Tag Archives: sunscreen

Ava Isa SPF 45, sunscreen, The Sunscreen Company

How our Ava Isa SPF 45 Ultra Matte Sunscreen Line Came to Be

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.

Ava Isa SPF 45, sunscreen, The Sunscreen Company

Me and the too cool real-life 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.

The Tint

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.

AvaIsa Ferns.jpg copyThe Texture

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.

The Protection

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.

natural sunscreen, physical sunscreen, zinc oxide sunscreen, The Sunscreen Company

SUN PROTECTION MYTHS: Physical Sunscreens and More

INTRODUCTION

Think zinc oxide sunscreens act like physical barriers? What about the different between natural sunscreens versus chemical ones? What makes a safe sunscreen and what are some common myths.  The Sunscreen Doc, our co-founder Dr. Denis Dudley, tackles some of the most pervasive ones on his blog.

Click here to read and feel free to keep asking more questions or let us know what you think!

 

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.

new years resolution, sunscreen

Your #1 Beauty Resolution: Sunscreen?

new years resolution, sunscreen

Sunscreen-Your Top New Year’s Resolution

In this time of resolutions, I know that you may be skeptical that sunscreen should be your number one beauty resolution.  You’re thinking, “but what about all my required detoxes?” I have my juice cleanse ordered and ready to go.  Surely, there are a 1000 more things I can do that would give more impressive ‘wow’ results than daily application of sunscreen. Finally, isn’t this a bit rich coming from a sunscreen company, of course you want us to apply a sunscreen every day! All very understandable and sound logic- but a recent study has flipped on its head our appreciation of what sunscreen can truly do.  So bear with us…

As it turns out, we all have a little bit more super-human in us than we thought.  Regeneration is one of the great superpowers.  What would Deadpool be if he couldn’t grow back a limb? Turns out though, our ability to regenerate is even more impressive than we give ourselves credit for.  We just need to get out of the way of our body and give it some respite from the thousand and one external aggressors that inhibit this natural process.

Enter sunscreen.  Sunscreen has always been credited by physicians and beauty gurus alike as the number one anti-aging tool in your beauty arsenal.  However, it was credited with being mainly preventive.  In short, either start with sunscreen from inception and you would fend off the typical signs of aging like pigmentation, wrinkles, redness and more for a maximum benefit of looking twenty years younger.  Failing religious application when you were young, you could use a combination of topical cosmetics and a host of other beauty interventions to repair the damage and then protect your investment with stringent application afterwards.

However, this new study found that after one year, daily application of sunscreen helped improve signs of pigmentation, wrinkles and hydration.  No other anti-aging topicals or forms of interventions were used! It turns out that if we just give our skin a fighting chance to resist daily bombardment by UV light- we can heal ourselves and ultimately roll back the clock. Pigmentation showed the biggest improvement with the 12 volunteers showing 40-50% improvement.  All study participants showed improvement in skin clarity and texture.  How huge is that!

Now imagine, it’s January 1st and you make it your New Year resolution to apply a great sunscreen (if you are a regular of this blog, you know what we mean by ‘great’ sunscreen) every single day for this year.  Take a picture- a good quality one, in real natural light, with no Snapchat flower crown filter.  Now pledge to keep that great sunscreen on your bathroom counter and include it as a step in your beauty routine. You wouldn’t skip brushing your teeth so treat sunscreen application in the same way. Let’s see what happens after a year. Sure, you can still sprinkle some goji berries on your cereal and maintain that mantra for inner beauty too.  For pure, superficial, outer beauty though- let this be the change we see.

Let us know how it goes and feel free to tag us in your photos too @thesunscreencompany!

All the best,

Sara

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.

 

 

 

 

 

How to best tell if your zinc sunscreen is safe.

Response to “Natural” Sunscreen Controversy

How to best tell if your zinc sunscreen is safe.

How to best tell if your zinc sunscreen is safe.

The internet has been on fire, again, this summer with the recent controversy over The Honest Company TM’s specific ‘natural’ zinc oxide sunscreen.  Out of respect for them as a competitor, we won’t speak to their specific case but we felt it was important to address the issue as it balloons out to others relating to sunscreens.  We’ve been hearing a lot of “are ‘natural’ sunscreens safe?” and general questioning of zinc oxide based sunscreens.  If you read our blog consistently then this might contain some repetition but we felt we had to put our view point out there and address some of the inaccuracies that are flying about.

Issue #1: What does Natural Mean?

This has always been a thorny issue- we don’t actually claim all-natural on our products or really emphasize this in our marketing.  Zinc oxide is a chemical- it’s true.  The zinc oxide found in sunscreens has been processed considerably for very important formulation based reasons.  Particle size, distribution, and the material it’s dispersed in are addressed in a lab and not in nature.  However, their safety stems from the fact that they are considered large particle based filters that sit on the surface of the skin.  Even nano forms of skin are too large to be absorbed by healthy, intact skin and studies have repeatedly confirmed that even on damaged or broken skin, they remain within the upper dead layers.

Zinc oxide is sometimes referred to as a physical filter but even this is not completely accurate.  Micronized and nano sized zinc actually reflect light (i.e provide physical protection) and absorb and scatter UV light (provide a chemical type of protection).  Truly accurate terms would be inorganic (from your days of highschool chemistry not related to environmental claims like in organic agriculture) or particulate based filters.

Issue #2: Is Zinc Safe? Is it Effective?

Zinc’s safety comes from the fact that it’s still the only filter in North America that can provide the most complete broad-spectrum protection against both the UVB (burning rays) and UVA (aging rays, both UVB and UVA cause cancer).  There are other filters world-wide which provide broad-spectrum protection (hello Tinosorbs!) but they are not approved for mainstream use in the US and Canada.

Until then, zinc is the only filter that can provide complete protection but only if used in a high concentration. The maximum allowable in North America is 25%-  and there is a big difference between a formula that has 22% vs. 9%.  The more zinc the better protection.

Issue # 3: What Other Factors can Affect Protection?

Formulating a good sunscreen is actually quite technical and is complicated.  Factors like pH can affect whether the zinc is in its active form- a formula with too low pH can actually render the zinc oxide inert.  Dispersion plays a role.  Zinc oxide can absolutely be dispersed so that it’s evenly and uniformly distributed within a formula.  There are some brands that require customers to shake or knead a product- these formulas will show separation otherwise.  You know your formula has separated when clear oils burst from the tub or packaging and the white zinc comes out separately.  In our minds, that shows product instability and is not a good thing.  Our formulas stay emulsified over the course of their shelf life, which ensures that you are getting uniform amounts of zinc oxide with every application.

Issue #4: How are Zinc Oxide sunscreens tested?  

In Canada, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sunscreens are regulated by the Health Canada division of the Natural Health Products Division.  They are regulated differently than the sunscreens that include the other filters but these regulations deal more with manufacturing practices.  The Good Manufacturing Practices for Natural Health Products are quite sensible and in fact Health Canada has stated that the practices for the other type of sunscreens might be too excessive and actually blocking innovation in the industry (which impacts Canadians ability to access the best and latest in sunscreen innovation).  In Canada, a sunscreen with a Natural Health Number must with every batch produced show that they contain the amount of active ingredient as per their label and that they are free from bacterial growth.

Issue #5: How is their SPF tested?

In terms of SPF, before a sunscreen is approved (i.e. before it gets to production phase), a company has to submit results from the FDA standardized method of SPF testing.  This is true of all sunscreens that are approved for sale in Canada, irregardless of the active ingredient found within them.  SPF tests are done on human volunteers since there is no currently accepted standard for measuring SPF in-vitro (i.e.in a lab, normally using acrylic plates, not people and not animals).  Hopefully, this will change one day, as you could argue there are ethical issues with irradiating humans.

However, while this SPF test is required and standardized, that does not mean that it’s a perfect test by any means.  We’ve repeatedly argued that many labels simply do not make sense in terms of their reported SPF’s.  There is a SPF type of arithmetic that is widely accepted in the industry.  If the SPF is seemingly too high for the amount of active that is within the product then you can know for sure that some formulatory chicanery has taken place.  These SPF manipulations are allowed within the standard protocol of testing (i.e. the company is not lying about their results)- it’s just that these results are the product of gaming the test.

Briefly, SPF tests rely on the measurement of redness produced within the skin.  When compared to a standardized formula, a sunscreen with a low SPF will still allow for redness to be created in the human volunteers skin after being irradiated with UV light.  A higher SPF in theory would prevent more redness from appearing.  Unfortunately, you can alter this response by including anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants.  For example, aspirin reduces our body’s natural response to become red when exposed to UV light, which is why you take it if you have a sunburn.  However, it does not prevent or repair damage done.  It just takes away the biological marker that tells us that damage has been done.  There are plenty of anti-inflammatories that can be considered natural- for example the derivative of chamomile.  Anti-oxidants do provide some repair in addition to redness reduction but they don’t prevent damage like a typical sunscreen filter.

If you are worried that your SPF might be artificially inflated, you can use the chart below to do your basic SPF calculation.  A very well-formulated sunscreen will provide protection towards the higher ranges but there is very little to no chance that an active would produce any more.  In short, if your sunscreen has 10% or less zinc oxide and no other active ingredients listed, it’s unlikely to be a true SPF 30 and most likely used anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants in their non-active ingredients to artificially boost the SPF during testing.

The chart below shows the theoretical maximum # of SPF units that 1% of any active could possible deliver.  These are theoretical maximums and real life figures could be lower.  As an example, a sunscreen that has only 10% zinc oxide can in theory have a maximum true SPF of 16 (10 x 1.6).  However, if you were to add 7.5% of titanium dioxide (a filter that protects mostly against UVB and a little UVA), your new true SPF could in theory be an SPF 35.5 ((10 x 1.6)+ (7.5 x 2.6)).

Filter Max. # of SPF Units per 1% of Active
UVB
Octinoxate 2.8
Homosalate 1.5
Titanium Dioxide 2.6
Octisalate 1.6
Oxybenzone 2.3
Octocrylene 2.1
UVA
Avobenzone 1.9
Zinc Oxide 1.6
Tinosorb M 2.2
Tinosorb S 3.1

Hopefully, this will begin to provide some explanation for some of the controversy going around right now.  We haven’t even touched on UVA protection, safety of ingredients from an endocrine disruption point of view, issues with regulation or third-party seals like the CDA logo.  We regularly post about sunscreens though so if you are interested, I’d recommend staying tuned each month.  Until then, let us know what you think and feel free to write in with questions.

All the best,

Sara

pregnancy, sunscreen

Sunscreen and Pregnancy

For those who don’t know our company backstory, CyberDERM was created by one of its founding physicians to make sunscreens that were safe enough for pregnant women to use every day. The story goes that my father, Dr. Denis Dudley, a double board certified endocrinologist and OB/GYN specializing in high-risk pregnancy was asked by a patient about sunscreens. It would have been the early nineties and his honest answer was that he did not know. Fortunately, his lovely and very talented wife (and my mother) was a dermatologist so with the help of an amazing chemist as their partner- they began the decade long process of researching skincare and specifically sunscreens and its effect on our health and well-being.

pregnancy, sunscreen

Me at 19 Weeks Pregnant

I came to the company in 2008 and started with getting our first formula into a bottle that is now known as Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25. Fast forward 7 years, and I’m now in the position of being pregnant with my first child. Our company ethos has all of a sudden become extremely personal. I know first hand what it’s like to stand in the pharmacy aisle, scouring ingredients of everything from Tums to shampoo and questioning whether it’s ok to use.

Pregnancy has the most stringent of all life stages when it comes to reconsidering everything that is part of our daily life. I’ve personally been reading the MotherRisk website like its my newfound manual to life. I appreciate how balanced and informative it is because there is a plentitude of information on the internet. I’ve learned forums are not the best source as you get a lot of anecdotal stories that’s often contradictory.

So, what’s the story with sunscreen in pregnancy? Should you be using it and what should you avoid?

I think you can guess that I’m going to say, yes, you should use it and you should be even more careful about applying it than before. Melasma is a real and very frustrating condition. Unlike what I read in some pregnancy forums, it does not just resolve always after pregnancy. Nor is it as simple as whisking away to your doctor for a light peel or laser treatment. I’ve helped first hand women suffering from melasma. Most are very self-conscious about it. Most have not found a ‘silver-bullet’ to treat it, even in our sister clinic that has 20 light based ‘lasers’, access to any peel and/or topical. It’s a process treating it- a slow and deliberate one. Most once they get it- are plagued with the prevention/treatment dance for the rest of their lives.

What to look for in Sunscreen?

Avoid oxybenzone, avobenzone, octocrylene and non-encapsulated octinoxate and any formula that contains parabens in its non-medicinal ingredients. That’s probably not a shocking recommendation if you’ve used our products for a while. We’ve been long time critics of oxybenzone especially. I’ve based that on it being a photo-allergen and since 2012, I’ve based it on the recommendations of the WHO report on Endocrine Disruptors. The report dismisses the idea that small doses of any potential endocrine disruptor can’t have a large impact on our health. It also states that fetal exposure, as well as childhood and adolescent exposure, are critical windows that can have life long effects. In simple terms- why risk it?

In pregnancy, we use the litmus test of whether a substance is absorbed into your body and whether levels are detectable. Oxybenzone clearly does get absorbed into the body- as confirmed by the CDC study that stated it was in 97% of a random sample of 2000 Americans. Avobenzone, octocrylene and non-encapsulated octinoxate all have smaller molecular weights than 500 Daltons. 500 Daltons is the generally accepted threshold for determining whether something can get absorbed past our outermost dead layer of skin.

Encapsulating smaller molecules in materials like silica can make them much larger-well past the 500 Dalton threshold. Our encapsulated octinoxate is roughly in the 5-7 micron range, making it act like a large particle based filter. Encapsulation can be a huge innovation in the future where even two normally incompatible ingredients, like avobenzone and octinoxate, could be combined in the same formula with no risk of photo-degradation. It’s unlikely though that we will see these new technologies on masse in commercially available sunscreens as they tend to be much more expensive than their non-encapsulated versions. If you see any of the above filters (oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene)- you can most likely assume they are not encapsulated at this present moment unless they state specifically otherwise.  If you’re not sure, reach out and ask the brand.

Of course, once you remove these filters as options, you’re not left with many alternatives if you live in North America. In the future, I hope to see two European ingredients Tinosorb S and Tinosorb M get approval in North America. These are large particle based filters that offer excellent UVA/UVB protection. They’ll be a huge boon to our sunscreen market if and when they come. Due to their large particle size and excellent photo-stability, they are as controversy-free as I’ve seen of any sunscreen ingredient.

Until then, you are essentially left with zinc oxide as your main preferred ingredient. You need at least 10% of zinc oxide in your product and in pregnancy, I’d recommend to stick to higher concentrations for the added UVA protection. To me, the issue of nano versus non-nano is a bit of a red herring. It’s also well accepted that in the world of sunscreens, nano particles are huge compared to traditional low molecular weight filters. If you are still worried, repeated studies have shown that it does not go past the stratum corneum. You can look for the term non-nano on your label but since definitions of what constitutes nano vary- what might be non-nano to some could be nano to others. As proof of that, although we use the same form of zinc oxide in both formulas- it’s considered non-nano by one division in Health Canada but considered nano by another.

Zinc oxide can be combined with another filter like titanium dioxide or an encapsulated version of another non-mineral filter. Just remember- they are a bonus so to speak in terms of added protection mostly within the UVB range but the essential is to look for a high concentration of zinc oxide for truly balanced protection. Combine daily use with other sun protective habits like glasses, hats and seeking shade and you’ll be a healthy and happy mama-to-be in the sun protection department.

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