Are Inorganic Sunscreens Better Than Organic Ones? Part V: Conclusion and Product Recommendations

Personal/Inspirational, Skin Care
Who knew that zinc oxide could be so dangerous?!

This post will be a summary of everything we’ve learned in the past four weeks. I will also attempt to clear up any confusion, as well as making product recommendations based on skin type.

In this series, I will refer to inorganic sunscreens as iOSs (not Apple, mind you) and organic sunscreens as OSs. While there are many individual compounds in each group (particularly OSs), for the purposes of this post, I will only refer to individual iOSs and OSs as parts of their respective groups. Complete and comparative ingredient profiles will not be seen in this series. Furthermore, I will attempt to discuss technologies that are more relevant and reflect the sunscreen technologies and tendencies of the current market. For example, while para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) has many documented negativities, it will be ignored in our discussion, due to the fact that it is hardly used nowadays in sunscreen formulations.

If you have not yet, please read the separate posts for more detailed information and references on the various characteristics analyzed.

Aesthetics, anyone?

In Part I: Irritation Potential and Aesthetics, we learned that:

  1. Irritation Potential: OSs tend to be more irritating than iOSs due to a variety of factors, including allergy potential, ease of permeability due to their lipid-soluble nature, and the formation of pro-oxidant degradation byproducts—a result of a lack of photostability, and consequently an increase of photoreactivity—that may or may not cause stinging and/or erythema. OSs also have longer history of more severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis, while iOSs like zinc oxide (ZnO) have been shown to even alleviate irritation. iOSs = 1; OSs = 0
  2. Aesthetics: OSs tend to be more cosmetically elegant than iOSs, since they themselves are translucent off-white colors that don’t reflect light. Therefore, they leave no “white-cast” on the skin, unlike iOSs, which are mineral (pigments) that do reflect light. OS formulations also tend to be less emollient since iOSs require a thicker texture in order to be properly dispersed; it also prevents significant particle aggregation. iOSs = 1; OSs = 1
UV filters “cycle” through ground and excited states.

In Part II: Photostability, Permeability, and Photoreactivity, we learned that:

  1. Photostability: When OSs absorb UV light, they can undergo two divergent pathways of reconfiguration: a reversible one, and irreversible one. The former means that a particular OS will cycle between various photoisomerizable forms, and since a “cycle” has no end, photostability is achieved.  The latter means that a particular OS will form byproducts that cannot be implemented or converted back into its respective “cycle.” Hence, the cycle is broken, and that OS molecule can no longer absorb UV light. And while iOS nanoparticles (NPs) also absorb in addition to scatter light, the rigidity and strength of their crystalline structures allow for increased photostability and structural integrity. Note that, titanium dioxide (TiO2) NPs tend to be less protective than ZnO NPs since the former tends to be smaller in size. Since smaller particles provide less protection than their larger counterparts, that claim certainly has validity and relevancy since many iOSs on the market still don’t utilize nanotechnology. iOSs = 2; OSs = 1
  2. Permeability: Because OSs are lipid-soluble, they more easily penetrate past the stratum corneum (SC) and come into contact with the living tissue of the epidermis. iOSs, on the other hand, are too large to significantly penetrate past the SC of intact skin. iOSs = 3; OSs = 1
  3. Photoreactivity: Both OSs and iOSs are capable of generating free radicals such as reactive oxygen species (ROS), and induce oxidative damage such as lipid peroxidation. However, because oxidative damage is only relevant when the UV filters are in contact with living tissue, it appears that iOSs are less photoreactive than OSs, due to a “better” permeability profile. iOSs =4; OSs = 1
OSs do NOT cause death!

In Part III: Toxicity, which was basically a more realized embodiment of the characteristics discussed in Part II, we learned that:

  1. Toxicity—OS-induced ROS Generation: Over time, the levels of ROS generation from OSs can interfere with important antioxidant enzymes such as thioredoxin reductase, as well as lead to inflammation.
  2. Toxicity—OS-induced Hormonal Activity or Endocrine Disruption: Some OSs at astronomically high concentrations were shown in vitro to have estrogenic effects. However, in vivo, the amount that penetrates past the SC, the other layers of the skin, and is absorbed into the bloodstream, is very small—significantly lower than what’s necessary to elicit a toxic response. Furthermore, most, if not all, of the systemically absorbed OSs and their intermediate metabolites are rapidly conjugated into glucuronides and safely excreted via urine. It was concluded that OSs do not act as “endocrine disruptors” and are safe for routine use.
  3. Toxicity—iOS-induced Damage: Like OSs, iOSs can induce oxidative stress, inflammation, and cellular damage. A number of things are done to reduce these problems – adjusting particle size and clumping tendencies as well as choice in morphology, crystallinity, doping, and coating. There is a lot to consider; the overall heterogeneity of iOS NPs makes determining absolute toxicity quite difficult, if not impossible. When it comes to dermal exposure however, except in extreme scenarios (that involve constant motion, prolonged UV exposure, damaged skin, and high concentrations of iOSs), it can be concluded that iOSs are safe because they don’t significantly penetrate past the SC of intact skin, as noted before. When it comes to systemic exposure, for both iOSs and OSs, sunscreen sprays are discouraged to avoid encountering such risks.
  4. Conclusion: Ultimately, the point was given to iOSs simply because, while iOS NPs are radically more varied than OSs, they appear to have such a safer toxicity profile that I would have to give my vote to iOSs. While neither is anywhere near perfect or even known, the fact that iOSs don’t significantly penetrate the SC and OSs do, makes me more inclined to use sunscreens with inorganic filters, and to consider them as being less toxic. iOSs = 5; OSs = 1

In Part IV: Level of Protection and Practicality, we learned that:

  1. Level of Protection: Both OSs and iOSs have the potential to achieve virtually equal and excellent levels of protection. Therefore, a point was awarded to each side. It was also noted that in most cases, ZnO is superior to TiO2. iOSs = 6; OSs = 2
  2. Practicality: Because iOSs are more photostability, their use is more practical, due to having to apply them less frequently. iOSs = 7; OSs = 2

While the final score of (7-2) may seem lopsided, keep in mind that just because a “team” gets a point, doesn’t mean that it’s perfect in terms of that specific characteristic. Furthermore, each characteristic doesn’t necessarily have the same weight or importance. For example, I consider toxicity as being more important than practicality. However, the score does suggest that OVERALL, INORGANIC SUNSCREENS ARE BETTER THAN ORGANIC ONES!! Great! The battle is FINALLY over! Or is it…?

While it’s now been established that iOSs are better than OSs, what about TiO2 versus ZnO? In Part IV, I briefly discussed why ZnO is in most ways better than TiO2. Since then, however, there have been some follow-up questions and lingering concerns about my assessment. So I’ll be briefly discussing this now.

Why Is Zinc Oxide Better than Titanium Dioxide?

Yes that’s ZnO, so don’t even THINK about snorting that.

Well, as I noted in Part IV, ZnO isn’t always better than TiO2. TiO2 (at a maximum of SPF 38 in the study) was shown to be significantly more adept at attenuating UVB rays than ZnO (reached a maximum of SPF 10 in the study) (13). Keep in mind that while the numbers 10 and 38 are very different, they aren’t THAT different in terms of SPF. Remember that an SPF of 10 blocks 90% of UVB light, while an SPF of 38 blocks about 97%, a difference of about 7%. Still, it’s a statistically meaningful difference.

So there’s just the issue of UVA rays now. As stated in Part IV, this study demonstrated that both (3%) avobenzone and (5%) ZnO increased PFA values by nearly 3-fold when added to 6% oxybenzone; 18.2 and 16.0 respectively. Titanium dioxide at various concentrations (2.4%-9.1%) and with or without oxybenzone, only increased PFA values marginally (8.4-10.5). This indicates that ZnO is better than TiO2 at protecting against UVA1 rays, a claim further supported by the fact that in the past, both the FDA and the Skin Cancer Foundation have not recognized TiO2 to provide adequate protection against UVA1 rays. The latter organization doesn’t even consider TiO2 to sufficiently block UVA1 rays.

Some people have noted that both TiO2 and ZnO have similar critical wavelengths (CWs) that are >370 nm. However, while their CWs are quite similar, that method of UVA determination is not valid alone, since the CW is just the 90th percentile of the integral summation or the “area under the curve” of the absorbance function of a specific UV filter in respect (or relation) to itself; it’s a relative rather than an absolute measure of UVA protection.

If you’re familiar with calculus and wondering how two ingredients with the same CW can provide vastly different levels of actual protection, check out this graph. It doesn’t specifically refer to titanium dioxide nor zinc oxide, but the graph will give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

The other half of UVA determination is the in vivo PPD method. This is a measure of the absolute absorbance curve, which, while it hasn’t been widely used yet, is the best model we have so far. It refers to in-part the amount of energy that is transmitted to the skin after UVA exposure.

Now, if you go to the BASF sunscreen simulator, and do any X% TiO2 and X% ZnO estimation (separately) for 2 g/cm^2 and when they’re in a water or oil phase, you’ll see that the Transmitted UV Dose at 1 MED for TiO2 is almost always DOUBLE the amount of ZnO’s. This is because approximately 94% of the sun’s UV rays is comprised of UVA rays. Only 6% is of the UVB variant. If you look at the red line in the last photo of page three of this article from BASF, you’ll see a graphical representation of this concept (note the areas under the red “line” or curve). So while TiO2 provides more protection in the UVB range, it matters less comparatively, seeing as it allows so much UVA irradiation to reach the skin!

Also, if you play around with the BASF simulator, you’ll see that in most cases in the UVA spectrum:

  • TiO2 provides more protection from about 320-350 nm than ZnO;
  • TiO2 provides less protection from about 350-380 nm than ZnO;
  • TiO2 provides similar protection from about 380-400 nm as ZnO.

If you go back to the photo of the BASF article, you’ll see that sunlight is comprised of more UVA rays in the 350-380 nm range, than there are in the 320-350 nm range. And while I acknowledge that the BASF simulator is just that: a simulator, it certainly has merit and significance, not to mention that the BASF database is overwhelmingly massive and pervasively used. All of this, combined with the other studies mentioned in Part IV, only substantiates the claim that, in most ways ZnO is better than TiO2.

However, several other aspects mentioned in the other parts also make me favor ZnO more than TiO2. For example, ZnO was shown to be less “white” than TiO2, due to a lower refractive index. ZnO NPs also tend to be larger in size than TiO2 NPs. Finally, ZnO NPs tend to be less photoreactive than TiO2 NPs.

Product Recommendations

Nevertheless, protection from UVB rays and UVA2 rays is still VERY important. Therefore, when I make my product recommendations down below (in no particular order), I’ll be choosing products that contain both ZnO and TiO2, preferably with more of the former than the latter; or they contain ZnO with organic UV filter(s) to boost the level of UVB protection.

Also, keep mind that because ROS generation induces and initiates many of the potential negative side effects of both OSs and iOSs; always remember to use antioxidants with your sunscreen! While antioxidants in a sunscreen are good, I typically recommend a separate product to be applied underneath your sunscreen.

Oh one more thing to note, because I live in the United States, I’m only familiar with the products that are readily available over here. Many readers have expressed that they think Asian sunscreens are a lot better than American ones in terms of texture and aesthetics, and I can’t speak on that subject because I personally have no experience with them. However, if you’d like to add a recommendation, please do so down below in the comments section!


  1. Clinique City Block Sheer Daily Face Protector SPF 25 (7.3% TiO2 and 6.9% ZnO): I’ve gone through one bottle of this and even for my oily skin type, this wasn’t too bad. It is slightly tinted and provides sheer coverage, though you’ll most likely need concealer for spots and under the eyes. This also contains several beneficial though not necessarily photoprotective botanical ingredients such as the skin-lightening birch extract, and the calming cucumber extract. Overall, this is a good everyday sunscreen that I’d probably still be using if I had dry skin ($22.49,
  2. EltaMD UV Lotion SPF 30+ (7.5% Octinoxate, 7% ZnO): This is an affordable option for those who aren’t in the sun often and like to be able to just slap on sunscreen, without worrying about having to blend out the white-cast. While I would prefer if this had a bit more ZnO, the price is just undeniable attractive. I have to admit that this provides what I’d deem to be almost below decent/borderline levels of sun protection. So this is definitely not something I’d recommend for people to bring to the beach ($21.50,
  3. Blue Lizard Baby Suncream SPF 30 (10% ZnO, 5% TiO2): Note that this product is identical to the Blue Lizard Sensitive Sunscreen SPF 30+, which is the “adult” version. On the other hand, this is something I would bring to the beach to apply all over the body (except the face). I’ve gone through a bottle of this, and it leaves a slightly greasy residue and white-cast. I personally hate applying this, but I’d imagine that for someone with a drier skin type, this will be a godsend! I believe Dr. Leslie Baumann, the renowned dermatologist, uses this as her daily sunscreen ($19.54,
  4. PCA Skin Perfecting Protection SPF 30 (9.8% ZnO, 7.5% Octinoxate): While pricier than the other options, this is an acceptable choice for those who do not wish or don’t have the time to apply an additional antioxidant serum. To enhance photoprotection, this contains a vitamin E ester, as well as the Silybum marianum extract, which has been shown in multiple studies to strongly prevent UVB-induced immune suppression, oxidative stress, and DNA damage by inhibiting the formation of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs). It also contains some botanical skin “brighteners” such as kojic acid, and the mulberry and licorice extracts. Overall, it’s an interesting formulation with a tad of denatured alcohol/ethanol thrown into the mix to solubilize the ingredients, and fluidize the texture ($19.50, 
[Related: Why Alcohol in Skin Care is Safe, Despite What Paula Begoun Says]


  1. Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Cream SPF 55 (16.3% ZnO, 7.4% Octinoxate, 2.2% TiO2): This is what I’ve been using for the past year or so. There are several pros and cons to this product. While it provides very good protection, the white cast that it leaves is so apparent, even when I mix a bit of foundation into it. I must have gotten at least a dozen comment from friends either saying I’m as white as Edward, or that I should go back indoors before I catch on fire… It’s always something along those lines. This just isn’t very easy to use.  I have to spend a lot of time blending. Once it dries though, it lasts like iron; even my oily skin doesn’t put it a dent in it after 12+ hours. However because of that, the finish is slightly tacky and at the end of the day, it takes several cleansings to remove completely. Overall, it’s a superior sunscreen that unfortunately, is both difficult to apply and remove. To me, I’d rather use something a bit simpler on a day-to-day basis, which brings me to the next product ($29.85,
  2. EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 (9% ZnO, 7.5% Octinoxate): This is for someone who prefers something less thick than the next product, while still providing decent protection. It isn’t very water-resistant but it sits a bit more pleasantly on the skin, due to its silicone base. There’s also a good amount of niacinamide, which while not having any photoprotective characteristics, is anti-inflammatory, and skin lightening ($18.99,
  3. EltaMD UV Pure Broad-Spectrum SPF 47 (10% ZnO, 5.5% TiO2): The texture of this is very thin. It’s also quite water- and transfer-resistant. It doesn’t provide as much protection as the Shiseido, but is still quite good ($19.39,
  4. PCA Skin Active Very Water Resistant SPF 45 (8% ZnO, 7.5% Octinoxate, 3% Octisalate): This is the PCA Skin version of the Shiseido and EltaMD water-resistant sunscreens. Like its cousin that I mentioned above, this is appropriate for those who don’t have time to apply another product underneath this one, and are okay with using something that only provides acceptable levels of sun protection. It contains good amounts of the powerful Silybum marianum extract, as well as a vitamin C ester, though ($23.01,

For an extensive and updated list of sunscreens that I’d recommend, make sure to tune in my blog, when I publish the Ideal Routine and Sun Protection Pages. Here’s the publishing schedule.

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  • Sarah

    I know this article is from a long time ago so I’m not sure if you’ll see this comment, but I enjoyed reading this! Until this article I had been completed satisfied with my Suntegrity tinted moisturizer, which has 20% zinc oxide, but because it is tinted doesn’t leave me looking like a ghost and allows me to skip an additional tinted moisturizer step. I chose it because of its high zinc content, lack of ghost-effect, and pleasing ability to stay on my skin without being drying or oily even if I use a lot for optimum protection. For day-to-day use it seems perfect (still looking for my ideal body sunscreen, but I also have a nice collection of UPF-50 scarfs, hats, and cardigans that I love.)

    However… am I really missing out by not using something that includes a bit of Titanium Dioxide to make sure I’m getting the best full-spectrum coverage possible? I do like some powders that use it, though I am not counting on them to give me anything resembling SPF 15.

    Thanks in advance for any thoughts you can share!

  • @Dayana

    Hey, looking at your complexion, I’m guessing you won’t like a white cast. I can’t believe I didn’t mention it in this article, which I wrote a while ago, but if you can, see if you can order the EltaMD SPF 41 instead of the 47. It provides slightly less UVB protection, but slightly more UVA protection. Plus it’s tinted so there isn’t an obvious white cast.

    Good luck!

  • Dayana

    This is awesome!!

    I have been searching for hours for a sunscreen that has Broad-Spectrum SPF with UVA and UVB protection. AND that has Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide without alcohol in the product. Didn’t realize how few of these products with all the needed stuff actually exist.

    I am ordering now for Amazon Elta MD UV Pure Broad-Spectrum SPF 47.

    Thank so much for your info, you just saved me hours of searching!


  • @Charu Alwani

    It appears that you double posted, so I’ll answer your questions on my blog:

  • Charu Alwani

    Dear John,

    Awesome post on sunscreens!I am an indian girl with medium skin tone. I am 21 years old,have combination skin and am very prone to sun induced pigmentation. Right now I am using elta md uv clear spf 46. I like it because it works for my acneprone skin, and doesnt have any fragrance*alcohol which make my pigmentation worse.
    However because I am using a retinoid at night I really am on the lookout for a better protection sunscreen such as shiseido (high % zno , chemical uv filters etc.),or bioderma max fluid (contains tinosorb s and tinosorb m).Unfortunately the reason I dont like to put these on my skin is because of the high alcohol content and fragrance(like in shiseido). I feel alcohol or any fragrance makes myskin even more sunsensitive making it pigment more instead,also it dries out my skin.
    So would be great if you could suggest me a sunscreen with as good protection as bioderma, shiseido but minus the alcohol and fragrance.
    Lastly what is your view on alcohols in sunscreen? Also I have heard that botanical skin lightening ingredients such as mulberry, licorice , kojic acid e.t.c. +vitamin c serum make skin even more sensitive when exposed to sunlight. So what do you think about sunscreens including these in their ingredients?

  • @Rabia

    Well, I don’t mean to be super picky, but I’ve got to draw the line somewhere… But anyways, I digress. For sunscreens that only contain zinc oxide (ZnO) as the sole provider of protection against UVA-I rays, I draw the line at 9% ZnO, meaning that I won’t recommend products that contain less than 9% ZnO. That being said however, 8.6% is pretty much the same thing, so you can go ahead and try that if you’d like.

    However, the Shiseido product can get a bit greasy-feeling, while being quite thin with the presence of alcohol and some heavier emollients. I’d personally recommend the EltaMD SPF 46 sunscreen, which provides pretty much the same amount of protection. But it’s a lighter, dries completely clear, and is less expensive. It’s completely up to you, though.

    Keep in mind that like I said, these two sunscreens represent the very bottom threshold of sunscreens that I’d recommend in terms of protection against UVA rays, because it’s way easier to achieve excellent protection from UVB rays than UVA ones.

    Does that make sense?

  • Rabia

    Hi, I have combination to acne prone skin which seem to breakout with
    Almost any sunscreen. I wanted to know what do you think about
    Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 42 For Face ,
    Active ingredients – octinoxate 7.4%, octocrylene 3.0%, zinc oxide 8.6%.
    in terms of protection for everyday use, when u r not in the sun much.
    Thank u

  • @phatnancy

    I really appreciate your compliment! And I too wish that I could get my hands on sunscreens that include the Tinosorbs! Dear FDA, PLEASE approve those UV filters NOW!

  • phatnancy

    This has been the BEST sunblock blog post I have ever read. Thank you so much. You should get your hands on Canadian sunblocks they have Mexoryl and Tinsorob. Great UVA filters.

    But really thank you so much for this comprehensive review.

  • @Rebecca

    Well, you should never apply sunscreen sparingly… Lol! And I would love to give you my thoughts on this product! Unfortunately, because the %s of ZnO and TiO2 are not listed (since it appears that this product is based in Europe), I can’t really tell you if you’re getting a lot of protection, though I’m sure you’re getting “enough.” 🙁

    Regardless, just be sure to apply 2.0 mg/cm^2:

  • Rebecca

    Hi John,

    Really interesting post, thanks. I am obsessed with sunscreens, having both fair and oily skin. I have always hated the feel of sunscreen on my skin, and found it led to increased breakouts. UNTIL! About a year and a half ago I found Kimberly Sayer’s Ultra Light moisturizer, SPF 30. This stuff feels amazing on my skin — so light and doesn’t increase oiliness at all. My only question, is it really effective sun protection? It has zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in it, but it also specifies that you are supposed to apply it sparingly.

    If you could give me your opinion, I would really appreciate it!

  • @Bri

    This product is one of the strongest ones in terms of overall sun protection from the EltaMD line. In terms of whiteness however, I actually haven’t seen any good swatches or reviews of this product. And I haven’t tried it myself, so I don’t really know HOW much it’s tinted and how it looks in direct sunlight.

    I’ve read many reviews on Dermstore and MakeUpAlley that are on both sides of this issue. But yeah, I’ve recommended this multiple times in the past based on its theoretically evaluated level of protection, and the fact that it’s tinted.

    What are your thoughts on in it terms of whiteness? How does it look in direct sunlight? Level of coverage? What’s your natural skin tone (i.e. NC/NW 25)? Texture? Does it tend to ball up? Longevity? Appropriateness for oily skin types?

    But yes, keep using this if you like it!

  • Bri

    Because of the concern for the “whiteness” of the sunscreens, I really like the EltaMD UV Physical Broad Spectrum SPF 41 Sunscreen – it’s TINTED, so it never looks too white!
    Zinc Oxide 9.0%, Titanium Dioxide 7.0%

    what do you think John?

  • @Caz

    Well, just look for sunscreens that contain high amounts of ZnO and/or TiO2. But that’s a very general rule. It would help if you told me your general area, since it doesn’t appear that you live in the US.

  • Caz

    Hi Thanks for the info, I had heard about the toxic effects of some of the non-organic sunscreens and that had me alarmed, particularly for use on our 12 month old. Could you tell me what you would recommend for infants face/body? (I saw the blue lizard one but haven’t seen it locally)

  • @Amy

    Hm, being so pale, you’re lucky because you can use just about any inorganic-based sunscreen that contains high %s of zinc oxide and a good amount of some other stable UVA/UVB booster such as titanium dioxide, octinoxate, and/or octocrylene. You don’t have to worry about a white cast. Therefore, the Shiseido Lotion is fine! The Cream version is just more white than the Lotion version, at least since the two were reformulated.

    The Cream version is also less oily, but more sticky as well in the sense that it doesn’t become as transfer-resistant.

    So keep up the good work with the diligent sunscreen use! As for the FutureDerm Vitamin C product… well, I have my reservations about it. I’ll be writing a detailed review on my own skin care blog after I’ve tried the product itself. Maybe hold off purchasing until then?

    And don’t worry about rambling, because you didn’t! 🙂

  • Amy

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    I’ve been obsessed with sunscreen the past 3 years or so ever since I’ve learned exactly how damaging UV rays can be.
    Which sunscreen would you recommend me? I am extremely fair even though I am Chinese and recently quite oily (though not extremely so). Think…no consumer brand foundation has ever matched my skin. I use either Graftobian HD Crème in Porcelain or MAC Face and Body in White (it doesn’t make me any paler. It’s a sheer foundation, but I’ve built it up to 3 layers without looking any paler haha). I also live in Hawai’i. I’m currently using Shiseido’s Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion+ Broad Sprectrum SPF 50+ for my face and am quite happy with it (I didn’t encounter issues with white cast because a well…I have a ghastly complexion haha). Do you recommend the cream version more?

    Can you also recommend a good sunscreen for my body that sits well under makeup (yes, sometimes I do extreme looks that require body painting)?

    Also, do you think I should incorporate FutureDerm’s Vitamin C&E Serum into my regime? I am 17 and do have some hyper pigmentation from either the sun or the mild hormonal acne that decided to finally pay me a visit during the past 8 months or so.

    Thank you so much! Hope I haven’t rambled on too much!

  • @Sarah

    You’re welcome! 🙂

  • @Tiffany Martin

    Hm, well if your friend is quite fair (which I believe is likely due to her hair color) and doesn’t mind the whiteness of inorganic-based sunscreens, the EltaMD SPF 47 is probably her best bet. It provides the best overall protection of all the sunscreens listed here.

    It is quite white, but also very matte and transfer- and water-resistant. It really does stay put well!

  • Sara

    Thank you so much for this brilliant post! I love this site. It is a pity that I have not discovered it earlier.

  • Hey John, love this article (I finally got to it, it’s a lot to absorb). Your comments about the product not having to have contact with the skin blew me away. I had also heard that sunscreen was supposed to be the first thing you apply on your skin >_> so I’m glad that’s not true as I’d rather prioritize retinols and vit c serums.

    I wanted to ask you what hardcore sunscreen you’d recommend to someone athletic and ginger-toned (ie burns easily). It’d have to provide excellent protection, stick to skin that’s very sweaty, and be cheap enough to reapply constantly. I’m trying to help a friend who burns too much while playing outdoor sports and with only my novice understanding of beauty chemistry (even with the fantastic help of your comprehensive dissertation ^_^) sunscreen formulations are too advanced for me to correctly analyze.


  • @Josephine

    Nope, since it only contains TiO2. 🙁 Next. Lol!

  • Josephine

    Clarins UV Plus HP SPF 40 Day Screen?

  • @Angela

    Yep I saw your email. Too bad the email from Skinceuticals still doesn’t reveal any new information. Haha! Oh well.

  • Angela

    Just received this email response. I guess it’s a new formulation but I can’t see ingredients, etc.

    Thank you for contacting Skinceuticals. The Physical UV Defense SPF 30 has a new formulation. Please follow the link below for more information on the new Physical UV Defense SPF 30! If there is anything else we may assist you with please email or call 1-800-771-9489.

    Customer Service

  • @Josephine

    It’s a very good organic-based sunscreen, though I wish it had more octocrylene. The only other thing that makes me hesitate (besides the fact that I prefer inorganic sunscreens), is the price. If you’re applying the adequate 2.0 mg/cm^2, you’ll be going through bottles very quickly.

    But other than those aspects, this sunscreen is fine!

  • Josephine
  • @Tres


  • Tres

    Thanks, John!!

  • @Chloe

    That’s great to hear about the baby!

    Now, the base ingredients of the first sunscreen suggest that it’s not very emollient. In addition, the inclusion of alcohol will allow the texture to be more fluid and less greasy. However, the high amount of many types of oil-soluble organic UV filters (especially octocrylene) may make the texture quite greasy in texture. So it really depends on whether or not you think it’s acceptable for daily wear. I mean I can’t really tell you if it’s too heavy for daily use, since you’re the one using it! 🙂 I can tell you that the level of protection is quite good though.

    Unfortunately, I can’t evaluate the second sunscreen since the concentrations of the UV filters are not listed.

    The third sunscreen is fine too. It’s doesn’t provide as much protection as the first one, but is acceptable for everyday use. The most important thing is that you apply enough!

  • Chloe

    Thanks John! My baby is super protected by the sun. ; ) I will buy and try Josie Maran SPF 40 sunscreen next time. Meanwhile, can I get your opinion on following three sunscreens?

    I bought this product on my way back from Asia. It contains both iOS & OSs. Maybe good for the beach but too heavy to use it daily?
    Shiseido Anessa Perfect UV sunscreen – SPF 50 PA+++
    Active ingredients: Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate 7.494% Zinc Oxide 8.360% Octocrylene 3.000% Polysilicone-15 3.000% Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate 1.000% Bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine 0.500%
    Ingredients: Cyclomethicone, water, ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, zinc oxide, alcohol, dimethicone, ethylhexylpalmitate, talc, isododecane, polymethylsilsesquioxane, octocrylene, polysilicone-15, titanium dioxide, polybutylene glycol/PPG-9/1 copolymer, trimethylsiloxysilicate, methyl gluceth-10, diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate, nis-ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine, C9-15 flouroalcohol phosphate, dipotassium glycyrrhizate, gentiana urnula flower extract, sodium hyaluronate, thymus serpillum extract, potentilla erecta root extract, PEG-9 polydimethylsiloxyethyl dimethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, acrylates/ dimethicone copolymer, isostearic acid, sodium acryloyldimethyltaurate/ methyacrylamindolauric acid copolymer, disteardimonium hectorite, alumina, butylene glycol, triethoxycaprylylsilane, trisodium EDTA, BHT, phenoxyethanol, fragrance

    My sister wants to use this as a daily sunscreen. What do you think?:
    Shiseido Anessa Babycare Sunscreen SPF 34 PA+++

    My current sunscreen.. Any good?:
    Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50
    5% Zinc Oxide And 6% Titanium Dioxide. Water, Dimethicone, Isododecane, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Undecane, Triethylhexanoin, Isohexadecane, Nylon-12, Caprylyl Methicone, Butyloctyl Salicylate, PhenetIyl Benzoate, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Silica, Tridecane, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Dicaprylyl Ether, Talc, Dimethicone/peg-10/15 Crosspolymer, Aluminum Stearate, Pentylene Glycol, PEG-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Alumina, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Magnesium Sulfate, Caprylyl Glycol, PEG-8 Laurate, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Tocopherol, Propylene Carbonate, Artemia Extract, Benzoic Acid, PEG-9, D41547/1.

  • @Tres

    I have not tried any of the sunscreens mentioned. However, just a look at the ingredients tells me that I wouldn’t recommend any of them. 🙁

    Jan Marini sunscreens— All of them do not provide adequate UVA protection with only 1% avobenzone.

    RevaleSkin— It is far too expensive. I never recommend sunscreens that are expensive because you have to apply so much to achieve the labeled SPF rating. Also this product provides barely any UVA protection. So naturally, I wouldn’t recommend it.

    Neocutis— While this provides decent UVA protection with about 7% ZnO, the price is astronomically high. Many of the sunscreens on this list are very similar or even better to that product… so yeah.

    As with mixing sunscreens, yes the selections from Olay and Nia24 may not be the best to use with the CE Ferulic, as indicated in this post:

    But in terms of EltaMD, there are several options that don’t contain niacinamide, such as the SPF 47 sunscreen mentioned on this list. Also, in this post I found an almost exact dupe for the EltaMD SPF 46, which many readers have come to love, but the dupe doesn’t contain niacinamide. Check out those posts if you’d like!

    Does that all make sense?

  • Tres

    Have you tried Neocutis Journee Bio-Restorative Day Cream with PSP w/SPF 30+ or Revaleskin Day Cream with Coffeeberry SPF 15, or any of the Jan Marini sunscreens? I’m looking for a new multi-tasker (anti-aging, antioxidants, moisture and sunscreen) since the Nia24, Olay, and EltaMD can’t be mixed with CE Ferulic.

  • @Angela

    Sure thing, let me know. 🙂

  • Angela

    Maybe it was an email glitch or a just new 50ml sized bottle or something. Hmm..not sure. I’ve used their Physical Fusion UV Defense 50 and their Sheer Physical UV Defense 50 but hadn’t tried the plain Physical UV Defense 30, recommended for post-procedure use. I’ll check it out.

  • @Angela

    Very cool! If you can get me a full ingredients list, I’d be happy to give you my opinion on it.

  • Angela

    I just got an email about it from Skinceuticals…a new product. Maybe it’s not on the site yet. Weird!

  • @Angela

    I don’t think that’s a new product, but even if it is, I can’t see the full ingredients list nor can I find any product with that name. However, it most likely is adequate at the very least. The only reason I don’t recommend Skinceutical sunscreens is because the percents of inorganic UV filters used tend to be a little low. Also, they tend to be more pricey than the options mentioned above. But they are in general, good sunscreens. 🙂

  • Angela
  • @Lucas

    Oops, I didn’t mean to make it sound awful. I mean, every organic filter has “problems” as do inorganic ones. The latter group just has less. But ensulizole is great in the sense that because it’s water-soluble, it can be incorporated into a product to make it less greasy, and that’s something we all want in our sunscreens. 🙂

    Also, most organic filters are quite small, so that feature isn’t exclusive to Ensulizole.

    Thanks for commenting!

  • Lucas

    Yes, it does.
    The sunscreen I was looking into is pretty great, but has a lot of Ensulizole, and this UV filter has too many problems. I read it’s also quite small, increasing skin penetration. It’s jut not worth it.

    Thanks again!

  • @Lucas

    It’s fine. I’ll give you a brief summary. Ensulizole is a good UVB-absorbing compound. However, like most organic UV filters, it has issues with stability, free radical generation, and photosensitivity. Studies have been shown that while Ensulizole provides efficient protection against UVB-induced damage, it can act as a photosensitizer and encourage the formation of oxidized guanines; guanine is a specific base type in DNA. This is a form of DNA damage, similar to CPD formation. And while the addition of cyclodextrins inhibits the rate of photosensitization, why take that risk?

    Ultimately, ensulizole is somewhat of a double-edged sword when it comes to photoprotection. Therefore, like I’ve demonstrated in this five-part series, with the sometimes exception of the Tinosorbs, inorganic UV filters are almost always “better” and preferred over organic ones.

    Does that make sense?

  • Lucas


    I know specific sunscreen filters aren’t the topic in this series, but here I am asking about a particular one again.
    I wanted to know what you think about ensulizole (phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid), since it seems like a great UVB filter and its salt, which is water soluble, seems to give a very light feeling/non-oily finish. I wanted to know if there are any concerns with this substance, like how well does it penetrate the skin, does it present strogenic properties, etc, basically if there are any drawbacks, because I couldn’t find any thing problematic with it.


  • @Chloe

    I LOVE LOVE your enthusiasm!! As for water-resistant sunscreens, it is just my personal opinion that you might as well use them all the time since this characteristic will reduce the chances of accidentally wiping or sweating off your sunscreen. I mean, who wants to bother with that and having to reapply on a regular basis?

    But yeah, I stand by the recommendations listed in the post! Though I forgot to include one product in the dry skin category: the Josie Maran SPF 40 sunscreen. It’s quite excellent.

    Finally, congrats on your baby girl! I hope she’s healthy now and forever. 🙂 But yes, the Blue Lizard SPF 30 sunscreen is perfectly fine for her. However, it’s my recommendation to just avoid UV exposure to the best of your ability. Use protective clothing; give her a big hat! But yeah, if you must use sunscreen for her, this formulation is probably the most appropriate. And it shouldn’t be too heavy. Baby skin has significantly less sebaceous or oil glands.

    I hope that helps and the best of luck!

  • @Trae

    Thanks for reading the series. I wouldn’t be here without all of you dedicated readers.

    And great stories! Yay for good sunscreens! I personally don’t love the Daily SPF 40 because of the “whipped” texure you describe. The petrolatum and palmitic acid contents just don’t sit very well with me, pun intended. Lol! But as long as it works for you. If you like the texture, that means you’ll be more likely to apply more. And you can never have too much sunscreen!

    Thanks for commenting!

  • Chloe

    Hi John,

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog posts, especially this one as top dermatologists say that sunblock is most important in skin care regime. I was wondering about water-resistant sunscreens. If you are using it only in the city, do you still need your sunscreen water-resistant? Could you please recommend for daily sunblock product regardless budget? My quick skin profile – I am asian with dry skin and I apply tretinoin (airol 0.05 cream) twice a week. The main goal is to reduce wrinkles under my eyes and sun spots. (My volunteer work in college in Ethiopia was lovely but gave me sun spots.)

    Also, I have 7 month old baby girl. I am assuming I should apply sunscreen on her too. Would Blue Lizard Baby Suncream SPF 30 too heavy for her for day to day? she will THANK YOU when she has a lovely skin when she is older, hehe.

    Many thanks!

  • Trae

    Hey John

    Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading this series (thanks for researching and writing it ^_^) and that I like your product recommendations.

    I can totally vouch for the efficacy of EltaMD UV Pure: I wore that while hiking last summer in mid-day Southern California sun (UV index was in the ‘Extreme’ range) and shared it with some of my friends. Without sunscreen, I will burn in literally just a couple of minutes in the sun, and the friends I was with tan extremely easily, but after our 3-hour hike, there were absolutely zero burns or tans on any of us, and my friends didn’t develop any color the following day — I was completely amazed at how well that sunscreen performed.

    I’ve also tried samples I’ve received of UV Clear, and it’s a very elegant and lightweight screen, well-suited for activities like running errands, as you suggested, and I could see how it’d be a good choice for oily skin. My favorite sunscreen from EltaMD still seems to be UV Daily SPF 40, as I *really* like the texture of it — it’s hard to describe, but it’s kind of like a ‘whipped’ or ‘airy’ cream that applies very nicely on my skin. When I think I’ll be getting more exposure from daily activities or the UV index is going to be high, though, I still have a tendency to use UV Physical SPF 41, even though it doesn’t feel as nice ._. LOL

    I’ve tried the Obagi SunShield one that Fernando mentioned, and it also wears nicely, though I agree with him that it does dry very matte, same with DCL Super Sheer SPF 50. The latter apparently PPD tested at 16, which is impressive, though I don’t know if that’s per their internal testing or an additional result they received when it was sent for official SPF testing, but still a reassuring piece of info, nonetheless.

    Admittedly I’ve been wanting to try some of the Shiseido sunscreens for quite a while now ’cause I’ve heard that they have some amazing product textures and tend to contain high concentrations of ZnO, but I’ve also read that they’re best-suited for normal-to-oily skintypes, and mine is pretty much the complete opposite, so I’m not sure how well they’d do for me…still, I may give one of them a shot in the near future just to assuage my curiosity about their sunscreens, if nothing else LOL -_^

    Thanks again for the great series !

  • @Linda

    I’m glad that you learned something useful! But yeah, to help you (even) better understand inorganic vs organic, organic UV filters include the element carbon. Inorganic ones do not. Clearly, TiO2 and ZnO only include the elements: titanium, zinc, and oxygen. 🙂

    Again you’re super welcome; I’m happy to help.

    And finally, nice job for not falling prey to those luxury brands amd those tempting claims. While there are expensive brands such as Skinceuticals, brands by Topix, and Estee Lauder that have some truly fantastic products, generally-speaking there are a lot more misses than hits at the department stores.

    Good luck to you too!

  • Linda

    Important and great clarificiation for me! It sure seems like the physical sunscreens would be called “organic” and it’s interesting that all things are “chemicals”! I obviously have a social science degree :).. I learned something new again! I’ll be excited to check out your site. I appreciate the references and your final paragraph is the answer, summed up beautifully that I have been searching for, for years! I understand the “white factor”, I am able to cancel it out with some foundation and color but it is a challenge. Ha! Asian Edward! I will be cutting and pasting and laminating and framing your responses to my comments as all of my questions and concerns and research (step away from the internet!) just got answered in ONE PLACE!! 😉 For great skincare I have been so impressed by not falling for all the luxury brand items in department stores (they are so tempting and alluring) and spending my money and time finding 1) the most effective and practical sunscreens 2) the most effective and practical retinols 3) the most effective and practical alpha hydroxy acids 4) same for antioxidants. Best of luck in your skincare pursuits!!!! 🙂

  • @Linda

    As always, you are too kind! Btw, just to make things clear: Inorganic = physical (TiO2, ZnO); organic = “chemical” (avobenzone, oxybenzone, etc…). Keep in mind that everything in this world including TiO2 and ZnO are chemicals though. It’s just that people associate “chemical” sunscreens with avobenzone, etc…

    And no, sunscreens don’t need to “bind” to any skin cells in order to function. If that were true, organic sunscreens would not be able to absorb any UV rays via in-vitro tests when they’re applied to a glass plate. And we all know that’s not true. The “binding” process is just describing that sunscreens need to set on the skin, meaning that they aren’t easily removed by manual actions, such as when you brush your face with your fingers.

    But, it’s great to hear that you’re so diligent with reapplication. While I don’t personally do it, it can’t hurt. I covered the subject of reapplication a bit in the comments section of this post:

    But, I’m definitely going to do a post on this in the future either here or on my blog:, just so more people can see it.

    And to answer your question, at equal concentrations (for example 10% ZnO vs 10% Tinosorb M or S), both Tinosorbs crush ZnO in terms of both UVB and UVA protection, except ZnO is much better than Tinosorb S when considering UVA >380 nanometers. So in terms of just photoprotection (not considering aesthetics, irritation potential, toxicity, etc…) the Tinosorbs are fantastic! So I reiterate, your current product is just fine and dandy! You can try the Shiseido but it is quite white. Like I said in the post, I’m like an Asian Edward with it on. Lol!

  • Linda

    You’re the best, John! What a treasure to find all of my research (months) in one place and one person to tie all my loose ends and questions together! I actually just felt relief from the confusion!! I thought inorganic (chemical) sunscreens needed to bind with your skin cells so I’ve been very carfeful about only applying an antioxidant under bioderma photoderm max and even then I was worried the sunscreen wouldn’t bind? I’m ultra diligent about sunscreen since sun it’s close to the #1 cause of premature aging! Yes, a little obsessed! When I go to lunch or know that my 6 am, first application of sunscreen is probably wearing thin, I apply the Shiseido since I understood the organic sunscreen is physically deflecting rays as opposed to needing to bind. I do apply it over my makeup since I’m at work and it does kind of make my makeup disappear but it’s usually time for a quick re-application, refresher anyway so I do a quick application of Mac studio fix and some minor touch ups to finish the day. I’d rather do this than expose my skin to the sun for 12 hours. Do you believe the tinosorbs are slightly superior to Zinc in catching the most aging UVA rays as I’ve seen on charts? Or should I stop buying this product via Europe and stick with a high % of zinc? The Shiseido does impress me because it’s one of the few easy to find sunscreens with a high % of zinc, although I know they won’t disclose if their particles are nano. Gosh, I’m so happy to find and meet you via this fabulous site!!!! Hope my comments and your replies can be a little help to someone else interested in saving their skin! 🙂

  • @Linda

    Thank you very much! And I’m happy to help everyone out!

    You’re right that both Tinosorbs provide excellent UVA protection, so the Photoderm products should be fine. I can’t seem to find complete ingredient lists in English, but oh well. The most important thing is to apply enough and make sure to not stay in the sun for TOO long.

    Also, note that zinc oxide doesn’t actually degrade avobenzone all that much because that usually occurs only when zinc oxide comes into direct contact with avobenzone. These days, almost all sunscreen-grade zinc oxide (and titanium dioxide) are coated, which minimizes this interaction. However, most formulators don’t include both because avobenzone is already so unstable. Why add to that? Not to mention that it would be a bit redundant.

    Also, sunscreen should be the last step in your skin care routine, especially if they’re inorganic. So don’t apply them to “clean” skin if you’re going to apply additional things; makeup being the exception. I’m curious how you apply sunscreen on top of your makeup, though… Doesn’t it smear everything and make your face look uneven, etc? I can’t imagine doing that haha! Feel free to share. 🙂

    And I think your regimen is fine. CE Ferulic + Photoderm sunscreen make for a potent combination against UV rays. But note that nothing can COMPLETELY prevent free radicals from forming in the skin. But that combination should greatly inhibit the generation of ROS.

    I hope that makes sense!

  • Linda

    Wow, what a great post! I’ve spent a very, very long time researching what sunscreen will best prevent aging! My findings are that UVA causes the most aging. I also have found over and over again that Tinosorb S and M are the BEST blocks for the spectrum of UVA rays. I used to layer OS over iOS when I was in full sun all day, thinking this was the best of both worlds until I found that zinc will deactivate avobenzone. My understanding is that Bioderma Photoderm products are the best of the best for anti aging sun protection. I use Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection 60 when I’m reapplying sunscreen during the day (on top of my makeup) since I’m assuming the iOS should be applied to clean skin only. I also use CE Ferulic in the morning to prevent all the free radicals caused by many of these sunscreens! What would be your response to this regimen and product comments? I appreciate all of your research and your generosity in sharing your hard work!

  • @Chloe

    I don’t think I’ve actually done a full post on what antioxidants should be applied before sunscreens. I’ve brought up this topic multiple times in the past, and just let people choose their own antioxidant products because there are SO many out there. However, maybe I should do a post on this because (obviously) not all antioxidants have the same capacity to protection the skin from UV rays… Hm, what do you think? I’d of course include product recommendations!

    But something like the Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Serum (and the multiple dupes out there) will work fine. We are actually coming out with our own version of this serum very soon, so stay tuned! Also the Paula’s Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum works well from personal experience. The Estee Lauder Nutritious Serum and Moisturizer, MAC Prep and Prime Brightening… yeah there are so many out there!

  • Chloe

    Thank you for all of the great info!! It has really helped me in my search for the right sunscreen.
    You mentioned in your sunscreen recommendations section that it is important to put on antioxidants as well as the sunscreen. I was wondering which antioxidant products you like.
    Let me know if you have posted about this before and I’m just missing it!

  • @Magdalena

    Hey, thanks for keeping up with us! It’s greatly appreciated.

    The Olay SPF 50 is indeed a great product, and I’m guessing that the tackiness comes from its water-resistant capacities. Furthermore such a high amount of organic UV filters can certainly make the formulation a bit greasy feeling. So of the four products I recommended, I’d definitely say that the EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 would be right for you. It doesn’t provide the most amount of protection, but it is the most pleasant in terms of texture and finish. It’s not too water-proof so it won’t feel sticky or tacky, and its watery silicone base applies like a dream, without leaving much of a white cast. It’s also similarly priced as the Olay SPF 50, so it’s not hurting your budget!

    I hope that helps. 🙂

  • Magdalena

    Hey John,

    I am playing catch up on Future Derm posts and it was so great to come across your series! So informative and detailed…thanks for taking the time…I have learned a lot!

    I have been using Olay Regenerist UV Defense Regenerating lotion – SPF 50 for the last few years and I like that it does the job in protecting my skin. What I don’t like so much is the fact that I have oily skin and this product does tend to leave a tacky feel.

    Also, I am Latina with light carmel skin, if I don’t mix this lotion with make-up, it certainly leaves my skin with a white hue, but I keep using this product, because it does protect my skin well.

    That being said, I am interested in trying one of the four products you recommend for oily skin and would like your suggestion on which one you feel has the least oily/tacky feel on the skin? Any information is most appreciated! Thanks Again!

  • @Joyce

    Well, that’s because inorganic sunscreens can have such diversity. In Part III, remember how we talked about particle size, aggregation, morphology, etc…? Well those can all influence the level of protection, not to mention the vehicular base and the other ingredients included. However, I personally don’t think that they can influence ratings by THAT much.

    While the FDA does regulate SPF ratings when it comes to product labeling, I personally don’t trust products with low %s of inorganic filters that claim super high SPF values. It’s just physically and chemically improbable. Not to mention that the SPF ratings don’t reveal how much UVA protection is provided. It’s better to be safe, than sorry.

    Therefore, it’s my opinion and recommendation to stick with products that contains higher %s of UV filters, regardless of what the label says, unless of course the SPF rating is less than 15!

  • Joyce

    Hey John, I was curious how a sunscreen with a lesser percentage of active ingredients could have a higher SPF in comparison to another product? Specifically, I was comparing Neutrogena’s Sensitive Skin Sunblock (4.9% TiO and ZnO 4.7%) with SPF 60+ to the EltaMD UV Pure Broad Spectrum. How would this work? Thanks!

  • @Georgina

    I’m glad to hear you that you’ve found something you like! The first several search results for this product were in other language, so I’m not sure how readily available this is haha! Oh well, thanks for sharing!

  • My favorite sunscreen find is Bioscreen Solaire 50+ for sensitive skin. I don’t know if it’s available in the U.S, I buy it through my cosmetic surgeon here in Bahrain. I have to be super careful with the sun as I have regular laser sessions, and live in an extremely hot and sunny climate. I also have sensitive skin that is prone to oiliness and breaking out, but don’t experience either with this. I just adore it. Gx

  • @Phyrra

    Ooh you are super pale! I’d imagine if I were that light, with a more pink/cool undertone, I’d be able to pull off any sunscreen, too. I love that you’re so into foundation.

    But then again, you’re into all types of makeup. Haha. 🙂

  • @John

    I apply all my skincare products to my face, neck, décolleté and hands. I’m paler than N10. Some of my best foundation matches include NARS Siberia, Urban Decay Naked Skin .5, Illamasqua Skin Base in 2 (or a 50/50 mix of 1 and 4), and Meow Cosmetics Inquisitive Siamese. So for me, it doesn’t really cause any issues.

  • @Rafael

    Haha it’s no problem with the CAPS issue. I’m sorry to hear that; I know how annoying that can appear. And thank you for your kind words. 🙂







  • @Fernando

    Hey as long as you’ve found something that works for you! Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  • Fernando

    I’ve been meaning to try the EltaMD Clear SPF 46, but for the last few weeks I have been using the Obagi Nu-Derm Sun Shield SPF 50 and I really like it! It has a great matte finish, feels weightless and at least for me doesn’t leave any white-cast. I can tell I’ve applied sunscreen, but it’s not exactly a white-cast, and no one else notices a difference, even though I use a different sunscreen for my neck (tinosorb based).

    These were great posts! Can’t wait for your next topic.

  • @Cupcake

    It certainly can. If they are both iOSs, if the one you mix into the original susncreen, has less protection, them obviously you’ll be “diluting” your original sunscreen. But if your foundation or BB has more protection, then you’ll be getting more protection. It also depends of course, on how much you’re mixing into the original sunscreen. Is it like a few drops, or half and half, etc…

    Just use common sense and good judgment. And remember that any protection is better than none at all!

  • @Phyrra

    Thanks for giving me your opinion! I’ll have a better idea of what to expect in person. And I also embrace my paleness! But when I use something like the Shiseido SPF 55, I have to apply sunscreen on my neck too (Blue Lizard Sensitive SPF 30+ for now), in order for my neck and face to match. And maybe I’m applying too MUCH, but I swear, even with mixed with foundation and set with a powder, I’m like NC10 in the the sun! Ack. I’m pale (NC20), but not THAT pale. 🙁

    Guess I’ll just have to see with the Supergoop.

  • @Erica

    I’m super glad to hear that one of my recommendations is your HG sunscreen! Or one of. 🙂 Yay.

  • @Sarah

    PPD ratings, like SPF, can vary depending on a variety of factors including the choice of UV filter, the vehicle, use of coating, crystallinity, morphology, etc… The best thing that you can do is just look for a product with the highest amount of UV filters that you can tolerate, and/or is cosmetically acceptable, and stay out of the sun as much as if possible.

    Unfortunately, there are no PPD simulations anymore. The BASF one that I linked above used to have it, but for some reason it was taken down. You can look at the graphs by clicking “show graphs” on the top left hand corner, and estimate how much UV light is transmitted to the skin based on wavelength.

    For example, if you do 5% TiO2 in a water phase at 2g/cm^22, you’ll see that at 290-320 nm, it provides a simulated SPF rating of about 10. At 320 nm (which is the shortest UVA ray), it provides a UVA-PF (PPD) of about 5. Then at 400 nm (which is the longest UVA ray(, the UVA-PF is closer to 2. And that’s at 1 MED. And based on the UV spectral profile of TiO2 (which is quite linear in the UVA range), you can probably average the two boundary UVA values to come up with the “average” UVA-PF (PPD) rating. In our scenario, 5% TiO2 would provide a UVA-PF of about 2.5 or 3.

    While I admit that it’s difficult and possibly inaccurate to extrapolate this data and apply to your personal sunscreen, it may give you an idea of how things operate.

    I hope that helps!

  • @Max

    They are different, which is really too bad! In the EU, ZnO is ironically not approved yet for use, because the “nano” version has not been shown to be safe for some reason. Non-nano ones were shown to be safe. However, because they are not differentiated, both types have to pass the EU tests.

    On the other hand, the FDA allows 25% of it just like TIO2, and both Japan and Australia don’t even regulate ZnO. Apparently, to them it’s so safe that you could use 100% if you really wanted to in a product. Haha! And both of them still only allow 25% of TiO2. So I’m not really sure what’s going on with the EU, and what problems they are encountering.

    So yeah, that’s all I can tell you. 🙁

  • Cupcake

    Does mixing bb cream or foundation into sunblock decrease it’s effectiveness?

  • John,

    I love the Supergoop. It makes me feel like I have a normal face. I have sensitive skin, mild rosacea (just diagnosed) and I’m combo (oily t-zone). With Supergoop, my face does not feel oily. It feels ‘normal,’ which is a refreshing change. I’m already pale and embrace it 🙂

  • Erica

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE the EltaMD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46. the difference between this and the other EltaMD versions is that it contains niacinimide which is great if you’re trying to get rid of spots. I am pale so I don’t have a problem with the zinc white, but I don’t think its that white to begin with. I notice no whiteness once its rubbed in.

  • Sarah

    What an excellent series! I thoroughly enjoyed reading every single part. Thanks for writing such an information and educational piece.

    Can you comment on PPD ratings? I am wondering if you can recommend a few sunscreens with a high PPD rating? Because I have serious pigmentation concerns, and PA rating of even +++ only ensures a PPD rating of at least 8, but I don’t exactly know how much.

    Many thanks in advance!

  • Max

    John: about your recommendation for City Block.
    The City block i see in the US and the City Block we get in Europe seem to be 2 different things. The difference is the Zinc Oxide. In the Eu formula, Zinc Oxide is right at the end.

    Heres’t the EU ingredient list in the UK:

    ingredients: wateraquaeau [] trioctyldodecyl citrate [] titanium dioxide [] butylene glycol [] cyclopentasiloxane [] dimethicone [] c12-15 alkyl benzoate [] steareth-2 [] stearyl heptanoate [] aluminum stearate [] silica [] lecithin [] gentiana lutea (gentian) root extract [] rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract [] hordeum vulgare (barley) extractextrait d’orge [] rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) extract [] betula alba (birch) bark extract [] cucumis sativus (cucumber) fruit extract [] laminaria saccharina extract [] saccharomyces lysate extract [] helianthus annuus (sunflower) seedcake [] sodium hyaluronate [] sorbitan tristearate [] linoleic acid [] polyquaternium-51 [] caprylyl methicone [] sorbitol [] sodium rna [] phospholipids [] peg-40 stearate [] magnesium aluminum silicate [] caprylyl glycol [] tocopheryl acetate [] phytantriol [] stearic acid [] hydrogenated lecithin [] cellulose [] magnesium ascorbyl phosphate [] stearyl dimethicone [] ascorbyl tocopheryl maleate [] nordihydroguaiaretic acid [] linolenic acid [] pantethine [] bisabolol [] hydroxyethyl urea [] ceteth-2 [] peg/ppg-18/18 dimethicone [] polyglyceryl-6 polyricinoleate [] steareth-20 [] isopropyl titanium triisostearate [] propylene glycol dicaprate [] sodium stearate [] nylon-12 [] citric acid [] nylon-6 [] hexylene glycol [] xanthan gum [] disodium edta [] bht [] phenoxyethanol [] titanium dioxide (ci 77891) [] zinc oxide ( ci 77947) [] iron oxides (ci 77491, ci 77492, ci 77499)

    In the US it’s this:

    active ingredients: titanium dioxide 7.30% [] zinc oxide 6.90% ingredients: wateraquaeau [] trioctyldodecyl citrate [] butylene glycol [] cyclopentasiloxane [] dimethicone [] c12-15 alkyl benzoate [] steareth-2 [] stearyl heptanoate [] aluminum stearate [] silica [] lecithin [] gentiana lutea (gentian) root extract [] rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract [] hordeum vulgare (barley) extractextrait d’orge [] rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) extract [] betula alba (birch) bark extract [] cucumis sativus (cucumber) fruit extract [] laminaria saccharina extract [] saccharomyces lysate extract [] helianthus annuus (sunflower) seedcake [] sodium hyaluronate [] sorbitan tristearate [] linoleic acid [] polyquaternium-51 [] caprylyl methicone [] sorbitol [] sodium rna [] phospholipids [] peg-40 stearate [] magnesium aluminum silicate [] caprylyl glycol [] tocopheryl acetate [] phytantriol [] stearic acid [] hydrogenated lecithin [] cellulose [] magnesium ascorbyl phosphate [] stearyl dimethicone [] ascorbyl tocopheryl maleate [] nordihydroguaiaretic acid [] linolenic acid [] pantethine [] bisabolol [] hydroxyethyl urea [] ceteth-2 [] peg/ppg-18/18 dimethicone [] polyglyceryl-6 polyricinoleate [] steareth-20 [] isopropyl titanium triisostearate [] propylene glycol dicaprate [] sodium stearate [] nylon-12 [] citric acid [] nylon-6 [] hexylene glycol [] xanthan gum [] disodium edta [] bht [] phenoxyethanol [] titanium dioxide (ci 77891) [] iron oxides (ci 77491, ci 77492, ci 77499)

    You think these are different formulas? It’s hard to know since EU doesn’t require active ingredient listings.
    Any ideas?
    I ask just because it’s affects your advice about the City Block recommendation.

  • @Phyrra

    You’re welcome! You know, I’ve been itching to try the Supergoop ever since I saw it on Sephora’s website. But I just haven’t had the chance to get into a store and pick one up. And since there’s only 3 reviews on, I can’t really get a good opinion on it. What are your experiences with it? The vehicle ingredients look appropriate for someone with an oily skin type, but I’m nervous about the super high amounts of ZnO and TIO2, which I’m assuming will make me once again, look like a vampire in the sun.

    Let us know what you think! 🙂

  • Love this series! Thank you for sharing!
    I’m currently using Supergoop SPF 50 – Octinoxate (Sunscreen) 7.5%, Octocrylene (Sunscreen) 3%, Titanium Dioxide (Sunscreen) 3.3%, Zinc Oxide (Sunscreen) 20%.
    LaVanila the Healthy Face SPF 40 (Zinc Oxide 5.0%, Titanium Dioxide 7.5%)

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