Are you a crispy critter in the sun ? What’s that song? The Best Is Yet To Come … The virtues and health benefits of sunscreens continue to be well documented and with good reason . But have you found a sunscreen that actually works as promised ?
A sunscreen that preferably does not turn you into Casper the ghost or leaves you slip sliding away ?
Crispy Critter Alert For Sunscreen
As you may have guessed I am a fair skinned soul paired with highly sensitive skin – not a great combination for sunscreens. I have discovered in my journey through the land of sunscreens that finding an effective sunscreen my skin will tolerate can be a rough and tough trial and error.
First a review of sunscreenology and then my top three picks for sunscreens that consistently protect my skin from sunburn.
Broad Spectrum Sunscreen Is Essential
The most effective sunscreens are broad spectrum coverage; UVA and UVB rays.
UVA rays can cause premature aging, wrinkling and age spots. UVB rays cause sunburn. According to the American Cancer Society there are no safe UVA and UVB rays.
Products labeled broad spectrum must pass the FDA Broad Spectrum Test. The Sunshine Innovation Act of 2014 is driving the changes and changes to come regarding the marketing and labeling of sunscreen products.
Difference Between Chemical And Physical Barriers Of Sunscreen
Physical sunscreens protect your skin by deflecting and scattering the rays. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are physical barrier sunscreens; sunscreens marketed as physical barrier sunscreens frequently contain a combination of both.
One of the benefits of a physical barrier sunscreen is their compatibility with sun sensitive skin; the sunscreen is not absorbed into the skin. The sunscreen literally sits on top of your skin.
One of the negatives of a physical barrier sunscreen is the skin can take on a white cast; however the formulation and size of the minerals used can reduce the Casper effect. The images of surfers with a nose coated in white zinc oxide come to mind, but todays’ products have indeed come along way (and isn’t your health worth it!)
Chemical sunscreens are comprised of many chemicals which after applied to the skin disperse the UV rays. Common chemicals include: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octisalate, and ecamsule which is Mexoryl SX by L’Oreal. The chemicals are absorbed into your body which can be a less than desired effect for some consumers.
Europe Leads The Way With Sunscreen Ratings
Europe has been ahead of the game for UVA sunscreen protection for many, many years. According to the Environmental Working Groups annual sunscreen report, Europe has approved 27 chemicals versus 17 for the United States. Many analysts agree many of Europe’s approved sunscreen chemicals are more effective than those found in the United States.
One of the issues for approval of chemicals in the United States was a delay by the FDA for considering the approval of new sunscreen chemicals. The delay prompted the Sunscreen Innovation Act of 2014.
The passage of the Act should help that a broader selection of sunscreens be available to the American consumer plus additional definition of the terms used to describe the proposed effectiveness of the sunscreen.
I would love to be able to recommend thrifty budget conscious sunscreens, but while I have tried what seems like every sunscreen on the market – I have to go with what works for my fair skinned, sun sensitive crispy critter skin.
My Top Three Sunscreens
Obagi Medical Sun Shield With Broad Spectrum SPF 50
The Obagi sunscreen was recommended by a dermatologist; it is a combination of a physical and chemical barrier sunscreen with 7.5% octinoxate and %10.5 zinc oxide.
A zinc oxide sunscreen has many benefits for protecting sun sensitive skin.
- PABA Free
- Not greasy
- Quickly absorbs into skin
- No white cast
- Silky, creamy but still lightweight formula
- Price, expensive at $10.00 an ounce. Is it more expensive than its’ high end peers? No.
- Chemical ingredients could be a negative.
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist SPF 45 – 100+
The Neutrogena sunscreen is a chemical barrier sunscreen and comes in a spray and cream formula at varying SPF’s. I rate this a 10 in my subcategory of best clear sunscreens.
- Lightweight formula
- Easy to apply
- Good for sports. Convenient to reapply.
- Affordable. Easily found on the shelves, if you have access to a Bed, Bath & Beyond store, you can use the 20% off coupon.
- Chemical barrier ingredients could be a negative.
- Must be careful when using an aerosol
Clinique Super City Block
This is the best sunscreen I have used for my face to provide long term consistent protection. Clinique Super City Block is a combination physical and chemical barrier sunscreen. The price falls between my first and second choices. This sunscreen is my favorite sunscreen for sensitive skin.
- Oil free
- Rubs in quickly
- Can use under foundation or by itself
- Fragrance free
- While it doesn’t leave a white cast, it definitely leaves a slight pasty cast.
- Chemical barrier ingredients could be a negative for some skin types.
Throughout the summer I use a combination of all three sunscreens plus good ole pure zinc oxide.
Physical Barrier Sunscreens CeraVe And Vanicream
I have two more physical barrier sunscreens to add to my favorite list. Vanicream and CeraVe Baby are both sunscreens I recommend. Find my reviews of both by clicking here.
These are the sunscreens which have consistently performed well on my skin. However, as with trying any new product please test the product before liberally applying the product to ensure compatibility with your skin.
It is wise to test the sunscreens on your skin annually as each year can bring a different adventure as to how reactive sensitive skin can be to any product.