Let’s cut to the chase: It’s a little-known fact that most skincare experts prefer physical sunscreens to chemical sunscreens. Physical sunscreens, which include zinc oxide and titanium oxide, provide protection by blocking or deflecting UV light. On the other hand, chemical sunscreens like avobenzone, oxybenzone, and Parsol 1789 work by absorbing UV light, and then transforming that light energy (photons) into some other form of energy such as heat. I mean, think about it this way: If you could prevent intruders from entering your house, or transform them into friendly (but still uninvited) visitors, which would you do? I know that I would prevent them from entering altogether!
While the FDA does have regulatory oversight over whether or not any sunscreens — physical or chemical — are effective, there exists no comprehensive testing when it comes to how stable these compounds are in various formulations. Which is why you often hear things about avobenzone breaking down in the presence of the very UV light it was meant to block, or in combination with octinoxate (read more). On the other hand, you hear fewer reports indicating that zinc oxide and titanium oxide are unstable in UV light. I personally also notice fewer sunspots and changes to my skin when I use zinc oxide and titanium oxide.
Amongst the physical sunscreens, however, I further discriminate and choose zinc oxide over titanium oxide. It is a little-known fact that zinc oxide is better than titanium oxide. This is because UVA and UVB rays are separated into longer UVA (UV-aging) and shorter UVB (UV-burning), and zinc oxide blocks a significantly longer portion of UVA rays (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2005).
The thing about zinc oxide is that it is not cosmetically appealing much of the time. It tends to be white and chalky, and it often leaves telltale white streaks. Which is why I’m happy to report that Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Sunscreen SPF 50 has a fair amount of silicones that help zinc oxide glide across the skin, and silica to help light reflect, giving this sunscreen a nice, natural sheen. (Or as nice and natural as you can get with 21.6% zinc oxide).
Personal Use and Opinions
How much you like Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Sunscreen SPF 50 depends on how much you are in the Skincare Camp versus the Cosmetics Camp. For instance, I’m sold on anything that is anti-UV — I’m big on the huge hats and oversized sunglasses and zinc oxide and really don’t care what I look like day-to-day — whereas I have friends who are huge on the makeup blogging and don’t really want to be seen with me adorned in the hat, big sunglasses, and the white-faced zinc oxide. So it depends.
.Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Sunscreen SPF 50 glides across the skin well, but it does make your skin look more white. It is the best zinc oxide formula I’ve used to date, and will be swearing by it from now on, but, again, it’s not going to be palatable for people who are religious about bronzer and/or tanning and/or makeup looking a certain way.
If you’re somewhere in the middle of wanting to look good everyday and not caring what you look like in the name of good skincare (that’s me), Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Sunscreen SPF 30 has 3% less zinc oxide (18.24% versus 21.6% in the SPF 50 version), and is somewhat more cosmetically appealing.
If you’re a skincare fanatic, it’s hard to beat the UVA/UVB protection from Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Sunscreen SPF 50. It does make your skin look somewhat more white, which may not be appealing to those who prefer a tan or those with darker skin tones to begin with, but it works.
Ingredients in Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Sunscreen SPF 50
Active ingredients: Zinc oxide 21.6%
Inactive ingredients: Water, C12-15 Alkyl benzoate, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Octyldodecyl Citrate Crosspolymer, Phenyl Trimethicone, Cetyl PEG/PPG 10/1 Dimethicone, Dimethicone, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Glycerin, Ethyl Methicone, Cetyl Dimethicone, Silica, Chrysanthemum Parthenium (Feverfew) Flower/Stem/Leaf Juice, Glyceryl Behenate, Phenethyl Alcohol, Caprylyl Glycol, Cetyl Dimethicone/Bis-Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Acrylates/Dimethicone Copolymer, Sodium Chloride, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin
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