How Do I Choose the Most Effective Sunscreen?

I currently use a SPF 50+, is a SPF 25 or 30 adequate?

Unfortunately, in North America, we have few UV filters that provide adequate UVA protection and that have no controversy associated with their safe use. Zinc oxide remains the best and sole choice for the time being while other filters wait to be approved. While this remains the case, the UVB protection of a sunscreen as represented by the SPF is of secondary importance. We advise our clients to look for a sunscreen’s UVA protection- the best indicator is given by the % of Zinc Oxide as its active ingredient. SPF 50 and higher only provides marginally better protection against the UVB (burning rays) than an SPF 30 or 25. However, this extra 1-2% improved protection of UVB is a poor trade-off if it means using a sunscreen that has inadequate UVA protection. We do always advise our clients to improve their SPF protection by wearing mineral based make-up if appropriate or sun protective clothing to be truly sun vigilant.

Why does your Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25 say that it does not prevent skin cancer or photo-aging?

Unfortunately, some times in life you have to follow rules, while not necessarily believing in them. This is true of the recent labeling laws that forced us to claim that we prevent sunburn only. This new rule is based on obtaining a specific result for a test called the Critical Wavelength test. We have maintained for many years, along with many academics and industry experts, that this test is not representative of a sunscreen’s actual protective UVA capabilities. It is a test that compares relative protection of UVB versus UVA. In testing, our Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25 provided greater protection at every wavelength of UVA light than sunscreens with less Zinc Oxide. However, due to the nature of the test, these sunscreens obtained a higher Critical Wavelength result and can claim that they are Broad-Spectrum. For the full results and a more in-depth explanation, please click here. A short but good rule of thumb to remember- the more Zinc Oxide a sunscreen has, the better broad-spectrum protection it will provide. The more Zinc, the better. How much does yours contain?

What Makes for a Safe Sunscreen?

Why do you include chemical filters in addition to Zinc Oxide in your products?

We consider Zinc Oxide an excellent UV filter but it is not the only effective or safe filter available. Our philosophy is to include filters with large particle sizes- it’s a generally accepted scientific principle that molecules larger than 500 Daltons will not be absorbed by the body. We will only ever use UV filters that are larger than 500 Daltons. For example, we only ever use octinoxate in an encapsulated form. This converts what is normally a molecule below 500 Daltons and something capable of entering the body into a large particle well above 500 Daltons. We also believe in using filters that are not possible endocrine disruptors, in other words do not enter your body and mimic specific human hormones. Therefore, while we have no issue in using ‘chemical’ based filters, we apply very specific standards to ensure that they are safe and effective. We will not ever compromise these standards.

What do you think about the new filters that are under revision by the FDA?

We have always believed that in some cases Europeans have had access to a wider and sometimes better selection of UV filters than us in North America. Not all the filters under review by the FDA meet our stringent standards for safety and efficacy but several do. These filters, including Tinosorb S and M, will revolutionize the way we create sunscreens in North America. They complement Zinc Oxide as a filter and when combined have the power get us closer to creating a truly ideal sunscreen. The Tinosorbs are large particle based filters, with an excellent safety profile, and that will boost our abilities to offer truly broad-spectrum protection. We cannot wait until they are approved and we are able to add to our ability to provide the best sunscreens in the world.

Do your sunscreens use nano-particles and is there an issue with them?

We currently use zinc oxide under the brand name of Zinclear as supplied from an Australian company called Antaria. Our current zinc oxide contains large bundles of zinc oxide particles that are over the threshold of 100 nm. This fact would allow us to claim ‘No Nanoparticles’ on our Simply Zinc Sun Whip TM SPF 30. However, under very specific conditions under laboratory testing, these larger bundles do contain a small percentage of particles that are less than 100 nm in size. This means that our form of zinc oxide is considered nano sized by a separate division in Health Canada and in the EU. However, Zinclear especially has provided sufficient safety data to show that there is no issue in using particles of this size. They were recently re-awarded their Organic status by Ecocert because of these findings. The product is also considered a natural product by the Natural Products Association. Furthermore and finally, in the world of sunscreens, nano particles are considered huge particles compared to many conventional filters like oxybenzone and avobenzone. These conventional filters are much smaller in size and have been shown to enter the body. Nano-particles do not enter the body and sit on the skin’s surface.

Can I use this sunscreen on my kids?

In theory, you can use either sunscreen on your children. We especially recommend our Simply Zinc Sun Whip SPF 30 for infants and young children- with zinc as its only filters, it’s exceptionally calming and soothing for their delicate skin. However, we realize that with our current option of a 50 ml at $38 this might not be a realistic possibility for most people. With that in mind, we recommend that you read our post on Endocrine Disruptors. We recommend you avoid sunscreens with Oxybenzone. The Environmental Working Group puts out a helpful sunscreen guide every year, click here to read last years. Also, remember the importance of wearing sun protective clothing, sun glasses and seeking shade when appropriate as these are all part of a sun vigilant lifestyle!

I’m pregnant, what sunscreen should I be using?

Sunscreen in pregnancy is absolutely essential. Pregnant women are more susceptible to getting a condition called chloasma or melasma. Chloasma, also known as the mask of pregnancy, can result in dark and noticeable patches of pigment in various areas of the face. This is a difficult condition to treat and can very often continue after pregnancy. Using a broad spectrum sunscreen during pregnancy has been shown to decrease the incidence of chloasma from 20-50% of pregnant women to under 3%.Pregnancy is also a time where you are typically hyper-vigilant about what you ingest and apply to your skin. As part of the World Health Organization Report on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, they cautioned against using EDC’s during critical times in life including during pregnancy and after birth on your young child through to puberty. With this in mind, we believe pregnant women should maximize their UVA/UVB protection and use sunscreens with filters free from controversy. We especially recommend our Simply Zinc Sun Whip SPF 30 TM for this reason.

What is your position on chemicals like Parabens and other Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals?

We believe in abiding by the Precautionary Principle when it comes to ingredients in personal care products. Most cosmetics are ‘nice-to-have’ products (not including sunscreens) as opposed to ‘need-to-have’ products. They are also products that we use every single day, all over our skin and that we use in conjunction with others. With this in mind, we believe if an ingredient has some controversy associated with it, especially related to it being a potential endocrine disruptor, then we think it’s best simply to avoid it. We believe the World Health Report from 2012 on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals should be a must-read for everyone. It’s findings are conservative and mostly point to other areas for further research. It does point to some startling facts about how Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals can effect our health, especially the health of our young children, teenagers and unborn children. For a brief report on the WHO report, please click here to read our blog post on the subject.

Tips for Using a Sunscreen Every Day

What is your position on getting enough Vitamin D? How do we do that while using a sunscreen every day?

Vitamin D has been shown to be a very important and beneficial part of a health lifestyle. It’s often referred to as the ‘sunshine’ vitamin since our bodies undergo a natural conversion process to make Vitamin D. However, synthetic sources of vitamin D can also provide sufficient supplementation. We recommend along with the American Academy of Dermatologists to rely on supplementation rather than unprotected exposure to sunlight to get your daily intake of Vitamin D. For more on our position, click here to read our blog post on the subject.