Category Archives: natural zinc oxide sunscreen

Clarins Spa, Raffles Hotel, facial review

Exploring French Luxury Beauty Products

This past May, I had the chance to visit Paris in full spring bloom.  I have very fond memories from my days studying at Sciences Po but my visit this time round had a different bent.  CyberDERM, in it’s earliest days, took a lot of inspiration from the big medical based brands like La Roche-Posay, Avène, Vichy and more.  They were the brands of the 90’s that had a lot of credibility and were favoured by dermatologists.  We have different formulating philosophies now though since many of these larger French luxury beauty brands have been slower to listen to consumer requests for controversy free ingredients.  I was interested to see on this trip what did French offerings look like today.  What were French consumers wanting and how were brands delivering?  I was asking these questions with the purpose of seeing whether CyberDERM would ever fit.  Would it be possible for the cultural beauty exchange to go the other way with a Canadian import into a French market?  There does seem to be a whisper of an opportunity, one we will continue to explore.  In the meantime, here are the highlights from my trip.

french beauty brands, Hermes

French Aesthetics but chock full of No-No ingredients

The Pharmacy Culture:

All of the French brands I mentioned took root through the French Pharmacy/Parfumerie system.  I capitalize it because if you have ever visited France, you’ll know theirs is a system that has its own unique flavour.  I know North American devotees who flock to the French pharmacies whenever they visit in search for those elusive beauty brands they cannot find anywhere else.  I feel they differ from our North American versions in being more curated.  Space is always a premium in the EU I get the sense that customers feel the brands from these beauty emporiums are also effective.  They also normally have the ineffable french quality of a certain understated classicism.  I always find it a treat to shop the sunscreens since the EU has access to filters that we do not have like the Tinosorb M and S and ethylhexyl triazone (all of which might pair beautifully with zinc oxide for incredible protection).  I also picked up a sunscreen in oil format*, which I think is very interesting.  I’m up for any format of sunscreen that increases people’s compliance in actually applying it everyday. I am not a fan of aerosol sunscreens since the alcohol used as a solvent is really hard on skin (and once stripped paint off of my purse)

CyberDERM, sunscreen, french brands

The French Pharmacy System

but a nourishing oil might be of interest. Again, we might start playing around to see if zinc oxide could be used in a similar format. *These are sunscreens with actual substantial filters in them, not tanning accelerators with a token SPF.

The status of sunscreens in the Gallic nation:

Being “the sunscreen company”, I was also of course interested to see what sunscreen use was like here.  Isn’t this where sunscreen use was born? Ok, perhaps not but I’ve always considered French women especially to be early adopters of the skincare regimen that included regular sunscreen use.  Certainly, there are a multitude of options in the above mentioned pharmacies.  Zinc is not popular here though- I didn’t  see any options other than Skinceuticals (which is an American import now owned by L’Oreal).  I thought for the real scoop I should go to the best beauty experts in the ‘biz’.  I stopped by Birchbox France to have a chat with two lovely BF editors.  I was surprised to learn from them that they felt women of their generation still relegated sunscreen use to their beach bag.  Also while there was a growing concern about ingredients in personal care products, this didn’t necessarily translate into an awareness of the controversies over certain sunscreen actives. We all agreed though that aesthetics are supremely important.  No amount of fact filled education would change

Birchbox May, France

The May Box from Birchbox co-opted by Fiance for bedside table

consumer behaviour if not accompanied with a proverbial spoonful of sugar (i.e. a pleasant user experience). Could our Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25 be just the ticket?  It was a question that we all promised to consider and I continue to be a huge fan of the Birchbox FR team and concept.  I even got a treat in getting their gorgeous May box.

And finally THE FACIAL:

Here is one slightly dirty little secret, in all my years in the industry and being a daughter of a dermatologist- I’ve never had a facial. I’ve had fotofacials.  I’ve had medi-facials and peels.  I’ve just never understood the concept of a facial.  How effective can the layering of products be in one session?  Is it meant to be relaxing and effective?  Is this something I really need?  I know facial devotees would say I am missing the point.  I may not need one but most want them.  I still think I would rather have a fotofacial from a qualified professional at least once a year.  However, I knew I couldn’t speak with authority without trying one.  I therefore went to the one of the Top Rated Spa’s (in the world), the Clarins Spa My Blend in the Raffles Hotel Le Royal Monceau.  First, I will say that no one can beat a french spa for atmosphere. I’m sorry to say that I was too shy to take pictures- that would have felt rude and intrusive so you will have to rely on my description. The hotel is a beautiful concoction of panelled wood and elegant drapery.  You descend to the basement and the spa beckons like a movie’s vision of heaven.  It’s all white and backlit with long corridors. All of which puts you in a very calm and relaxed state of mind.  I sipped fresh pressed juice and munched on a selection of nuts and fruit while waiting. I poured over Dr. Clarins musings on skincare and women’s needs.  I was greeted by a sweet and down to earth facialist, who paid me the immense quality of thinking I was twenty and not

Clarins Spa, Raffles Hotel, facial review

The beautiful Lobby of the Royal Monceau

in need of an ‘anti-aging’ component to my treatment just yet.  The facial itself was like being wrapped in warm, white cocoon.  There were no extractions (yeah!), just repeated layerings of some of Clarins Professional products.  I loved the idea that part of the facial was tailored to my needs on the spot with specialized additives through the stages of exfoliation, gommage, hydration and calming.  All in all- an exceptional experience (with macarons served at the end)- I took lots of notes and inspiration in case we open another retail/spa space in the future.

 

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Considerations in Formulating a Zinc Oxide Sunscreen

Simply ZInc Sun Whip and Every Morning Sun Whip- Zinc Oxide Sunscreens
CyberDERM Zinc Oxide Sunscreens- Simply Zinc and Every Morning

Albeit a technical doc, this still remains a handy link for those looking to really delve into the science of formulations of zinc oxide sunscreens.  These were the principles and thinking that went into formulating our two zinc oxide sunscreens: Simply Zinc Sun Whip SPF 30 and our Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25.

How Zinc Oxide makes the best sunscreens? How we formulated our Simply Zinc and Every Morning Sun Whips.

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Sunscreen Stories

This time of year at CyberDERM, we are always trying to push the message that everyone should be wearing sunscreen, although many of us are currently in the dead of winter.  It’s sometimes a hard sell- it is not on people’s radar as something important.  Hopefully, our pushes to educate people about the presence of UVA all year round and the need to protect your skin will change that. 
Simply Zinc Sun Whip- A Great Sunscreen
Shedding Some Light on What Makes a Good Sunscreen
Of course, then you hear horror stories like the aerosol sunscreen recall this summer that has recently been expanded by Health Canada.  Banana Boat’s aerosol products were linked this summer with users catching on fire due to a flaw in the valve distributing too much product.  This is always a bit of a gray area for us in writing about it- on the one hand we don’t like to bash our competition, that’s not in keeping with our philosophy about being a friendly company to do business with.  At the same time- we got into making sunscreens because of some of the flaws we saw in the products out in the market.  So for this month’s blog- we are going to share some of what we see as problems with sunscreens and how we tried to fix them in our formulas.  If you would like to take what we say with a grain of salt, considering our vested interest, we understand completely and there are no hard feelings!
Our own horror stories:
Like everyone else, I personally appreciate convenience so I will admit to having bought a can of aerosol sunscreen from the pharmacy 3 years ago.  I was going to the beach and I wanted something easy to apply to my legs (for my face, I still always use our products every day so that part is covered).  I kept it in my purse (new Michael Kors silver satchel) until I felt a wet spot on its underside.  It turns out that the cap had come off and sprayed most of the contents of the bottle into my purse. My phone was kaput but that is to be expected.  I was shocked though to see that the sunscreen had completely stripped the paint off of my bag!  I kept thinking this is meant to sit on your skin? Uggh.  Our chemist explained that a lot of the solvents used in these types of products to keep the actives in solution can be pretty heavy duty.  My thoughts though- are they meant to dissolve your skin? We had a client who shared a similar story.  She was an owner of an apple orchard and kept a bottle of spray sunscreen out for pickers to use on her deck.  She noticed though after a while that wooden floorboards of where people would spray their legs was starting to rot away. 
To me- those are cautionary tales.  We always talk about the dangers of chemicals like oxybenzone, parabens, other Dirty Dozen chemicals, and even avobenzone.  Sometimes though, the issues of chemicals being hormone disruptors, or creators of Free Radicals, or even allergens- all seem a bit abstract.  It’s not always clear how those issues affect us- sometimes you literally cannot visualize it until it happens to you in some form.  These stories on the other hand almost poetically drive home the message that you need to be careful about what you apply to your skin.  They make those concepts more real.  You wouldn’t spray paint thinner all over your body and so the idea of not using a product that dissolves metallic paint clicks for me. 
I also do not want to give the idea that it’s just spray sunscreens that are the issue.  Lotions can have similar issues and that is why you really need to take a look at what is in your cosmetics overall.   My litmus test is always- would I recommend this product to a pregnant friend?  We are so vigilant about what we put on our bodies when we think about how it could affect an unborn child.  If we thought that way every day, we would be living on the safe side with nothing to lose.  Without being preachy or accusatory, that is what we try to explain to people and hopefully it will click for more and more people. 
Go through the products in your bathroom and see whether they pass your test! Also feel free to share with us any of your own stories.
All the best,
Sara

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The Skinny on Sunscreens, Part I

Check out one of our first blog posts in this month’s retrospective.  This was written back in 2009 and you can see that not much as changed in terms of sunscreens since then.  The FDA has pushed through their amendment to the sunscreen monograph and we are starting to hear more about UVA protection.  Here in Canada, draft legislation is still in consultation so it will be another couple of years before we see its impact on the shelf.

We’ve just our first warm weekend here in Ottawa and a lot of pale faces are emerging but hopefully not before remembering to apply a sunscreen (you should actually be wearing one all year round- word to the wise). The problem though is that there is a lot of misinformation and confusion concerning sunscreens. Just when people were starting to get the message- ‘Wear a sunscreen’- the message had to go and get a lot more complicated.

We have all been told not to use tanning oils, that an SPF of 4 is not adequate. We know that if our sunscreen smells like a pina colada perhaps it is not a ‘serious’ sunscreen. We know to reapply repeatedly. We know that to burn is bad. We do not know, however, that the SPF measurement on the bottle could actually be doing us a disservice. We constantly hear about the numbers game that is SPF but what we really need is to be rewired about the way we think of sunscreens and what it means to be protected.

I have fallen victim to this same misunderstanding before. I’m a sun zealot and I vacation down South frequently. Despite this- I felt like I was being sun smart by wearing sunscreens with SPF’s of 50-60 everyday and I was reapplying it frequently. It was only when CyberDERM began formulating its own sunscreen and I began researching that I realized that the SPF on my bottle was only half the picture (and not the better half either).

Here is the short story. We are exposed to two kinds of UV radiation. The trick to remembering the two is simple: UVA light Ages our skin, UVB Burns, both cause Cancer (thus the rule of ABC). Protection against UVA light is absolutely critical not only for cosmetic reasons but for safety ones as well. However, SPF only measures the amount of protection from UVB light and is not correlated to the amount of protection you are receiving from UVA light whatsoever. In other words, when I turned over my bottle of SPF 50 sunscreen, I realized I was using a brand of sunscreen that offered almost no UVA protection! Worse- I was staying out in the sun for longer periods of time at peak hours because I had a false sense of security.

CyberDERM Every Morning Sun Whip
The Beauty of Being Sun Smart-Every Morning Sun Whip

Currently, both the FDA and Health Canada are coming up with a system to grade sunscreens on their level of UVA protection. They are running a little bit behind though. I would guess however that many sunscreens on the market today will have to consider reformulating once the new labeling laws do come out.

Your next logical question may be to ask then how do you choose a reasonably good sunscreen if an SPF is no longer a responsible indicator. Unfortunately, you cannot rely on the designation that many sunscreens use “Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB”. Both the FDA and Health Canada are also in need of regulating what that designation means precisely. Manufacturers are permitted to label their sunscreens as being broad spectrum as long as they offer a modicum of UVA protection. Many brands however fail to span the full length of the UVA spectrum or they offer very weak protection at best. The hard answer is that there is no easy way to look at the front of a bottle and know the quality of protection you are being afforded. You need to flip the bottle over and look at the ingredients listed as most ingredients protect against UVB only, some protect against UVA only, and even fewer span the entire range of both.

In Part II of this blog, I’ll go over which ingredients to look for and in what concentrations they need to be present in to be effective. The shocking news will not end here though. As a tidbit- did you know that the two of the most popular sunscreen ingredients can have negative reactions when they are exposed to sunlight? The quality of some sunscreens is mind boggling. Yet, until consumers know to ask for better, there is no impetus for manufacturers to change.

Perhaps that is why we never read about the dupe that is SPF. Until the FDA and Health Canada comes out with their own labeling system for UVA, you have to be a sunscreen sleuth to figure what constitutes a good sunscreen. It’s disheartening to think that all the work one does to treat your skin well (including cosmetics/cosmeceuticals, diet, and cosmetic procedures) is being undone the moment you walk outside with mediocre protection.

If you cannot wait until Part II, I suggest reading the Primer on Sunscreens that I wrote for our patients at our sister clinic Laserderm (http://www.cyberderm.ca/Media/Documents/SunscreenPrimer.pdf). Also- a non-profit group based in Washington DC has an excellent database that you can use to type in the name of our sunscreen and see what level of protection you are getting (http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/). You can also search for sunscreen active ingredients in case your brand is not available.

I’d encourage you to be proactive about finding an excellent sunscreen and I promise to help with any questions you may have.

Until Part II, all the beauty best (even if that is hard to come by).

Sara A. Dudley

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Winter Skin with Primers, Balm and more

As I am sitting here writing this, the outer bands of Hurricane Sandy have hit and its been raining for days*.  I swear that no matter how cute your rain gear is- its hard not to come out looking like a drowned rat.  All this to say, that I’m starting to look forward to our first blanket of snow.  I’m thinking about glowing skin, pink cheeks and a cute tuque. 
The Good Stuff: Beauty Balms and Primers
Of course, this is grass-is-greener type thinking since most winters I come out looking vaguely yellow and sad.  We all get dry, maybe a little patchy.  Your under-eyes start to look like bruises. Plus, you start to look at your Facebook pictures from the summer with your faint (faux) glow and think, “I looked healthy/happy/thinner/ hot”.  
Instead of ruminating, let’s talk about winter complexions.  There are three key measures you need to have in place, and presto you will look like a picture postcard instead of like Earthworm Jim.
Protection:
I know, you’re thinking, “Sunscreen! Always with the sunscreen”.  We are known as the sunscreen company so it was bound to come up but we have a good reason! People always seem to miss the fact that those pesky UVA-Aging rays are constant all year round, through rain or snow and at every latitude.   In other words, you may be freezing your gloves off in the North Pole during a blizzard but you still have to worry about those rays responsible for crepe-y skin, discolourations, wrinkles etc.  Plus they come through windows so your commute to work and your window-side desk all contribute.  The great benefit to sunscreen in the winter though is that Zinc is naturally calming and soothing.  A great formula can also act as a primer itself since I find it gives your make-up a nice surface to adhere to. 
Primer Vs. Beauty Balm:
These two are the must-have items in the beauty world now.  Every company has their own version but it may not be clear how to incorporate either one or both of them into your routine.  It’s best to think of primer as good for texture and Beauty Balms for tone.  Primers typically have some form of silicone and other humectants so they glide on the face.  They fill in uneven textures (think acne marks or dilated pores) and they give your make-up something to adhere to.  I’ve tried Coloresciences version- it smells like synthetic chocolate, which is less tantalizing than you’d expect.  I’ve also road-tested Stila’s, which while I really liked the correction version, it has a huge ingredient list!  I’ve yet to try Jane Iredale’s but at least I know they will have quality ingredients. 
Jane Iredale’s Beauty Balm Option
As for Beauty Balms, the worst of them are glorified tinted moisturizers.  The best of them definitely offer great coverage with a hint of luminosity.  I don’t know whether they warrant their own beauty category but a good one will provide your complexion another layering option. 
In terms of using them, I tend to use primers for when I’m going out or have a big presentation in front of others.  They make sure your make-up does not slide off in the heat of any moment and they mattify as well.  You could use a primer and then just layer on your Beauty Balm for lighter coverage during the day.  If you would like maximum coverage, you could use both products and then dust a powder (mineral-based) foundation over top. 
  
Pale vs. Tanned
To Faux Glow or not?  In the winter, I’m less excited about the prospect of standing naked in my bathroom trying to apply tanning lotion.  For day to day, I opt for a primer that has a bronzer in it.  It provides just a gentle wash of colour so there is no discernible line around my neck and face.  I also always recommend the St. Tropez Wash-Off bronzer and just add a couple of drops to my moisturizer.  Alternatively, you could buy a beauty –balm with a slight tint to it as well.  There is something to be said for the paler version of you though.  As long as you can brighten, you will not look sickly.  Do your own DIY facials with turmeric and Indian gooseberry, or use skincare products with them as active ingredients (FYI-that’s a plug! We have both in our line).
So hopefully this winter, you’ll be all cozy in your layers of sunscreen, primer, and balm.  You can nestle by the fire or go ice skating and you will be picture perfect.
All the best,
Sara
* Editors note: lots of prayers and well wishes to the people who have been hurt or impacted by Hurricane Sandy- it’s been more than a little rain for many.