Tag Archives: Simply Zinc Sun Whip SPF 30

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

Simply Zinc, Every Morning, CyberDERM Sun Whips

Skincare Tips from Maddy

Maddy Showing Off Her Sun Whip.

Maddy Showing Off Her Sun Whip.

If you haven’t heard, Maddy Mackenzie is our Sun Whip ambassador, uber athlete and sprint kayaking star.  This month we hear from her on her skincare tips and more.

About Madison Mackenzie:

Age: 20

From Chelsea Quebec with the passion, ambition, and determination to one day become the fastest female sprint kayaker in the world. As a member of the Senior National Team of Canada and a Elite athlete of the Quebec Provincial Team her eyes are set on gold at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Q & A with CyberDERM

Q: Take us through your day to day skincare routine as an athletic on the waters.

A: In the morning I use CyberDERM’s Every Morning Sun Whip before I head out to train. After my morning training I head to the gym in the afternoon which I then go back out to the waters for a second time. Since I train twice a day outside, I would reapply a SPF with the Simply Zinc Sun Whip to ensure I’m always fully protected throughout the duration of my day.

Q: Sunscreen seems to be a huge part of your skincare regimen, why so?

A: Absolutely! I take my skin protection very seriously. Lucy, a dear friend and a previous coach for my training was diagnosed with Melanoma. After her passing away, I won the Panera Games under Lucy’s name, she is someone incredibly inspiring and will always be close to my heart. Sunscreen is something that is crucial to apply and its part of leading a healthy lifestyle which is why it is a key product in my skincare routine.

Q: If you could tell your younger self or anyone out there in your generation one thing about skincare, what would it be?

 A: That a tan isn’t that important.

Q: Your skincare Faves:

A: Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25 and Simply Zinc Sun Whip SPF 30

Q: Your skincare Ethos:

A:  Taking care of your body and skin is part of self love and self care.

 

 

Me with Ava on a Holiday in the UK

Top Cosmetic Picks, Beauty Rituals and More

I’ve recently become obsessed with a blog out of New York (in addition to my routine addiction to all things Beauty Editor) called Cup of Jo.  It’s rare that you come across a body of writing that seems aspirational and yet attainable.  This blog is so good at encapsulating a feeling of coziness that I’ve taken to drinking a cup of tea while reading it before bed.

I only mention it now since one of my favourite sections is called Beauty Uniform where these impossibly amazing women share tidbits from their beauty regimens, design ethos and other little gems. Since I answer our customer service email (one of my favourite parts of the job is hearing directly from you all), I often share bits of my own beauty regimen.  Clearly from our company name, we advocate for the use of sunscreen but we get loads of questions about skincare beyond sun care.  With that in mind, I had the rather gauche idea of sharing my unsolicited beauty uniform.  Gauche because no one asked- and it is a straight rip of of the Cup of Jo format so I encourage you to click through and read some of the real deals.

First some details about me…

If we’ve never met or this is your first time reading, I’m the Executive Director of CyberDERM and have been for the past 8 years.  I currently live in Toronto with my amazing and loving husband and we just had our first child, our daughter Ava Isabella, almost a year ago.  She is the absolute light of our life.

Current skin status

I’m still currently breastfeeding our daughter, which I only mention because it means that I’m still in a quasi peri-menauposal state. I’ve found that my skin is affected hormonally in that it’s more dry than usual.  It’s quite reactive so I have to be gentle in terms of products that I use (and forgo Vitamin A based products while breastfeeding).  I’m also still trying to clear left over pigmentation from pregnancy and post-pregnancy hormonal breakouts.  It’s quite the mix of conditions but the upside is that I’ve really had to challenge my skincare to perform.  It’s made me the best guinea pig for our current line of products and the ones in R&D.

Skincare Routine

You can take it for granted that I’m pretty religious about sunscreen application.  I do test some formulas that are in R&D (we have some fabulous all mineral and hybrid ones in the works and maybe even some tinted ones to boot) but I otherwise use our Simply Zinc Sun Whip SPF 30 for every day use.  Our H20 Hydration is one of my go-to favourites- I think it has some of the best ingredients that I’ve seen in any product.  I love the ingredient Ectoins and think they are so beneficial for the skin that I made sure we included it in other future formulas.  I also rotate in our PM Anti-Age since I love turmeric and its skin brightening capabilities.  If you had told me when we created the formula 8 years ago that you would be able to go to your local cafe and order a shot of turmeric, I would have laughed!  We definitely had some worries when we launched it that people would not like its characteristic smell.  Fortunately, most people actually like its herbal notes or at least find it fades almost immediately after you apply it so aren’t bothered.

I also use two products that are not from our line and love them as a weekly ritual.  Every Sunday, I have face mask Sunday (it’s a very original title) where I sit for 15 quiet minutes with my Innisfree fermented soy face mask.  It’s a Korean brand that I gently cajoled my very sweet father in law to bring back for me from Hong Kong, although you can order them online.  I also use Glam Glow  Supercleanse Daily Clearing Cleanser once a week to help exfoliate.  It’s a more heavy duty product than I originally gave it credit for with its blend of glycol and lactic acid.  I can use our Exfoliant Reveal with its 8% glycolic acid without issue but the blend in the Glam Glow makes it that I can’t use more than once a week (but I still like it!).

Future obsessions

We get a lot of love for our current line of cosmeceuticals but one piece of consistent feedback has been to create a product/s that are more intensively hydrating, especially for mature skin.  We’ve been labouring over a natural line of products for the past two years and they are just now getting to the point of being perfected.  They are designed to be intensely hydrating.  Our focus word for the line was ‘nourishment’, which can be overplayed to the point of losing meaning in a lot of cosmetic marketing.  Essentially though if you could picture your perfect breakfast smoothie,what would it have in it?  Certainly a handful of high quality ingredients would be better than a long list.  They should be nutrient dense.  They should be colourful since ‘eating the rainbow’ is the best way to guarantee you are getting a broad range of anti-oxidant protection.  The end product should be appetizing or better yet delightful.  With those criteria in mind, we’ve put together some products that I’ve been using for the past couple of months and loving. I was reminded of the story of when Coco Chanel created Chanel 5 and gave small bottles as little gifts to her clients in her atelier.  I love the notion that these products are going to be sweet little ‘gifts’ to our customers and can’t wait for them to launch (but you will have to stay tuned to find out when).

Make-up picks

I’ve been using jane iredale as my foundation of choice for what feels like forever.  I still love it for its natural looking finish and its ease of application.  I am a bit more adventurous though when it comes to anything else.  I do love Butter London colours- Abbey Rose is my natural looking pink nude for everyday and Macbeth is a beautiful coral.  I’m also a little bit obsessed with Bite Beauty’s lipsticks as well.  They are an amazing Canadian success story and I love all of their products, currently I have colours in Chai, Dragonfruit, Sweet Cream, and Verbena.  I love any lipstick that is a bright magenta- it’s my version of a classic red.  Otherwise, I also use Ilia’s highlighter, Benefit’s brow gel and Urban Decay’s black eyeliner in Zero.

I think when you have a great routine you stick with it- I wore the same products for my wedding make-up that I wear for every day.

Mom Hair

I’ve had to forgo blowdrying my hair since my daughter was born.  I just don’t have time and the noise of the blowdryer currently scares her.  I therefore wear my hair curly and have been trying to get my natural wave into some form of consistent submission.  I’ll use Kevin Murphy’s purple shampoo Blond Angel for my caramel highlights to prevent brassiness.  I use a little Bumble and Bumble Invisible hair oil

Me with Ava on a Holiday in the UK

Me with Ava on a Holiday in the UK

after showering and Kevin Murphy’s mousse for volume.  I’ll also use the John Masters apple cider vinegar rinse every two weeks or so just to help with build up. I wear my hair every day while drying in either a french braid or two pig tails to help my curls dry uniformly.  Ava is a huge help as well as she loves to finger comb them afterwards, which leaves them a lovely frizzy mess but I wouldn’t give up the hair pulling or baby styling for anything.

Work Uniform

I work from home most days so as you can imagine it’s Casual Friday every day.  I swear that I do change out of my pyjamas every day, except maybe on the worst, most sleep challenged ones.  I mostly refuse to look like the cartoon doodle of a tired mom though so I do my best.  For work out of the home or meetings, I’m all about the well tailored dress and a blazer if I have to.  I say have to because when I was doing my MBA, I got the comment that you should always wear a blazer to be work appropriate.  I’m a bit ambivalent about that but since I tend to look considerably younger than I am it can sometimes be helpful.  Diane Von Furstenburg and Judith and Charles are my two favourites for simple, well fitting dresses.  My husband also thinks it worthwhile to have a couple of pairs of beautiful shoes and some classic purses.  He thinks they are like watches for men, although I think watches should be like watches for women too.  Who doesn’t need a power watch! Although it’s a rookie mistake to not have it set to the right time.

So that’s it for me, I’d love to hear from you about what your ‘beauty uniform’ is and you should definitely click through to Cup of Jo and subscribe to her posts.

Maddy Mackenzie, olympic athlete, speed kayak, CyberDERM

Why You Need To Know About Maddy Mackenzie: Our Newest Sun Safe, Sun Whip Ambassador and Canada’s Next Athletic Superstar

Maddy Mackenzie, olympic athlete, speed kayak, CyberDERM

Maddy Takes to the Water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some people are just born with a level of magnetism. When you pair that with an ability to execute your own dreams with sheer will, ability and discipline- you have an athletic superstar in your making.   You also have local-Chelsea, Quebec born and raised Maddy Mackenzie.

Maddy Mackenzie has been part of her local kayak community at the Casacades club in Gatineau since the age of six. She is currently part of the Senior National Development Team of Canoe Kayak Canada and an elite member of the Canoe Kayak Quebec Team. At the age of 19, she has also racked up several National and world titles, including a fifth place finish at the U23 World Championships in Portugal this past July. All of this to say, her bid to be an Olympic hopeful and champion is more than just rhetoric, it’s imminent.

Maddy Mackenzie, olympic athlete, Cascades club, speed kayaking, CyberDERM

Maddy with Student From Paddle All Program at Cascades Club

Maddy also happens to have the kind of bright, and shall we say sunny, disposition that makes you want to support her. Unfortunately she has also been touched with personal tragedy.  In 2001, Maddy’s long time coach and mentor Lucy Slade passed away after losing her battle with melanoma. Lucy was only 39, and her death was incredibly hard on not only her loved ones but on her close knit kayaking community. Her Cascades club has since held a memorial regatta every year to help raise awareness and funds for melanoma. Maddy continues to pay tribute to her as well by riding in Lucy’s K1 (kayak) and even winning National titles in it.

It made perfect sense then for us to partner with Maddy and have her be our Sun Safe, Sun Whip Ambassador. Maddy spends most of her days completing on-water training and travels the world to beautiful (and sunny) locales like for this years Under-23 World Championships in Portugal and later for winter training in Florida. It means she, like her teammates, receive a larger than typical amount of UV exposure than many but she also recognizes that the rates of melanoma and skin cancer are rapidly increasing in her peer category for all young women, from 16-35+ years. She is quickly realizing that sun safety and skin cancer prevention is an important national and international level discussion that has to take place.

It’s with immense pride then that while she is shaving off milliseconds and taking us all along for her journey to Olympic greatness, she is also showing the world that sun safety can be sun chic and inspiring generations to lead their healthiest version of their own lives. She really is a true embodiment of our motto to #liveinthelight and we are humbled that we get to partner with her for whatever comes up in the next couple of years.

Maddy Mackenzie, Olympic athlete, speed Kayak, CyberDERM

Stay Tuned for More with Maddy

Stay tuned to hear more from Maddy herself and to watch her complete her bid for the ultimate in athletic glory.

 

 

 

 

 

Melanomoa, Skin Cancer, Melanoma awareness

Surviving Melanoma: The New Face of Skin Cancer (and it’s younger than you think)

Melanomoa, Skin Cancer, Melanoma awareness

Surviving Melanoma- The New Face of Skin Cancer

When we learned how fast the rates of melanoma were increasing in teenagers and people aged 25-35, we knew we had to do our best to get the word out especially as May is Melanoma Awareness Month. Why is skin cancer the number 1 cancer killer for young women ages 25-35? What demographic shift has happened to make this a huge concern for Millennials?

It’s obviously a confluence of lifestyle factors that are making this a serious trend.  My theory (and it’s only a theory) is that the sunscreens from the 90’s that we grew up with might have role to play.  I remember how great sunscreen was as a kid- you could do a quick coat and then with the odd re-apply be good to stay out all day long and not burn.  We know those sunscreens had real stability issues and were UVB biased- it was just the state of the science back then. It would stand to reason that we are now paying for this childhood exposure some twenty years later. There are better sunscreens available now so hopefully we will not see this trend continue for our children but of course that depends on choosing a good sunscreen, enacting good compliance and observing other sun safety measures.

Anyways, enough from me.  When I heard Julie’s story, I knew we had to share.  It absolutely obliterates the myth that melanoma equates to removing a bad mole in your doctor’s office.  It’s a life changer and it can be heart wrenching.  Here’s her story in her own words.

Julie, 35 year old Teacher

What were you diagnosed with and when?
I was diagnosed with Stage 1 Melanoma Skin Cancer of the left Ear Helix, in March 2014. I first had noticed a bump on my ear on January 1st celebrating New Year’s Eve in Huatulco Mexico with family while putting on sunscreen. This would be the start of a world-wind of a year physically and emotionally.
After being diagnosed, and reeling from the devastating news, they informed me that not only did they have to remove a significant part of my ear, but that it was medically suggested to remove my sentinel lymph node in my neck since there was a small possibility that the cancer might of spread due to the melanoma’s initial size of 1mm as well as they found that some of the cells shown that they had metastasized. This was to be very invasive with possible worst case scenario side effects such as nerve damage to facial, tongue, shoulder muscles or diaphragm.
Two days before my operation, my surgeon informed me that they would scale back the decision to remove my sentinel lymph node since the chances of it spreading were so minimal as compared to the invasiveness and the fact that if it had spread that the removal didn’t change the prognosis.
It’s a common perception that having skin cancer treated is normally the equivalent to having a mole removed at your doctor’s office, can you share how your treatment proceeded?
This was, as for many other patient’s going through this type of diagnosis, certainly not a routine or non invasive procedure. Due to the location of the melanoma, in my case to be on the helix part of my ear, I had to undergo a 1 hour surgery under anaesthesia to remove a pie shape piece of my ear, inserting over 50 stitches to be able to resew both sides back together. Two weeks later they removed the bandage I had to wear the entire time, as well as most of the stitches, to which I was finally able to go back to work. I could not sleep on the left side  for 3 months after the operation since it was still very sensitive to touch and pressure. This proved to be very difficult due to the fact that I was a toss and turn type of sleeper, therefore, did not sleep to my full potential for those 3 months.
What is your current status with your treatment?
From the day of my operation on April 16,2014, I have been Melanoma free. I have routine check-ups every 3 months to monitor the healing process of the ear as well as to monitor any symptoms of possible spreading to my sentinel lymph nodes, of which due to the 1mm size of the Melanoma Cancer there was a 2% chance that it had spread. I will be officially in remission after 5 years of being monitored.
What was your initial reaction when you were first diagnosed?
I was in a state of  shock. Nothing can really prepare you for that type of news. The feeling of regret, helplessness and sadness all rolled into one, which was so foreign to me. I was and slowly getting back to being the person , dare I say, that always has a tremendous sense of confidence and  instinctive ” joie de vivre”.
Has this changed how you feel about your health in general? What’s it’s impact been on you: physically and emotionally?
I live my life with an even deeper appreciation of my health in general .Since this has happened I unfortunately have been overly in tuned with any changes with my body, and this sometimes not for the best. Every headache, every ear ache, or any ailment my thoughts automatically are that the cancer had or is spreading , to my brain, to my lymph nodes, which is probably a very unlikely occurrence, but nonetheless a worry I have ever since the diagnosis.
Physically, I now have a significantly smaller ear, which to the naked eye or to someone that doesn’t know me wouldn’t of noticed, but I certainly do. However, this was a physical change that has no subsequent consequences to my daily functions. It is primarily an aesthetic change, and in my case, not directly on my face, and can be hidden by my hair when I wear it down.  I am a physical education teacher, as well as an active person, therefore, I do wear my hair up often which does expose my ears, and I am at the point that it does not bother me anymore.
 It has been an adjustment in some areas :  ie. talking on the phone with that ear, sleeping on that ear, sunglasses or glasses affecting the ear, but they seem to be subsiding with time and who knows, will probably be a non issue in the near future, and if not, like I had explained such a small sacrifice compared to so many.
I understand that self-esteem is directly linked to our physical appearance, but thankfully my confidence in myself does not center on that aspect. I focus on the fact that many more people have suffered greater loss or more severe physical ailments, due to cancers, diseases or even accidents. I am just so grateful.
Has this changed how you feel towards sun exposure and the outdoors?
Since the day I noticed the abnormal mole , and to this day, I am no longer a fan of the sun. Knowing more in depth what I know now, and realizing that my cancer was caused by a combination of pre-disposed genes, but more importantly my negligence to the strength and danger of the sun, I definitely try my best to avoid being in the sun, directly and to that matter without the best skincare products offered to protect it.
What has been the hardest part from your diagnosis through to your treatment?
The hardest part is the unknown. The fact that there is, and will be for 5 years, still a small chance that it had spread to my lymph nodes and that only time will tell, has been very difficult and caused anxiety, which is very foreign to me. However, I  focus on the positives and the fact that the overwhelming chances are that it will not re-occur, and that I have an important role by being diligent with protecting my skin.
How worried are you about re-occurrence? 
I would lie if I said I had no worries of re-occurrence. At the beginning, it was a daily thought. Once first diagnosed, it was many of those thoughts throughout a day. However, slowly but surely, it is fewer than once a day. There are events, movies, words, and even physical pain or ailments that can trigger a mini emotional roller-coster, but I have always found a way to turn into a positive and appreciate even more the life I lead.
 How has your perspective changed in relation to the sun?  Has it changed your behaviour?
Yes, it has drastically changed. I used to be of the thought that since I didn’t burn from sun exposure, I didn’t need to wear sunscreen. And how regretful I am now for this misconception and ignorance on my part.  I now  apply sunscreen daily on my face ,  as well as try my best to wear a hat to protect my face from any unwanted direct sun rays. If I am exposing the rest of my skin, I ensure that I reapply often and stay out of the direct sun as much as possible.
cyberderm, the sunscreen company, sunscreen, SPF, best sunscreen

Why the Term “Broad-Spectrum” on Your Sunscreen Label May still be False.

The most important objective of photoprotection must be to prevent rising rates for skin cancer and reduce health care expenditures for a largely preventable disease. It is now accepted that UV radiation is the main cause of photocarcinogenesis, photoaging and immune suppression. The risk of sunburn from UVB exposure has long been implicated as a major hazard to human skin. Recent studies support a more prominent role for UVA over UVB in genetic damage to the keratinocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis where most cancers occur. This basal layer shows more UVA than UVB fingerprint mutations, suggesting a primary role for UVA in human skin carcinogenesis. A contemporary view is that UVB causes direct DNA damage, whereas UVA results in direct DNA damage and indirect effects from ROS, photoimmunosuppression, and disruption of repair mechanisms. UVB initiates and modulates these harmful effects whereas UVA is responsible for widespread effects and completing the damage cycle. Photoprotection with traditional UVB biased sunscreens with little or no UVA protection must now be abandoned and a new clinical strategy adopted.

Rising cancer rates show that the current approach has failed and critical analysis argues that ineffective UVB biased sunscreens are an important contributory factor. A minority of the products available in Canada or the USA provide adequate protection against the deeper penetrating UVA-I (340-400nm). In North America > 80% of products claim or imply UVA absorption by labels such as “broad-spectrum or extra UVA protection” despite containing no effective UVA filters, particularly in the UVA-1 band. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) assessed over 1800 sunscreens and found that 90% had little or no UVA-I protection, despite a broad-spectrum label claim. Consumers are lured into assuming that they are being protected from the entire solar UV spectrum (290-400nm), and are distracted by high SPF numbers into mistakenly believing that their sunscreen is reducing all the risks of sun damage. Sunscreens that absorb mainly UVB denoted by the SPF number, reduce the risk of sunburn but may be detrimental by allowing you to stay out longer. You do not burn but you actually increase your risks from UVA injury – immune suppression, premature photoaging, and skin cancer. A few N. American sunscreens offer some UVA filtering but most fail to provide the minimum UVA protection required in Europe.

Health Canada and the FDA changed their regulations in 2011 to ensure that a broad spectrum claim was an accurate one. For decades, the SPF on a product’s label was the only measurement available to consumers to help make a decision about a sunscreen’s protective capabilities. SPF values indicate UVB and UVA-2 protection from 290 to 340 nm. There was an urgent need to enable the consumer to assess the UVA-1 protection afforded by a sunscreen like Europe and most other countries outside N. America. Both countries adopted the rule of the Critical Wavelength (CW) test. The CW can be assessed by a variety of in-vitro tests that plots an absorption curve and assesses the wavelength on the y-axis where 90% of the area of the curve falls under. If 90% of the curve falls on or after the 370 nm mark (the portion of UV light that is considered the longest wavelengths of UVA) then the sunscreen can be labeled ‘broad-spectrum’ under the new law. See Figure 1 for an example.

Screen shot 2015-04-02 at 9.49.17 AM

The Critical Wavelength Test does not by itself provide an accurate assessment of whether a sunscreen is broad spectrum. The following are some reasons why the test can be misleading:

  • The test is a relative comparison of UVB vs. UVA, not a test of absolute
  • The result of the test is affected largely by the shape of the curve.

Figure 2 (absorption curves) and Figure 3 (sunscreen actives and concentrations in comparison to CW result) shows how the CW sometimes fails to accurately describe the true protection profile of a sunscreen.

Figure 2: Absorption Curves of Four Brands[1]

[1] Results from testing of actual products at an independent third party laboratory

The Absorption of UVB  (290-320 nm) through UVA (320-400 nm) of Four Different Sunscreen Formulas

The Absorption of UVB (290-320 nm) through UVA (320-400 nm) of Four Different Sunscreen Formulas

Figure 3: Sunscreen Brands with their Actives and Critical Wavelength Result[1]

Formula Curve Colour Actives Critical Wavelength Result
Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25 Dark Blue 15% Zinc Oxide, 7.5% Encapsulated Octinoxate 362
Simply Zinc Whip Sun Whip SPF 30 Green 22% Zinc Oxide 370
Brand E SPF 45 Light Blue 9% Zinc Oxide, 7.5% Octinoxate 372
Brand C SPF 30 Light Red 1.9% Zinc Oxide, 3% Titanium Dioxide 376

[1] SPF values are as reported on product labels, Critical Wavelength results are from testing of actual products at an independent third party laboratory

In Figure 2, the Green Curve offers the highest levels of protection through the full range of UVB and delivers excellent UVA protection. It represents our Simply Zinc Sun Whip SPF 30 with 22% zinc oxide as its only active ingredient. You can see that it offers the highest protection at every wavelength and is flat confirming that it delivers “balanced” protection – virtually equal protection at every wavelength in the UV band (290-400nm).  Experts recommend that the ideal sunscreen must achieve this quality confirmed by an absorption curve that is high and flat. This product that gives the best photoprotection had a CW measured at 370 nm and barely passed the CW test. It can be labeled broad-spectrum, but based on CW would appear to be less protective than Brands E and C.

The other three curves compared to each other provide the best examples of the flawed nature of the CW test. The light pink curve, Brand C SPF 30, has the highest Critical Wavelength result of 376. It also has the lowest concentrations of actives at about 2% Zinc Oxide and 3% Titanium Dioxide. It has the lowest curve as expected, and offers the lowest amount of protection from 290 nm to 370 nm. It gets a high Critical Wavelength result because its curve is flat. Therefore, while it meets the criteria of being relatively flat it does not meet the criteria of being high. It gives uniformly poor protection at every wavelength from 290-370 nm and virtually none at 370-400 nm.

The Dark Blue (the Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25 with 15% Zinc Oxide and 7.5% Encapsulated Octinoxate) vs. the Light Blue curve (Brand E SPF 45 with 9% Zinc Oxide and 7.5% Octinoxate) confirms that more Zinc Oxide is always a better thing. The Dark Blue curve (Every Morning Sun Whip SPF25) offers more protection at every point from 290-370 nm, despite a CW of 362 due to the shape of its curve. Its encapsulated octinoxate gives better UVB absorption than the regular octinoxate in Brand E. It fails the CW test but gives better protection than brand E that passes. The shape of the curve may erroneously negate the actual level of protection in some cases. More protection is obviously a good thing in real life. Yet it may shift the CW curve to the left and fail a sunscreen. To pass the arbitrary CW 370 nm standard, one could reduce the level of encapsulated octinoxate in Every Morning Sun Whip from 7.5% to 4% by flattening the curve and shifting the 90% crossover to the right. Less protection gets you a pass like many sunscreens that now make a label claim that is misleading or false.

The CW is used in Europe along with the SPF/UVA-PF ratio to show the consumer the actual level of UVA protection relative to the UVB level or SPF. The ratio has to exceed 1/3. This means that for a SPF 30 sunscreen UVA Protection Factor has to be > 10, for a SPF 60 product UVA-PF has to exceed 20. The CW is a second but less important metric that gives the “balance” of the broad-spectrum activity, once the first criteria is achieved, the higher the CW is above 370, the more UVA protection afforded. The CW alone is a flawed measure of UVA activity and the balance or broad-spectrum nature of the sunscreen. Professor Brian Diffey of Newcastle University who developed the test is the harshest critic of the FDA for adopting this test as the sole measure. There is expert consensus that using CW alone fails to ensure adequate UVA protection required for true broad spectrum coverage.

Dominique Moyal from L’Oreal Research & Innovation called attention to this issue in 2001. He presented photometric data from 2 sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum”, with SPF 15 and CW 370 nm. One had a UVA-PF of 2.4 and the other 10.4. The former would have a UVA index (SPF/UVA-PF ratio) of 0.16 a fail in the EU, the latter a UVA index of 0.66 showing balanced protection and pass in the EU. Both would now pass in N.America. He presented the data for 16 sunscreens with SPF values 15-60 and showed there was no linear correlation (the data scatter was wide) between CW and SPF/UVA-PF values. Furthermore, a CW ≥ 370 nm is not equivalent to a ratio UVA-PF/SPF ≥ 1/3 and a high SPF and CW > 370 nm doesn’t ensure a higher UVA protection than a lower SPF product with the same CW.

These curves are also instructive in relation to their labeled SPF. You’ll notice that within the UVB portion of the curve (from 280 nm to 320 nm), the highest curve is again our Simply Zinc Sun Whip SPF 30. Many sunscreens report an inflated SPF by manipulating the SPF test done on human volunteers. Anti-inflammatory or antioxidants that reduce the redness on skin falsely elevate the SPF result that depends on the degree of erythema or redness as read by an observer. The skin appears less red not by a true reduction in UV radiation but by masking the biologic endpoint that in real life warns you to get out of the sun.   In-vitro SPF testing does not depend on the degree of erythema and cannot be rigged, and is being refined by The ISO, hopefully to become a global standard. From the absorption curves, there is no possible way that Brand E can have an SPF 45 when it has lower absorption in the entire UVB portion than Simply Zinc Sun Whip SPF 30 with the highest UVB absorption. Brand E labeled SPF 45 also has lower absorption in UVB than Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25. Finally, Brand C (light pink curve) labeled SPF 30 cannot possibly have a true SPF 30 and be positioned considerably lower than our sunscreens at SPF 30 and SPF 25.

Consumers are once again left without a clear way of knowing the true protective qualities of a sunscreen. Products that do not pass the Critical Wavelength test of 370 nm must label their products as only protecting against sunburn and not skin cancer or photo-aging. Those that pass make a very specific claim that they aid in preventing cancer and photoaging. That may be entirely false and we have the contradiction that sunscreens not able to make the claim provide superior protection than those that do. The consumer is actually worse off than before. The broad-spectrum claim was somewhat generic and many consumers may not have appreciated its exact significance and that it was misleading. Now we have a very specific claim of protection against cancer and photoaging, which may still be misleading or untrue in many cases.

Consumers in N.America deserve an easy way of assessing their sunscreens but they also require an accurate one. The SPF/UVA-PF combined with the CW as required in Europe would have provided both. Industry lobbyists influenced the FDA to move away from this and a similar reliable standard- The Boots/Diffey Star Rating. Using either standard would have excluded the majority of our sunscreens that did not provide adequate UVA-1 or true broad spectrum protection. The use of the limited CW test alone allowed many deficient sunscreens to pass. We advise consumers to look at the active ingredients in a sunscreen for the best assessment. Currently in North America, Zinc Oxide is the best and safest broad-spectrum filter that protects against all UV bands, but the most efficiently against UVA rays. Consumers must remember the truism that the more zinc oxide -the better your reliable and actual protection.

 Conclusions:

  • Zinc Oxide provides the most broad-spectrum protection and remains the best UV filter available in North America.
  • More Zinc Oxide means more protection. Consumers should look for the protection afforded by levels at 15% or more approaching the allowable maximum of 25%, and expect protection to decrease the lower the concentration.
  • Overall protection may be improved within the 15-25% range by adding other agents like titanium dioxide (UVB and some UVA-2 protection) or encapsulated octinoxate (UVB).  Both are large molecules that remain within the outer dead layer of skin (stratum corneum), and like zinc oxide, they avoid the risks of soluble filters that are absorbed through the skin, such as hormone disruption, reproductive problems or cancers, and rarely photocontact skin allergy or irritation.
  • The FDA and health Canada continue to deprive N. American consumers of access to the benefits of Tinosorb S™ and Tinosorb M™, two excellent broad-spectrum filters with good safety profiles according to the EWG, and widespread use across the globe for almost 15 years. Until they become available, zinc oxide is the safest and single most effective broad-spectrum filter available in N. America.

Co-Authored by,

Sara Dudley and Dr. Denis Dudley