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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 | 173comments

Saturday Skin Care: My DIY 10% anhydrous Vitamin C E and Jojoba serum

Hi all,

If you follow my tweets @Jfunnyvalentine, you may have noticed that I have gone mad for DIY skin care lately. 

It all started when I discovered the site whilst researching active ingredients in the products that I was reviewing. It really is a very good resource for differentiating the scientifically backed ingredients vs the gimmicks. is another great site for this.

So of course off I go to look for information on products containing vitamin C, but it it turns out that the story gets a little complex.

The good:
Potentially, vitamin C can benefit skin in two important ways. Firstly, vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of collagen, a key structural protein of the skin. Adding vitamin C to a culture of skin cells (fibroblasts) dramatically increases the synthesis of collagen. Secondly, vitamin C is an antioxidant and can help reduce skin damage caused by free radicals. So, when vitamin C is properly delivered into skin cells, there is a good chance to reduce wrinkles and improve skin texture.

The catch:

HOWEVER. Vitamin C is very unstable (unless it is in a dry form). It quickly oxidises in the presence of air, water, sunlight within several weeks making it ineffective, and worse- when oxidised it promotes free radical formation causing damage to skin proteins and DNA (ironic?). Also, it is only effective above around 10%, and most skin creams will have very low doses unless it specifically states the concentration.

Vitamin C can be stabilised to some extent with the addition of Vitamin E and Ferulic Acid, but products that have stabilised 10% + vitamin C tends to be quite expensive, e.g. Skinceuticals C E and Ferulic. Even when stabilised in this way, the serum will be active for around 4 months and may be half oxidised by the time you purchase it.


So this is where the DIY comes in. after more reading, I find out that the best way to get the right concentration and the freshness is to really make the damn serum yourself! You can make small batches at a time and skip the cheap fillers.

After lurking around the cosmetic chemists and DIY skin care fanatics at forum for weeks learning the ins and outs, I took the leap and ordered some pipettes, jars, an anhydrous pure vitamin C liquid (tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate), and one of those cool airless lotion pumps from

My concoction:

My serum is simply 10% anhydrous Vitamin C (tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate) , 1% Vitamin E, and Jojoba Oil.

I chose this formulation simply because it is idiot proof. The oil based formula is very stable because it is waterless (also the vitamin E stabilises the C), there is no need to worry about emulsifiers because all the ingredients are oils, and I don’t need to add an antibacterial preservative (because bacteria don’t grow in a waterless environment).
note: I am planning to buy some rice bran oil to add to this after the weekend, for it’s high ferulic acid content.

Oil soluble “Tetra” C is also comparitively gentle on the skin, compared with the water soluble form (L-ascorbic acid) which is very acidic and will sting your skin. This is great because I want to use it around my eyes where the fine lines are.
This formula is stable for at least 3 months when kept in a cool, dark place (my bathroom drawer). After this, I would simply make a new batch. Or more likely, I would experiment with something new 🙂 
My ‘tetra’ C cost just $15.85 for 0.25oz. The shipping was about $24.00 though 🙁

So I’ve been using this for the last week or so, and my skin looks and feels fab. I’m going to give it a few more weeks then let you know the results, complete with before and after photos.
To keep things scientific, I’ve only used the serum on the left side of my face, and on the right side I’ve used pure Jojoba oil so that I’m my own ‘control’ subject. That way, I can still test other new products (I’ve got a new MD formulations glycolic cleanser on the way yay!) 


Apologies for all the geekery and bombarding you with more details than you probably cared to know- I get very carried away.

Do you ever do DIY skin care, or makeup?

Posted by on Mar 4th, 2011 in DIY Skin Care, Skincare | 1,509comments

Skin Care Saturday: The Jojoba Company Cucumber + Guava Firming Eye Balm

My 3mL sample of The Jojoba Company Cucumber and Guava Firming Eye Balm

Description from the website:

Highly effectatious blend of cucumber, guava, aloe vera, jojoba and gotukola to cool and sooth delicate skin around the eyes and reduce the appearance of fine lines. It gently firms and re-hydrates dry skin decreasing inflammation and puffiness and reducing tiredness and tell-tale dark circles. Comes with the natural sun protection of pomegranate. Not tested on animals

price: RRP $46.95 25mL
availability: selected pharmacies and health food stores. For list of stockists check,

The Jojoba Company kindly sent me some small samples of this eye balm to review, which was fantastic, because I’m currently on a mission to find a good eye cream.  
I have been using this twice daily after cleansing for the last couple of weeks. It is a light silky serum texture which melts into the skin nicely, and leaves my eye area feeling refreshed and hydrated.
After two weeks of use my previously dehydrated skin does feel slightly more ‘plump’ and firm, and somehow more healthy looking (which is more that I could say for the Alpha H Absolute Eye Complex – review here). I can’t really say it did much for my fine lines or dark circles, but I guess that’s not really a fair statement given that I only used the product for 2 weeks (I ran out of my sample tubes)  
In this eye balm, the third most concentrated ingredient is Cucumber extract, which is said to have excellent moisturizing and anti inflammatory properties. It is also a gentle astringent (like a mild version of Witch Hazel) which temporarily tightens the skin and pores.


+ hydrates and nourishes the skin around the eyes without being too heavy.

+ great under eye makeup, particularly concealer (which looks cakey on my dehydrated eye skin).

+ has a light, fresh cucumber scent.

+ formulated without parabens, propylene glycol, mineral oils, and harsh chemicals.

+ packed with great botanical actives like Jojoba oil, Cucumber Extract, Green Tea, and Macadamia oil, which are all packed with antioxidants.

+ the Jojoba is cold pressed and harvested from the company’s own farm.

+ the soothing and hydrating properties of cucumber extract in this makes it ideal to use as an adjunct to irritating treatments like topical retinols and retin-A.


– If you are looking for something that will dramatically reduce fine lines, this is probably not going to give you the results on it’s own (judging by the ingredients). You probably need to look into stronger actives like Retin-A, 10%+ vitamin C, or DMAE  to supplement an everyday eye balm like this one. 


Aqua (water), glycerin, Cucumis sativus (cucumber) oil, cetearyl alcohol, Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil, Camellia sinensis (green tea) leaf powder, tocopherol (Vitamin E), panthenol, Macadamia integrifolia (macadamia) seed oil, Persea gratissima (avocado) oil, Equisetum arvense (horsetail) extract, cariea papaya (pumpkin) seed oil, Helanthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, Butyrospermum parkii (shea butter), caprylic/capric triglyceride,Psidium Guajava (Guava) Fruit Extract, Centella asiatica (gotu kola) extract, Ceteareth-20, Aloe arbensis (aloe vera) leaf juice, Punica granatum (pomegranate) seed oil, stearic acid, carbomer, dimethicane, ethylhexylglycerin, phenoxyethanol, potassium sorbate, alcohol, xanthan gum, citric acid, sodium hydroxide

Posted by on Feb 25th, 2011 in Skincare | 155comments

Petrolatum detox chapter 1: Lanolips Lip Ointment with Colour SPF 15

The story thus far: After years of Vaseline and Lucas Papaw, my lips and I have decided to break up with Petrolatum. The reasons for this detox of sorts can be found in my previous post.
In the last couple of weeks I have jumped right into petrolatum free lip balms (with lots of help from my lovely twitter friends, especially Anissa from Beautifully Glossy, and Miss Sensuous)- and I’ve decided to review all of them! (eventually)
Kirsten from Lanolips very kindly included a surprise tube of Lanolips Lip Ointment with Colour in ‘Apples’ when she sent over her ‘secret strength mix‘ for me to try. How sweet is that?


Colour: Apples is a creamy true red colour which applies fairly pigmented but after about 30mins of wear becomes a beautiful sheer rosy tint on the lips. Because my lips are fairly pigmented I find that I need to reapply after each hour if I want the colour to show up.
Texture: Apples is a tinted lip treatment so it’s feels like a balm on the lips with none of the stickiness of a gloss. It’s fairly moisturising on my parched kissers (hurrah!) so I found it’s great on a day when my lips are too dry to wear a lipstick but I still want a bit of colour. 

Posted by on Feb 21st, 2011 in Lip balm, Petrolatum Detox, Reviews, Skincare, Swatches | 153comments

Sunday Skin Care: Jojoba Company Botanical Hydrating Face Mask

If you read my very first Saturday Skin Care post on the Jojoba Company Pure Australian Jojoba Oil, you’d know I’m crazy about the stuff. If I met you at a party, god help you if you made the mistake getting me started on the topic of Jojoba Oil, SPF, why pizza is an excellent breakfast food, or Eric Clapton vs Dave Gilmour (consider yourself warned).
Jojoba Oil (extracted properly) is an incredible source of skin friendly nutrients; it is one of very few substances that contain antioxidants which are stable over time and exposure to air/sunlight; it has moderate bacteriocidal and fungicidal activity; It is great at regulating sebum production due to it’s similarity in molecular structure to human sebum ; and it is very effective at preventing water loss from the skin whilst still allowing the skin to breath. 
The science geek in me also loves that properties of Jojoba has been extensively researched and there are plenty of well designed clinical studies supporting it’s benefits on human skin.
Anyhow, the The Jojoba Company has a range of products based on the Jojoba oil that they cultivate on their farm. A few weeks ago they sent me a box of 3mL samples of different products to trial.

Honestly, I felt like I had raided several hotel rooms. After sorting through what products were in there, I decided to start off with trying the Botanical Hydrating Face Mask, and their eye balm (review coming up).

Description from the website.

An exquisitely silky, hydrating clay mask with a powerful combination of botanical anti-ageing extracts including antioxidant rich gingko biloba, plumping marine collagen, vitamin B5 and organic honey to boost the natural hydrating qualities of golden jojoba. Combines Australian clays with jojoba to renew and rejuvenate all skin types, especially sensitive skins. Not tested on animals.

price: $ 49.95 AUD
availability: (also see other stockists on the website).

There were only enough samples of the Botanical Hydrating Face Mask for 3 applications, just enough to get me completely hooked on the stuff. I smooth a generous amount on my face after cleansing with my usual Korres 3 in 1 milk proteins cleansing emulsion (my previous review can be found here), leave it on for 30-45mins, and then take it off with warm water and a wash cloth.


+ After each application my skin feels deeply hydrated and ‘plumped’, glowy, poreless, and oh so soft. As I said, I don’t know about long term effects because I only used this product 3x, but I’m loving what I see. I will eventually buy this product when I have some extra $$.

+ the Jojoba oil is cold pressed (any other extraction method reduces antioxidant levels)

+ has a luxurious texture and a lovely smell.

+ free from cheap fillers, paraben, pthalate, mineral oils, propylene glycol.


– it is fairly pricey compared with other brands you might find in a pharmacy.   

– (edit) as Sarah noted in the comments, alcohol is one of the top 3 ingredients. This may irritate/dry sensitive skins. (see second edit)

– (second edit): I did a bit more research on alcohols in skin care, and as it turns out there are bad alcohols and good alcohols.
Some of the bad alcohols that you should avoid if possible are ethanol, ethyl alcohol, denatured alcohol, methanol, benzyl alcohol, methyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, and SD alcohol. Denatured

Good alcohols actually have emollient properties (I know, it’s strange right?) Cetyl alcohol, Stearyl alcohol, Cetearyl alcohol, Lanolin alcohol.

Aqua (water), ivory clay, cetearyl alcohol, vegetable glycerine, panthenol, apis mellifera (honey), marine collagen, Simmondsia chinensis (Jojoba) seed oil*, Limnanthes alba (meadowfoam) oil, Butyrospermum parkii (shea butter), Tocopherol & tocopherol acetate (vitamin E), Santalum spicatum (sandalwood) , pink clay, silk amino acids, Ginkgo biloba (ginko) leaf extract, Olea europaea (olive), Camellia sinensis (green tea) leaf powder , phenoxyethanol, Prunus amygdalus dulcis (almond) oil, Macadamia integrifolia (macadamia) oil, Helianthus annus (sunflower) seed oil, Lavandula angustifolia (lavender) oil, Cananga odorata (ylang ylang) flower oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride, stearic acid, ceteareth-20, carbomer, dimethicone, ethylhexylglycerin, sodium hydroxide

note: this product sample was provided by PR for consideration.

Posted by on Feb 20th, 2011 in Skincare | 133comments

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