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.