Safe sunscreen without the sticky white residue

Dr. Janet Zand

July 15, 2022

Let’s be honest, sunscreens can be annoying.

Most of them feel goopy and sticky, clog your pores, and leave a chalky white residue.

And the ones that are better use chemicals like oxybenzone, which has been linked to hormone disruption in numerous studies.

Fortunately, there have been some big advancements in safe sunscreen.

I’ll share some specific brands in just a minute, but first let me tell you why I chose them...

What to look for

To evaluate a sunscreen, I look for three things...

First, it has to be broad spectrum. That means it protects you from both UVA and UVB rays. Because believe it or not, not all sunscreens do this! Many -- even those with a really high SPF -- only protect you from UVB rays. UVB rays are responsible for sunburn and most melanomas, so it’s important to avoid them.

But it’s the other rays — the UVA rays — that cause wrinkles and other signs of aging.

So broad-spectrum matters more to me than SPF 100. (By the way, SPF 30 blocks nearly 97% of UVB radiation, and SPF 100 blocks about 99%. So high SPF sunscreens give you only 2% better protection.)

Okay, so the second thing I look at with sunscreen is the active ingredients. I want to see if it’s a physical sunblock that has zinc or titanium dioxide ... or if it uses chemical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreen ingredients include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate.

Studies show that those sunscreen chemicals actually seep into your bloodstream. We don’t know all the long-term effects of these chemicals in the blood. However, we already know that oxybenzone, for example, has been linked to hormone disruption in multiple studies. So why risk it at all when you have plenty of other options?

Finally, the third thing I look at is how a sunscreen looks and feels when you use it. Does it disappear well, so that you’re not left with a chalky white face? Does it feel good on the skin, and not like a sticky, goopy mess?

If so, it’s a winner!

The problem is that very few sunscreens pass all three tests. That’s why I’m actually working on a sunscreen for Systeme 41 right now. (Surprise!) However, it’s taking us a while because we want to make sure we get it just right. 

In the meantime, here are some brands that are pretty good...

Unsun Cosmetics Mineral Tinted Broad Spectrum Face Sunscreen SPF 30.  This sunscreen includes extra ingredients like shea butter, vitamin E, coconut oil, and 4 different fruit extracts. It also comes in two shades: light/medium and medium/dark, which is why you won’t have chalky white residue after you apply it.

Skinceuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50. This is a tinted sunscreen that includes some innovative ingredients. One is artemia salina, a plankton extract that helps your skin resist UV- and heat-induced stress. Plus, the same iron oxide spheres that give this sunscreen it’s tint also make your skin look more even and radiant.

EltaMD UV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41 Sunscreen, Tinted. This sunscreen is good for people with sensitive skin. In addition to sun protection, it includes anti-aging antioxidants, like linoleic acid, quercetin, and thioctic acid.

Peter Thomas Roth Max Mineral Naked Broad Spectrum SPF 45.  Another sunscreen with a universal tint, this one includes some interesting extras that make your skin look better, too. For instance, there’s silica for absorbing excess oil. And diamond powder, which helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles by scattering the light that shines on your face.

Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50.  This is a really interesting option, because it’s a brush-on powder. It comes in a dispenser with a brush on top, so you don’t need to carry a separate brush. This is particularly great for reapplying sunscreen on the go, and without messing up makeup if you’re wearing it. It also comes in 4 shades.

So ... try one of these out and let me know what you think! And I’ll keep you posted on the sunscreen we’re developing for Systeme 41. As soon as it launches, you’ll be the first to know!

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