Wednesday, March 3, 2010

SPF (Part I)

I was hoping to get this post about SPF out sooner, but the truth is, doing a lot of research on the topic has made it difficult and time consuming for me to review, but here it is!

I love any product with SPF, but the truth is, shopping for sun block can be daunting, and believe me, I know. Have you been down the sun block aisle? SPF 50, 70, 90+, Ultra Defense, Sensitive Skin, Ultra Sheer Finish, Oil-Free… it’s enough to make anyone give up! I try to always buy products that have a high SPF and I try to avoid the sun, which is not easy living in South Florida. The higher the SPF, the more likely it is that I'll buy the product. I stock up on that stuff the way that most beauty addicts always leave the beauty aisle with a lip-gloss or eyeliner pencil. I'm always looking for the perfect sunscreen, but I have yet to find my favorite kind.

People are always going on and on about how important it is to use SPF and they’re right! Even though I have a dark / caramel skin-tone, I always try to buy a sun block with a high SPF. My friends would always tell me that I don’t need to wear SPF 70 or 90+ since I am dark, but that doesn’t matter. I live in land where more often than not, the sun is out and beats down on you hard! Not to mention that with my dark-pigmented acne scars, the sun will not help them fade, but will make them darker and more difficult to get rid of!

But, vanity aside, the most important reason of all is the prevention of skin cancers (so I’ll stick to my SPF 85 thank you very much). But lately I’ve been hearing that the number on the bottle doesn’t mean anything. And worse yet, that some of these active ingredients can cause breakouts! Um, what? I was thoroughly annoyed! If I’m paying for the maximum protection I can find, then why can’t I get that (apparently there is only so much protection that these creams can supply)? What about things I should look into if I want to avoid breakout but still protect my skin from sun damage? So I started doing my homework.

What do SPF numbers mean?
[Bare with me while I try to explain this one], the sun protective factor number stands for the measure of time that the product can screen or block the sun’s rays. Confusing, I know but here’s an example. If it takes you about 10 minutes to burn in the sun without sun block, then you multiply the number on the bottle by that number. So, SPF 30, times 10 minutes in the sun, equals 300 minutes (5 hours) that you can spend in the sun using that kind without being burned.* But rumor has it that the FDA will soon be putting a cap on the SPF number that cosmetic companies can put on their products.

*This time does not include variables like time of day, weather conditions, clothing rub-off, sweating, swimming, etc.

What about the ingredients?
This is a tricky subject. I recently learned that some of the main ingredients in most sunscreens (almost all sunscreens, in fact), can cause some to breakout.

Avobenzone, for most people is not an issue. But if you’re like me, you may start to notice a small cluster of breakouts (as I did). Avobenzone-based sun blocks are usually billed as being non-comedogenic, but for a few (myself included) they can still cause problems. As an alternative, you can look for ingredients such as Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. Neutrogena sells an SPF 60 sun block for babies that does not contain Avobenzone.

But wait – what about all those reports that explain that Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide can clog or block pores? This is where it gets a bit messy. Yes, Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are minerals that have been known to cause those with oily skin to break out. Not to mention, a funny side-affect is that this combination is known for leaving a heavy, white film on the skin. But, despite all these concerns, it’s had a better effect (on my skin – at least), in terms of break outs. Go fig!

I guess you have to pick your battles… And the truth of the matter is, you have to experiment – as most beauty addicts already know – to see what works for you. For more help about understanding sun blocks, ingredients and their effects on your skin, you can check out these articles that have helped me throughout this post.

My quest for the perfect sun block continues...

1 comment:

  1. We always have sunscreen in the house, as my whole family suffers from 'cheap Irish skin'. Fair and freckled, we burn at the thought of a sunny day. Now that I've gotten older, it's harder and harder to find a brand that doesn't mess with my face, so I feel you. The rest of my body gets good ol' No-Ad or Coppertone.

    Someday, we will find an answer. Great entry!


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