Despite my best efforts to avoid the sun, each summer brings a fresh challenge to avoid the dreaded Steve Bannon -effect either on my face or on my décolletage. Because this alone is not enough to make any sane person hide away in a coffin until September, I’ve also recently started to experience bouts of rosacea on my cheeks (orders coffin).
Most beauty websites and magazines are full of excellent coverage on sunscreens, and while I appreciate that you might not have the time to familiarise yourself with all such literature, you will still have to have the time to buy a cream and religiously apply it every time you step outside. The point of a sunscreen is not to stop you from burning while you lay on your beach mat for hours on end.
No. Its function is to protect your skin while you are exposed to sun when going about your normal life. Sunscreens are not a get away from jail free -card that makes tanning healthy. Roughly speaking, overexposure to sun will result in two outcomes: the skin will end up looking like a leather couch or, indeed, like Steve Bannon’s face if you’re pale like me and don’t tan however much you’re trying to train your skin.
I tend to go for mineral, or physical sunscreens, which means the active ingredient is either zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. In the past, before all the Swiss vitamin institutes of this world kicked it up on the product development front, it consequently meant that the product left a horrible white layer on skin, which is never the desired look – especially not on face. Luckily, not so anymore.
My latest favourites are by Japanese-American Tatcha (products are developed in Japan and manufactured in the U.S. Japanese generally speaking are very good with sunscreens) and American Drunk Elephant (available in Europe). Tatcha’s Pore Perfecting Sunscreen SPF35 is a pleasant-smelling, thick, creamy sunscreen (which however glides on effortlessly) with zinc oxide as the main active ingredient. Works well also as a primer under makeup. Excellent for city.
Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense SPF 30 by Drunk Elephant is tinted, and comes with a bit of glow. The consistency is a bit runnier than Tatcha, and if I want more coverage, I mix it with either one of the two following creams (trust me, it’s far less complicated than it seems here). Active ingredient in Umbra Tinte is zinc oxide. If you are hovering between the tinted and non-tinted Drunk Elephant sunscreen, go for the tinted by all means. I experienced white residue with the other one.
De Mamiel Daily Hydrating Nectar SPF 30 is an old favourite which I use around the year. It’s slightly tinted, and whenever a no makeup -look is an option, this does the job brilliantly as it gives the slightest cover. Active ingredient zinc oxide. An absolutely beautiful product, which I sometimes mix with Umbra Tinte above, but usually use on its own.
There are very good tinted moisturisers with SPF around these days, and they can be a good choice for regular days without much sun exposure. I have a tub of Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturiser in use at the moment. It comes with SPF30, does not clog pores, glides on, gives decent coverage and is a perfect all-round deal. The active ingredient is octinoxate, which makes this cream a chemical sunscreen.
Many beauty brands favour using chemical sunscreens, because they are lighter on the skin and thus give the brands a bit more choice in terms of product range. The most common active chemical ingredients in chemical sunscreens are octinoxate and oxybenzone.
Why should anyone give two shits about all this chemistry, you ask yourself? Well, because of the coral reefs in the oceans, is why. Sunscreens that contain the two aforementioned, most commonly used chemicals (and certain others) are extremely harmful to corals, and massively contribute to the death of the reefs.
There are ongoing actions to ban certain chemicals from sunscreens altogether. Hawaii, Florida and California are in the process of banning the selling of products using these two chemicals – cutting back the use of products containing octinoxate or oxybenzone is not enough to have any impact at this stage. Of course what is needed is global action on this, but cosmetics companies have been extremely slow to act.
All sunscreens must have the active ingredients mentioned in the bottle or in the box it comes in, so choosing between mineral and chemical should not be a big problem. You might want to consider opting for a mineral sunscreen especially if sunning and swimming away in the imminent presence of coral reefs (but of course, again, this concerns much of other maritime species as well).
Also I would like to add this to the minutes: once my current tube of Laura Mercier is finished, I shall not be repurchasing it until their people return from the vitamin institutes with a solution that does not kill everything in the oceans. There are plenty alternatives.