ingredient had significant concerns associated with it- that would be enough to call for a suspension of use.  Especially, as there are many ingredients that do not have controversy with them and are effective.

The secondary cost of these incidences remains that consumer faith gets shaken in products that are meant to protect.  The confusion leads many to just abandon the use of sunscreen altogether.  It’s an unfortunate reaction that would only lead to more potential for damage.  Education and advocacy remain our only tools and engaging through our professional communities our means for spreading the word.

We’d love to hear your take on this so please leave us your thoughts in the comment section.

All the best,

Sara