The Story of Ava Isa
The idea for our new line of ultra-matte sunscreens Ava Isa came to me while I was pregnant with my daughter Ava Isabella. We’d been discussing for a long time the troubling statistic that in young women aged 25-30, skin cancer was the number one cancer killer (more on that in a bit). Our amazing chemist, Tom Heinar (who we talked to in this interview) came to me saying he had just had a great meeting with a supplier that makes these beautiful pigments and he thought they would be great in a sunscreen.
I myself had been looking into a primer for that summer, something that would give me a little bronzy pop on my skin. I was curious about what makes a great primer so I bought several different ones from Sephora. However, the sticking point with them was it was annoying to use a primer and then a sunscreen. Some of the primers had an SPF with them but they were really bad sunscreens. I could imagine all of these young women forgoing their sunscreen just to get the illuminating benefits of the primer.
As a team, we connected the dots and said wait- we can make an impact here. We didn’t want people making that choice and we knew we could offer a better solution. We make great sunscreens. Can we offer skin optimization like other products? Thus began the year and a half project of formulating Ava Isa.
Why name it after my daughter?
When you stop and think about the fact that skin cancer is the #1 cancer killer for young women, it is absolutely nuts. Why is there this blip of high incidences of skin cancer in this demographic? In the past, skin cancer had been something that would show up in mature adults who had a lifetime of UV exposure. For it to be literally killing this young generation of people had the entire company thinking about the reasons. We knew that the UVB biased sunscreens of the 90’s that continue until today had to play a role. These high SPF’s took away sunburns but did not protect against UVA. They made the world one big tanning bed and removed our natural signalling process to get out of the sun. There is a generation that received a huge onslaught of damaging UVA rays and their immune suppressing impact. We think this is one reason for the increase of skin cancer in young people.
With this in mind, we had the idea of what Ava Isa could be and its potential impact. I wanted to give that potential legacy to my daughter. When we were putting together the branding, marketing and packaging- I pictured her at the age of 25. What would she like? What would make her proud? And the mom in me wondered how it might protect her.
We had 3 main goals in creating Ava Isa- get some nice tints under our belt that were fairly universal, nail the texture of the sunscreen itself and incorporate our learnings about how to make sunscreens ultra protective.
For the tints, we started with a couple of different variations. We didn’t want them to replace foundation so we knew these ones would not be different skin tones. Instead, we wanted more skin illumination. The tint that could now be found in Aurora Rose was one of the first ones we came up with. It’s a nude/pink. It does not have any shimmer to it because we didn’t think that would play well with the ultra matte texture. It has a slightly cool tint to it (as opposed to a warm one). For a great skin swatch, you can check out Michelle Villet’s review on her new site Skincare Edit of Aurora Rose.
We also played around with a bronzing version that we will get right one day and it will be called Lakeside Bronze- an ode to our Canadian roots. We didn’t quite get that one right but we are continuing to work on it. In the end, we decided to launch with an untinted version called Pure so that people could have a choice. Depending on how the line does, we hope to launch new tints as we go further.
If you’ve had a chance to trial Ava Isa, you will know it’s our most matte option. It dries down on the skin almost instantaneously and is weightless. People who hate the way sunscreen can feel on the skin or who can have oily/combination skin absolutely love this texture. If you happen to be more on the dry side of things or have really mature skin- Ava Isa will not help with hydration so might not be the right option. If you prefer a more dewy look for your skin, then I’d recommend our Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25. The texture is similar to a matte lipstick- for some people it’s exactly what they are looking for but others its not their best option. The quick dry texture also means that you need to apply Ava Isa almost like a make-up. I like to use the quadrant method on my face where I decant the product on the back of my hand and then use my finger to apply to the quadrants of my face. I make sure to blend, i.e. rub, the product in and pay specific attention to the edges where you might miss rubbing. If you apply the product with a little more care and make sure to rub it in, it is 100% transparent on the skin and beautiful. However, for people like my husband who applies sunscreen where he just smashes it into his face, Ava Isa might leave a white streak where it dried before you could rub it in. So the lesson is- don’t apply sunscreen like my husband.
Tints and texture are all well and good but mean nothing if we didn’t bring our A game when it came to making Ava Isa protective. First, it’s a true SPF 45. It’s 15% zinc oxide, which in theory would not be able to get you an SPF 45. Our patent pending innovation Bio UVA Ultra amps up our protection in both the UVB and UVA range. We use a certified organic natural ingredient to help improve the dispersion of the zinc oxide to make it much more efficient. Zinc oxide has a natural limit of a UVA Protection Factor of about 12 if you max out the concentration of zinc oxide at 25%. It is a great active that is our only real option for true broad spectrum protection in North America but it has its limits. Our Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25 has a UVA PF of 9, our old Simply Zinc SPF 30 had one of just under 12, and Ava Isa has one of 15 (our new Simply Zinc Ultra has one of 20). We are putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to protection and we are getting better and better.
So you can see when we say that we made Ava Isa with “Love and Protection In Every Bottle”, we weren’t kidding. The mom in me wants to go around the medicine cabinets of the world and tell people to forgo the sunscreens with 2% zinc, to skip the primers with the outdated SPF formulas. They are not protecting you. However, the mom in me has also learned that you can’t cajole people into not doing something. Ava Isabella is a toddler now so I’ve learned that lesson. You need to listen to what people want. In this case, beautiful skin with beautiful ingredients. You can build in the protection- it might not get the same kind of acknowledgement but it will keep them safe.