Fashion & Beauty

Searching for the Gold Standard in Sunscreens

April 19, 2017



SUNSCREENS. OY. When it comes to finding one, I feel a little like Goldilocks. Except I have yet to find a product that’s just perfect. I want a sunscreen with a high SPF factor—more than 30. I know, I know, people will tell you that 30 is sufficient and any higher doesn’t accomplish anything significant protection-wise. But I use a retinol (anyone, anyone?), and my skin is sensitive to the sun, so 40-50 is my druthers. And did I mention that I would like my high-SPF sunscreen to be coupled with a tinted moisturizer, so I can use one product instead of spackling my face with three.

And, yes, there’s one other thing: the sunscreen part of the equation must be mineral-based, meaning it contains zinc and/or titanium oxide. As MyLittleBird’s Mary Carpenter explained, sunscreens that rely for UV filtering on the chemical compound oxybenzone have environmental and health hazards.

To date my favorite is Senté’s Daily Repair Complex SPF 30 with titanim and zinc oxide. It’s not perfect. It has only a 30 SPF and it’s absurdly pricey ($129.99). On the other hand, its tinted formula turns your skin glowy and covers annoying unevenness on your complexion. One fluid ounce lasts for six months, and it feels silky smooth on your face.

La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios 50 Mineral tinted sunscreen ($33.50) meets my sun protection needs and eco-friendly requirements but doesn’t contain much of a moisturizer, so it doesn’t apply as smoothly as desired.

Two more I’m game to try:

EltaMD UV Daily Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 ($28.50, dermstore, also sold in local dermatologists’ offices and skin care centers). It contains the required zinc oxide, a light moisturizer with tint and a coveted 40 SPF.

Skinceuticals Physical Fusion UVA Defense SPF 50 ($65, skinceuticals). Skinceuticals’ products have lots of fans, and this sunscreen has the ideal sun protection factor and even contains a tint. Without sampling I can’t tell about how moisturizing it is, however.

Note: There is a downside to some mineral (sometimes called physical) sunscreens: those little molecules of zinc and/or titanium dioxide don’t always blend smoothly into the base formula, resulting in you sporting the the pasty-white face of a kabuki dancer.

Note 2: For very serious sun protection, if you’re someone like my husband who is prone to acitinic keratosis and has had several Mohs surgeries, you should consult your dermatologist. His doctor advised him to try La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios XL Melt-in Cream, SPF 60. 

—Janet Kelly
Janet Kelly remains on the quest for the ideal sunscreen/tinted moisturizer. Please let her know if you’ve found one you love.

2 thoughts on “Searching for the Gold Standard in Sunscreens

  1. Nancy says:

    I bought the EltaMD tinted sunscreen at my dermatologist’s office because I thought it would do everything. Unfortunately, what it did was dry out my already dry skin more. Back to Kiehl’s with sunscreen and Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer with SPF 20, which is a combo I’ve used for years. Willing to try the Anthelios tho. Will let you know, if I can find it.

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      That’s disappointing. Who wants to use two products when you can use one? But the search continues!

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