What's your work-appropriate daily sun protection regimen?
May 8, 2018 9:12 AM   Subscribe

I need a plan for daily sun protection that has the following: high UVB and UVA protection; not itself too damaging to the skin (so, none of the bad/cheap UV filters like avobenzone-- maybe Euro active ingredients?); and plays well enough with makeup to look polished for work. What should I try?

Skin is pale, freckled and ruddy, with ambiguously yellowy undertones, so foundation matching is a trial at the best of times.

The great sunscreen ingredient debate is getting too complicated for me to follow, what with some ingredients deactivating other ingredients (Titanium, looking at you :(), some ingredients protecting against short-term burns but actually causing long-term sun reactivity and damage, etc. If there's some sort of magic Euro or Asian ingredient out there that's just straight up proven to protect you from photoaging without screwing up anything else, and without being itself screwed up by the addition of foundation, that would be a high priority for me.

While I'm ordering ponies, I may as well mention that it'd be great if this were long-wearing and comfortable on the skin. Anybody have a sunscreen miracle to suggest?
posted by Bardolph to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
I have no idea about non-damaging ingredients, but my magical sunscreen this season is Benton Papaya-S Sun Cream. I've never had a sunscreen this moisturising that played this well with makeup - both mineral and liquid foundation. It's white for a moment after applying, but invisible under foundation. It's Korean, but available on Amazon. I have pale sensitive skin with oily T-zone.

Ingredient list for the SPF 50 version: Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Water(43%), Titanium Dioxide, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Zinc Oxide, Octyldodecanol, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Pentylene Glycol, Niacinamide, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, Glycerin, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine, Aqua (Water), 1,2-Hexanediol, Polyglyceryl-3 Diisostearate, Magnesium Sulfate, Beeswax, Aluminum Hydroxide, Dimethicone, Propanediol,Hydrogen Dimethicone, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Carica Papaya Seed Oil(5000ppm), Glyceryl Caprylate, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Panthenol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Beta-Glucan, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract(750ppm), Xanthan Gum, Xylitylglucoside, Anhydroxylitol, Xylitol, Adenosine, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Bud Extract, Disodium Adenosine Triphosphate, Papain(100ppm), Algin, Glucose, Geranium Maculatum Oil.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 9:18 AM on May 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Shiseido Senka UV sunscreen (the orange one) has high UVB and UVA protection and is about $10 (you can get it on Amazon). It leaves no white cast and doesn't feel heavy on the skin.
posted by typify at 9:23 AM on May 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

I use this Josie Maran sunscreen most days. It's moisturizing but not greasy. On top if it I use this tinted sunblock by Arcona as my foundation. I have very sensitive skin and break out easily, so I stopped using chemical sunscreens awhile ago. It seems to have lessened my breakouts a lot and looks very natural.
posted by JenMarie at 9:27 AM on May 8, 2018

I use the supergoop unseen sunscreen. Yes, it has some of those "bad" ingredients you list. However, it is one of the very few sunscreens I've tried that doesn't break me out, it doesn't smell, and it feels like a silicone makeup primer.

All of that adds up to me actually using it, and I figure that, for me, using a slightly "bad" sunscreen is better than using none and increasing my risk for skin cancer.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 9:30 AM on May 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Cotz makes my favorite sunscreen. It's just a physical sunscreen, not a chemical sunscreen, so no sketchy mystery ingredients. I use the tinted version which is amazing, and acts like the most perfect sheer matte foundation for my medium yellow-toned skin. I've linked the light-skin version, which is not tinted, since you have pale skin. There is also Tizo, which seems to be the exact same product. If you are quite pale and have no problems with white cast, then you have a lot of options for physical-only sunscreen, but that really depends on just how pale you are.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 9:39 AM on May 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

I am breakout-prone and I like this tinted Jan Marini sunscreen recommended by my esthetician (who is kind of hyper about avoiding nasty ingredients). It's waterproof and seems to hold up pretty well throughout the day; pricey but a little goes a long way. Over that, I usually put my Smashbox CC cream, which also has SPF. I really like the finishes of both, and at the end of the day I'm neither too oily nor too dry (which has been a constant issue with various other products I've used over the years).
posted by lovableiago at 9:40 AM on May 8, 2018

I'm here to echo typify's suggestion of the Shiseido Senka 'Aging Care' (thanks, Shiseido...) in the orange tube. SO GOOD. I wear makeup daily and it actually acts as kind of a nice primer.
posted by rachaelfaith at 10:00 AM on May 8, 2018

Since you posted a link to EWG (I am a fan too) I want to mention that I bought Block Island SPF30 sunscreen, the EWG 2017 award winner among sunscreens, and it's terrible. Easily the worst sunscreen I've ever tried (yes I tried it with/without moisturizer, with/without makeup, after a thorough exfoliation, etc). So it seems their ratings are based purely on the ingredients list, not anyone actually testing the product.

For what it's worth the EWG guide recommends sunscreen as the last resort: Sunscreen Should Be Your Last Resort. Their number one and two recommendations are protective clothes and shade (finding it or making it).

For clothes, I am fond of my San Diego Hat Company visor. It doesn't mess up your hair (because visor + adjustable velcro band) and it matches a variety of outfits and looks rather polished. My protip is that you must wear it low on your head to get shade for your entire face and neck - you should grab a mirror and go stand both directly under and a couple steps away from a light source to see just how low you should wear it to achieve sunshade (you'll be surprised to see how little shade you get if you wear it high like most people do). I am also a fan of long gloves for driving.

For cosmetics, I don't have the patience for multiple products and I like Tarte BB Tinted Treatment Primer SPF 30. It's named tinted primer but it has a lot of coverage. I am in my 40's so I need something that doesn't settle into fine lines or pores and this is it, and it also doesn't break me out whereas almost everything else does. I have mediterranean-type caucasian skin and I wear their Light shade (the Fair is almost paper white and the Medium is for light women of color).
posted by rada at 10:21 AM on May 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

I love sun products from La Roche Posay (here are their face products). Since you have yellowish undertones you may like this tinted mineral sunscreen. I use that one tinted in the summer and non-tinted in other seasons. Since it's mineral sunscreen there are no weird chemicals. But I also love their body sunscreens and sometimes use them on my face as well, like this melt-in sunscreen milk. I wear these with or without makeup. Oh, also, if you have a flex spending account through work, you probably can buy them with your flex spending $!
posted by beyond_pink at 10:27 AM on May 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

I've been really impressed with the Biore UV AquaRich sunscreen. It's a little spendy, but it goes on like a makeup primer and is devoid of most of the scarier ingredients from that list (it does have octinoxate, though).

I also really like pretty much everything I've tried from Coola, but they are a mineral sunscreen and the active ingredients are titanium and zinc. That said, they use a lot of soothing oils in their formulation and it really does go on more like a makeup primer than a sunscreen. I've never had any issues with skin protection as long as I'm diligent about reapplying if I'm outside for long stretches. Doesn't leave a lot of super chalky residue either if you rub it in well enough, at least that I've noticed as a fellow super pale lady who gets a little ruddy sometimes.
posted by helloimjennsco at 10:33 AM on May 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

I use Khiel's ultra facial cream with SPF 30 and Marcelle CC SPF cream, and a little powder. It is light and effective and lasts all day at work.

I also have rosacea and so on days when I am particularly red, I toss in a little of Dr Jart's color correcting cicapair with spf between the moisturizer and the CC cream. Cicapair goes on green and takes the red out.

fwiw, I am fair with sensitive combo skin and 40 so getting slightly obsessed with my skin.
posted by pazazygeek at 10:33 AM on May 8, 2018

What do you know, my Tarte recommendation gets top marks from EWG!
posted by rada at 10:35 AM on May 8, 2018

I like the Shiseido Senka one in the orange tube - it’s a really lovely formula to wear, but it’s not water / oil / sweat resistant, so I wouldn’t wear it if I was going to be outside in the summer. I do wear it in the winter and for incidental sun exposure (like when I’m only going to be outside for a couple minutes a few times during the day).

My current favorite sunscreen is EltaMD UV Physical. It’s SPF 41 broad spectrum with good UVA protection from the zinc oxide. It only has mineral filters (which I like because they don’t sting if they get in my eyes and don’t have that sunscreen smell). It is tinted and the tint works on my skin tone (light and neutral toned - about NC15 - 20 in terms of MAC). The tint is very sheer, don’t think it would work on someone very pale and I don’t know if it would work on someone with medium or deeper skin. It is longwearing and water resistant, it feels sort of moussy going on and dries down quickly. It’s matte but not ultra matte and I find it very comfortable - it wears well under my makeup.
posted by insectosaurus at 11:02 AM on May 8, 2018

I use Korean sunscreens for my face, since they're designed for daily use and come at a cheaper price point than the fancy Western ones. I look for ones with mineral blockers since I wear them under a BB cream that has mineral sunscreen as well. My current favourite is The Face Shop Photogenic Sun Blur since I have drier skin and it leaves a nice glowy finish, but there are so, so many options that you can get on eBay or Amazon.
posted by noxperpetua at 12:12 PM on May 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I use either the Cotz that thegreatfleecircus suggested or the Rohto Skin Aqua Super Moisture Milk. The Cotz is great for the most stripped-down ingredient list yet effective sunscreen if you're okay with a somewhat heavy silicone feeling. The Rohto works better under makeup for me, but does have one of the less-good ingredients on the list (however happily does not have alcohol like many Japanese sunscreens). They both have zinc oxide which is one of the few ingredients that will block UVA1 and is approved by the FDA.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:18 PM on May 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

You may well be aware of this, but EWG's take on sunscreen is well outside scientific consensus.

Sunscreen is regulated by the FDA as an OTC drug. To believe that the chemicals the EWG identifies as harmful are actually harmful, you have to believe that the scientists at the FDA, AAD and Skin Cancer Foundation (among others) are either too stupid and bad at their jobs to evaluate the evidence of risk accurately, or so immoral and ethically negligent that they'll recommend products they know haven't been studied well enough to use and may cause harm to people.
posted by mrmurbles at 5:10 PM on May 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

I also use the Skin Aqua moisture milk. I am black and it leaves no white cast on me either.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 7:35 AM on May 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

I use Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF50+/PA++++. I love it so much. I am very fair and have used daily sunscreens on my face since I was a teenager. This is my favorite so far. No white cast, absorbs quickly and lasts a long time. It has a faint citrusy/alcoholy smell when you first put it on but that fades to nothing within a minute or two. I don't feel it on my skin at all. No problems wearing makeup over it.

Here's another review of it.
posted by purple_bird at 10:19 AM on May 9, 2018

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