The Sunscreen Lowdown Part 2


Gisele Bunchen’s recent comments about her attitude toward sunscreen (calling it ‘poison’) has caused a bit of a sensation in the media, and although I think that what she was trying to say was probably distorted through a poor choice of words and quoting out of context, I also think that this is a great time to discuss sun protection.

The Sunscreen Lowdown Part 1 that I posted previously goes through in detail things like what UVA and UVB are, what SPF actually means, and chemical filters vs physical blockers in sunscreens.

So that leaves us with the issue of finding a good sunscreen!

As you can probably guess, sunscreen labelling can be a little misleading. ‘Broad Spectrum’ doesn’t necessarily mean true broad spectrum, an SPF sunscreen of 50 isn’t necessarily better than an SPF 30 in another formula, and ‘child safe’ means jack all.

If you want to pick a good sunscreen (one that is photostable, good UVA/UVB protection, and is not a hormone disruptor or free radical generator), a good start would be getting to know the ingredients and reading the label when you are making a purchase.


 The Environmental Working Group Sunscreen Guide:


2011 Sunscreen Report
image from


If you are a little bit OCD/a control freak like me, then just reading the ingredient list isn’t enough. I generally don’t buy sunscreen without first consulting the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 2010 Sunscreen Guide. The EWG is a non-profit organisation that consist of scientists, engineers, and policy experts- the info on the site is generally considered as the most objective, well researched guide to cosmetic and sunscreen ingredients available to the consumer.


Now, I’m not saying that the EGW is the word of God and must be followed to the letter- just that it is a great resource.




On the EGW Sunscreen Guide, they rate sunscreens, moisturisers with SPF, lip balms with SPF, and makeup with SPF on the market in terms of UVA/UVB protection, health hazards from ingredients, and stability from 1 to about 400. I like to look at their top 20 in each category, and also use their database to search available products to see the ranking.

For everyday use under makeup, I’ve been using Keys Soap Solar Rx Cosmetic Moisturizing Sunblock (what a mouthful!) SPF 30+. It gives a matte/satin finish and does not feel heavy under makeup. It also comes in an airless pump, which is a big plus for me.  (Keys is not water resistant though so when I go to the beach or exercising outdoor sweating like a pig, I use my Invisible Zinc sunscreen).

This is rated as top 3 in their list of moisturizers with SPF, and when you open up the link in their list, you get this analysis:

image from

Isn’t that just awesome?  The nerd in me just did a little dance.
You can also search sunscreens, lip balms etc. Let’s say you decided to search for Banana Boat Ultra Sunblock Lotion SPF 30+.

Yikes. As an Australian, I feel let down by the friendly Banana Boat Song ( “Bana Nana Nana, Na Na nanana..”) on their commercial which seemed to run almost continuously throughout my childhood.  [edit] I Just realised I had the wrong banana song, it’s actually “Banana Boat doo doo doodoodoo, Banana Boat, it’s 30 plus!”

image from


Lip Balms with SPF:

There is another factor to consider when it comes to SPF lip balms- the ingredients need to be safe to swallow.

The top SPF lip balms include:

-Purple Prairie Botanicals sunstuff lip balm, SPF 30

-Badger SPF 15 Sunscreen Lip Balm, Unscented

 -Alba Botanica TerraTint, SPF 8

-UV Natural Lip screen, SPF 30+





Makeup with SPF:

To be perfectly honest, I don’t really see any point of having SPF in makeup.

First of all, you are unlikely to apply enough foundation on your face to get to the SPF rating on the bottle, and sun protection in makeup generally won’t last very long anyway (1-2hrs).

Secondly, makeup with SPF will usually have chemical filters rather than physical blockers (refer to Part 1 for why this isn’t ideal). On the other hand, mineral sunscreen ingredients like zinc and titanium dioxide in makeup will give you a godawful white cast in flash photography.

Thirdly, SPF IN POWDER FORM IS AN INHALATION HAZARD (most sunscreen ingredients, particularly titanium dioxide, is considered carcinogenic when inhaled)! No spray on sunscreen, or powder SPF product is considered safe by the EWG.

If for some reason, however, I fall in love with a particular foundation with SPF eg. Chanel Pro Lumiere- I’ll probably still buy it (as long as it doesnt have oxybenzone or vitamin A, and is not powder). I would just wear a moisturiser with sunscreen underneath.





1. Philosophy hope in a jar, SPF 20– purely chemical sunscreen with the hormone disruptor/free radical generator 4% oxybenzone. Also has Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) which is a photosensitizer.

 2. Murad Perfecting Day Cream, SPF 30– chemical sunscreen with oxybenzone, absolutely craptastic UVA protection (so you won’t burn, but you’ll get the carcinogenic, wrinkle forming UVA), 

3. Neutrogena Waterguard Kids Sunblock Spray, SPF 70+: another chemical sunscreen with oxybenzone, and vitamin A. Also, sunscreen in spray or powder form poses a serious inhalation risk with many sunscreen ingredients (particularly titanium dioxide) linked with lung cancer when inhaled.

4. Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sunblock Lotion, SPF 55: yet another chemical sunscreen with plenty of oxybenzone that absorbs easily through porous baby skin. Also full of parabens. But put some pastel stripes on the packaging and it can’t be bad, right?  

I think it’s important to add that oxybenzone absorbed through the skin in pregnant women can cause several problems to the bun in the oven. Because it is a strong hormone disruptor, it is linked with issues such as low birth weight babies.

note: even within the same brand there’s big variation in effectiveness/safety profile of sunscreen products. E.g Dermalogica Pure Light SPF 30 rates very well as a sunscreen but Dermalogica Solar Defence Sunblock SPF 30 is one of the worst rated. 


Finding something that works for YOU:

There’s no point in owning the best sunblock on the market if it feels uncomfortable on the skin, or if it is cosmetically unappealing because lets face it- you ain’t gonna use it.

I basically just look at the top 20 sunscreens as listed by the EWG sunscreen guide and make my decision to purchase based on the safety/effectiveness profile, the packaging (I hate sunscreen products in jars), and availability. Then I purchase it and if it feels and looks ok on the skin, then we have a winner!

My staple everyday sunscreen has been Keys Soap Solar Rx Cosmetic Moisturising Sunblock SPF 30+  for awhile, and rates as #3 on the EWG sunscreen guide. 

Recently I’m starting to use the Skin QR Organics L’air du Soleil SPF 30+, which is a moisturiser with SPF. I’m really loving it at the moment for it’s comfortable matte-satin finish, and how comfortable and feather-light it feels on the skin (no greasiness or tackiness at ALL). It has a lower percentage of Zinc Oxide compared with the Keys Soap sunscreen, so the UVA protection is not quite as good, but I’m willing to trade that in for the wonderful finish. Also, it is a non-nano sunscreen.

Disclaimer 🙂

I am not a dermalogist, toxicologist, or claim to be an expert on this subject. These posts are a summary of what I’ve learnt from reading lots of different sources, and I’m still learning!

New research is being done all the time in the area of sun protection. The information in this post is, (to my knowledge), accurate at the time of writing but I would encourage you to do your own research. Also, I would love to hear your opinions, and product likes/dislikes! Sharing is caring 🙂

Posted by on Mar 18th, 2011 in Skincare, Sunscreen | 13comments

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