Tag Archives: zinc oxide sunscreen

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.

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