SEARCHING FOR a sunscreen can make your head spin. So many differing opinions out there. Scientists say that oxybenzone and octinoxate, common chemicals used in many sunscreens to protect against ultraviolet light, are highly toxic to developing coral and other marine life. Hawaii is poised to pass legislation against major brands that contain these chemicals. So, then, we should just use mineral sunscreens, the kind whose main ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium oxide, right? Well, yes, but it turns out that some of these can also be harmful to marine life. I defer to our well-being editor Mary Carpenter for the details. But in the meantime, while I’m looking for the least noxious sunscreen, here’s what The Environmental Working Group (EWG) had to say on their tip sheet: “Sunscreen Should Be Your Last Resort.” Your clothing (shirts, hats, shorts and pants), finding shade, wearing sunglasses, picking your outdoor hours and checking the UV index are more important!
Next week, I’m headed to very sunny southern Italy, and I intend to take the above precautions. Still, some exposure is bound to happen, particularly and most noticeably on the face. For summer days and really, for daily use, I’ve spent many hours researching the best broad-spectrum (for UVA and UVB coverage) tinted sunscreens with a 30-plus SPF factor. A sunscreen that does double-duty as makeup is the holy grail for me; below are some that I’ve found are up to the task. Many even have some moisturizer in them. Keep in mind, though, nothing is perfect.
Left: An earlier version of this Sente Labs product (Daily Repair Complex, SPF 30) has been in my cosmetics arsenal for a few years. It’s an excellent block and the color is good, but it doesn’t have as smooth a consistency as I would have liked. I have hopes for the new Broad Spectrum 46 product with a higher SPF and a very high concentration of zinc oxide. Only available from dermatologists. Center: Skin Medica’s Essential Defense Mineral Shield Broad Spectrum SPF 32 Tinted has some moisturizing ingredients in it and goes on smoothly, evening out skin tone with natural-looking color, $38, dermstore. Right: Recommended on my dermatologist’s handout about sun protection, Tizo’s 3 Tinted Face Mineral SPF40 Sunscreen is lightweight, velvety and gives you a matte finish without any chalky whiteness. It’s $41.99 at amazon, and is also available at medspas.
Far left: Although she tends not to slather sunscreen on, preferring it only when necessary, well-being Editor Mary Carpenter likes Elta MD UV Physical SPF 41 Lightly Tinted, which contains alpha hydroxy acids and antioxidants. $30, dermstore. Left: I’ve been a fan of La Mer‘s Reparative SkinTint SPF 30 for years. I was miffed when they stopped making it but elated when they re-upped with a “new” formula. I usually put it on over my Sente Labs product or over a light foundation. It’s very moist and reflective, which gives the skin a little glow. The fly in the ointment, so to speak, is that I recently read the label to find that although it has titanium dioxide, it also contains that bad chemical octinoxate. At least, I have no plans to go to Hawaii. $95, neimanmarcus. Right: I’ve always found that La Roche-Posay produces excellent sun blocks, and now that they have a mineral sunscreen, so much the better. La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral Tinted Ultra Light is a mix of titanium dioxide and Vitamin E, which dries to a matte texture. Wear it under makeup or skip the makeup entirely. $33.5o, dermstore. Far right: Cotz Face Natural Skin Tone SPF 40, also on my dermatologist’s handout, is on my list to try. And the price is a bit easier on the wallet. $23.99, ulta.
P.S. In light of EWG recommendations, note that there are several brands, including Coolibar, Solumbra and Mott 50, that manufacture sun-protective clothing. Instead of SPF, it’s labeled UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). While your Gap T-shirt has a UPF of 3, clothing from these brands have at least a 30.