Days in the sun.
I have a love/hate relationship with the sun. As someone who is often cold, the sun is a welcomed warmth. But, the rays emitted are harmful to my perpetually pale skin. So sunscreen is my intermediary; allowing me to be in the sun, without getting painfully pink.
As I get older (read: entering late 20s), I am more concerned with decreasing my skin’s aging from sun exposure, rather than just avoiding the hurt of a burn. Protecting your skin is a full time job, not just for beach days. In fact, scientist are now saying that 90% of skin aging is caused by daily sun exposure. Which ties into the most common advice that I hear from beauty experts: wear sun protection at all times.
It’s not all about beauty either. The damage from these light rays are not just visible, like wrinkles. Excessive sun exposure can change the DNA in your cells, leading to odd freckles, growths and possibly skin cancer, which is the most common type of cancer there is (luckily, also quite treatable if caught in time).
Diagram of Light-Waves in Relation to Skin:
UVC: Ultraviolet radiation from the sun that is absorbed in the earth’s atmosphere. This light wave is not a concern at the moment, unless the ozone layer continues to deplete.
UVB: Ultraviolet radiation from the sun, that affects the top layer of skin, causing most sunburns. Mostly linked to skin cancer.
UVA: Ultraviolet radiation from the sun, that accounts for 95% of UV radiation on earth. This light will penetrate deeper than a UVB ray, and is mostly linked to premature aging. Also, windows will not protect you from this type of light.
Blue Light: Part of the visible light spectrum and is mostly known for regulating the circadian rhythm and helping improve moods during the winter. While science is still unsure if there are harmful effects on skin, some skin companies are hedging their bets and introducing products that protect against blue light as well. I wouldn’t worry about this one, yet.
SPF, the Environment and Clean Beauty:
While sunscreen is an incredible technology, some governments are looking to ban particular sunblock from environmentally protected areas. Obviously, this is a hot topic, because skin cancer rates are rising around the world. How can a public good be associated with limiting what sunscreens can be used and where? Despite some restrictions, you can and should wear sunscreen. All you need to do is avoid sunscreen with particular ingredients that may be harming the environment and even your health.
The main difference in types of sunblock is between mineral and chemical sunscreens…
Mineral: Usually includes zinc oxide or titanium oxide, which provide a physical barrier between the sun and your skin, so the product does not penetrate your skin.
Chemical: Usually includes oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. The issue is that some of these are considered endocrine disrupters and bad for the environment, particularly oxybenzone. I made sure this was not present in any of the sunblock I have tested.
Whether you want to put something on your skin that will possibly be absorbed by the environment and/or your skin, leading to negative effects is up to you. You can balance both eco-friendly and clean beauty, but it will come with an added price for your personal consideration.
The Test: Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico for 5 days.
I chose 4 different sunscreens to try out each day. The sunscreens were all new to me, and 3 were from emerging companies in the clean beauty business. All are broad spectrum (meaning they protect against both UVB & UVA), SPF 50, available in the US and are organic/healthy in some way (either for the environment or yourself).
*I paid for all these items with my own money, have not been in contact with any of these companies, and have no financial incentive in giving my reviews.
I used each sunscreen exclusively for a day, which included almost constant sun exposure, with sweat and water involved, and multiple reapplications. Here are the following area that I took into account when rating these sunblocks:
- Product Price
- Ease of Application
- Pleasant Smell
- Clean Beauty
- Environmentally Friendly
- Ease of Reapplication
- Quality of Skin After Sun
1.) COOLA- Classic Sport Face Sunscreen SPF 50 ($32.35 per Fl oz.)
- Very easy to apply and absorbed so quickly that I wasn’t sure if I had gotten an area or not. Completely sheer with no grease trail.
- Pleasant-ish smell. The smell was “white tea,” which I didn’t like much, but others did.
- In terms of clean beauty, it is made of 70% certified organic ingredients, is paraben-free, oxybenzone free, antioxidant enriched, vegan friendly and gluten free.
- It is a chemical sunscreen with 3% avobenzone and 6.25% Octinoxate.
- Very easy to reapply. Since the lotion absorbs very quickly, sand does not get stuck to the skin, so the sunscreen goes on smoother.
- My skin felt soft to touch, even after a long day in the sun.
2.) Supergoop! – Glowstick SPF 50 ($20.32 per oz.)
- Very easy to apply, and absorbed quickly. Left a “glowly”/dewey look on the skin. Ha a little bit of an oil trail, so I could tell which areas had been “screened.”
- No smell at all.
- In terms of clean beauty, this product is moisturizing because it contains buriti oil, considered the richest natural source of beta carotene and tamanu oil, which promotes skin regeneration and helps protect against UV-induced damage. Made without phthalate, silicone, sulfate, artificial fragrances, and artificial colors.
- It is a chemical sunscreen containing: avobenzone 3%, homosalate 10%, octinoxate 7.5% and octisalate 5%. A higher-percentage of chemicals than COOLA.
- Easy to reapply, though does attract some sand overtime. Because there is an oily residue, you can tell when you need to reapply the sunscreen.
- Skin felt very moisturized and soft afterwards. Quite hydrating, which is great since the sun usually dries out my skin.
3.) MyChelle Dermaceuticals- Sun Shield Stick SPF 50 ($23.08 per oz.)
- It took a bit of work to apply this sunscreen, but having it in block form helped. Rubbing it in took a little effort to get sheerness and decrease the white-zinc look.
- Smells like coco butter; so pleasant and warm.
- In terms of clean beauty, the product contains avocado, jojoba, and vitamin E oils to help moisturize and protect. Also cocoa seed butter to soothe skin and support elasticity. Made without GMOs, gluten, parabens, petroleum, phthalates, silicones, sulfates, ureas, artificial fragrances, and artificial colors. Is vegetarian.
- Very environmentally safe! It is made cruelty-free, is “reef safe” and biodegradable. It is a mineral sunscreen made with 17% zinc oxide.
- Since the residue attracts quite a bit of sand, it makes it harder to reapply. Though I did find it blended sheer with a little effort. Easier to reapply than Neutrogena (see below).
- My skin felt normal. However, it was a bit difficult to remove in the shower. It took some exfoliating to remove the sunscreen from my skin.
4.) Neutrogena – SheerZinc Face Dry-Touch SPF 50 ($6.50 per Fl Oz)
- It took work to apply this sunscreen. The lotion went on white, took effort to blend into skin to the point of sheerness and didn’t settle-in easily.
- Sunblock smell, ugh!
- In terms of clean beauty, the product is free of fragrance, parabens, phthalates, dyes, and irritating chemicals. It was awarded the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance™ as a suitable sunscreen for persons with sensitive skin conditions.
- It is mostly environmentally friendly in that it is a mineralsSunscreen with 21.6% Zinc oxide. Not sure if it “reef safe” or biodegradable though.
- Because this sunscreen is so zinc heavy, it does not settle-in easily, attracting lots of sand. Then, when reapplying there is an even more distinct white lotion sheen, that no matter how much effort you put in, will never be sheer on your skin.
- It was very difficult to get off of my skin! It took a lot of exfoliating. It also got in my hair and on my clothes, which required extra attention to remove. Ugh! The label does say that it could possibly stain clothes…
All in all, I liked the chemical sunscreens COOLA and Supergoop! the most.Since COOLA is a bit out of my price range, Supergoop! is a more doable option. MyChelle is a good option if you need something that is reef safe. The Neutrogena SheerZinc was *almost* more trouble than a sunburn.
While I tested these products out on a beach trip, I am considering testing other products in my daily routine to write another blog post. I’m curious, do you all have any recommendations for daily SPF? Leave a comment below.
I am looking forward to making this post part of a series on sun protection. Look out for more content to come!