Tuesday 1 June 2021

The war on sunscreen

**********This post contains both gifted and non-gifted items. Gifted mentions may also be present. All links used are affiliate.********** 

It seems that whenever we do a quick search on #sunscreen there’s a new drama lurking and calling us in. Personally,  I’m a little bored of it now. We live in such crazy times, times where information is available at a touch of a button yet we’re using it wrong. I’ve not suddenly got a med school degree, nor did I publish multiple papers on the subject of chemistry and/or biology, but let’s have a crack anyway. Why is 2021 doing us dirty with the never-ending war on sunscreen? Let’s chat.

That K-beauty sunscreen drama

Let’s start with one drama that actually had to happen and we’re just all grateful it did. The issue with the cancel culture and Twitter wars is that every time something needs to be said, it gets blown and turns into something a lot more sinister. In early 2021 the sunscreen from Purito labs was independently tested and revealed to not have adequate protection, at least not as advertised. This is dangerous. We use sunscreen for a reason. We protect ourselves and others to try and not succumb to skin cancer. An adequate sunscreen testing is needed and the beauty of this drama was, that it highlighted the issue causing a lot more brands to re-test and publish their findings. It made them DO BETTER for us.

Sunscreen is ridiculously hard to make, it’s also incredibly expensive to do so, hence why a lot of brands shy away from bringing one out. Sunscreen is also very difficult to make right. Mineral sunscreens tend to leave the white cast and feel rather heavy. Physical sunscreen does a lot better in terms of not making everyone look like a Holy Ghost but comes with its own set of cons like possibly enraging sensitive skin (some formulas NOT ALL!). Sunscreen often stings the eyes. Finding a sunscreen formula that feels light and works just right is hard, so we spend years trying to find the one. And when we do, we NEED to be able to believe what it says on the packaging. If it promises factor 50 it MUST test at 50 minimum! So this drama was important and I’m glad it happened.

However, what I didn’t like about it, is how quickly a sad tale of a bad lab turned into a racial war on South Korea. Racism and xenophobia are alive and well, we know this, but to hear some of my favourite influencers specifically referring to the country of origin as opposed to brand to recommend next best thing was deeply upsetting. It’s NOT ABOUT COUNTRY OF ORIGIN, it’s about a dodgy lab, it could and is happening across the globe and not just in South Korea. We need to learn to critique without bringing in hate speech. It really ain’t that hard. Unless you’re a deeply racist keyboard warrior that is. 

Don’t be like Gwyneth

So that happened... by now the whole skincare world and their Nans watched the train wreck that was the skincare clip published on Vogue’s YouTube channel by the ‘clean beauty’ champion Gwyneth Paltrow. I needed a bit of time to gather my thoughts without sounding like a right moan. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a bit of GP as Miss Potts in Marvel universe, but when it comes to skincare advice, I’ll stick to science and dermatologists thanks very much.

Gwyneth Paltrow gets a lot of bad rep thanks to questionable GOOP brand choices as well as the disconnect from reality in her lifestyle and food advice (have you seen the prices!?), and because of that, I would always take anything that comes from GP herself with a pinch of salt, but there’s fear-mongering about clean beauty and dangerous ingredients, and there are blatantly awful and dangerous musings on the use of SPF we’ve been subjected to by Vogue recently. Surely Vogue, the only magazine I still buy religiously every month (British edition of course), have a lot of fantastic editors so what happened in that room when the decision was made to publish the latest skincare routine by GP is beyond me.

Lathering ourselves with SPF isn’t just about preventing age spots and trying to delay the signs of ageing. In the skincare world, we don’t try and make you buy lots of SPF for the sake of it, we are trying to help spread the word because a lack of SPF or using it too sparingly can have real-life consequences like you know, agonising death from skin cancer! Yes I get it, SPF is a pain in the backside and finding a fantastic formula that doesn’t piss me off takes a bit of research and a lot of testing, but there is SPF’s out there that won’t break you out, make you overly oily, or look like a pale Smurf thanks to the white cast.

There’s stupidity in posting such video in any climate but to do so a few months after SPF-gate where lots of brands have been exposed for inadequate testing and lower filters in the formula than advertised - that’s just plain f*cking stupid. We live in a world where conspiracy theories spread faster than fire, so who in the right state of mind decides it’s a great idea to add to the skincare ingredient fear mongering and do so by allowing a celebrity to sell us yet another overpriced product and make us believe it’s okay not to use SPF or use it sparingly, and use it in a wrong way?! It’s not just stupid, it’s bloody dangerous. Not everyone has time to do their research and look up to Vogue and celebrities for snippets of how their daily routine should look like. Let’s deconstruct all the ‘skincare advice’ in the video, now shall we? And it’s A LOT!

Applying SPF before moisturiser - SPF should always be applied to dry skin, as the last step in your routine before makeup. This means that you get the best chance for the filter to work as advertised and protect you from harmful UVA and UVB rays. Apply sun protection at least 30 minutes before exposing yourself to sun rays outside and wear SPF even if you’re staying indoors since UVA rays are not being blocked by your windows.

Applying pea-size amount of SPF - You should always use a generous amount of SPF to ensure you are protected and reapply every few hours. Our face and body has lots of angles and isn’t a pore-less straight board and because of it, we should be generous with SPF to ensure we apply it everywhere it’s needed. My trick is to apply 2-3 lengths of fingers on my face (don’t forget the ears) and neck.

Applying SPF on high points of the face only - I mean, I don’t even know what to say to this other than... Sunscreen is not a bloody highlighter. UVA and UVB don’t just get you there - it gets you everywhere. Don’t be Gwyneth and risk cancer, please!

Chemical SPF is dangerous - The claims that mineral/physical SPF is better and not dangerous/toxic as its chemical counterpart are simply untrue. Chemical SPF isn’t the devil and most people can use it safely and without any side effects. If you have rosacea, you may want to consider switching to mineral which can be tolerated better, but if you have acne, most mineral formulas can feel too thick/heavy on the skin. A lot of mineral formulas can also flash back badly due to white cast on most POC skin too but there are ways around it and some brands like Skingredients (my fave!) use tints to counteract it. The level of toxicity of any formulation that’s allowed to be sold is minimal meaning it’s not going to make you ill. Don’t listen to fear-mongering please, see a dermatologist instead!

Benzyne found in sunscreen!!! Sunscreen is bad. Sunscreen will kill you!

Well, first of all, and let’s get it out there, the first and utmost reason for using sunscreen is to prevent skin cancer which can lead to death. So no, sunscreen WON’T kill you. Now repeat it louder for the people in the back. Let’s try and debunk the fear-mongering clickbait you’ve seen everywhere, shall we?

In recent days, some claims have been made as a result of sample testing of sunscreens available predominantly in America that revealed that benzene or carcinogen if you want to be fancy (Shhhh, I googled it okay!) has been detected. Now, what does that really mean for us right now? 

At the present time, FDA (Food and Drugs Authority body in the US) is yet to respond to the claims. It is not unusual, hold your horses, claims as such must be investigated thoroughly - we’re talking gathering evidence, testing - it takes time which Internet warriors don’t really understand a lot of the time. Additionally, no sunscreen products/brands/ingredients have been recalled due to alleged benzene contamination. Now, this does not mean that won’t happen but before you throw away your sunscreen stash wasting all that money, perhaps it’s best to take a deep breath and wait for the official results of the investigation? If you don’t feel comfortable using a product in the meantime, perhaps lookout for some well-established products that have recently published their data, Thank You Farmer is one of these fantastic brands coming in with receipts and we love them for it!

At this time we also do not know the levels at which said ingredient was detected. As with anything, the fact that something may have an adverse effect on us does not mean it needs to be banned - as formulation is key, and at minuscule levels, it may not even bother you. I am not a chemist, I do not know the full extent of what benzene can do, but at the same time, it’s not likely the levels detected were to be high - you’re not bathing in the stuff you know? It is known that exposure to benzene can lead to cancer, now, my understanding is that said exposure is likely to be a lot more than what was allegedly found in the formulas. Again, this is an assumption, and we need to wait for an official response from FDA and maybe independent opinions from outside of America, say the EU who tends to scrutinise ingredients and their levels a lot more. Additionally, our exposure to benzene is a daily occurrence for most. It is likely that by simply walking by the road you are exposed to it, then there are cigarettes, small levels in food etc etc.

Before you do something as drastic as stop protecting your skin from the extremely dangerous effects of UVA and UVB, please stop and think. Do your research. It’s there. Don’t let fear-mongering scare you into voluntarily leaving yourself exposed to skin cancer. And if you’re a little vain like me, and need something a lot less scary to put this into perspective: you also don’t want sun spots, early wrinkles, texture and premature ageing. 

Final thoughts:

We live in this world that is so full of BS on a daily, it’s often hard to separate the truth from fear-led campaigns, but we must try. Despite all the dramas and quite real war on sunscreen we see everywhere, please remember we also live in a world that’s so polluted, with ozone levels at it’s all-time high and being exposed to dangerous levels of UVA and UVB rays on a daily, whether it’s sunny or cloudy, rain or snow, inside or outside, we need sunscreen to protect ourselves. Skin cancer is real, and it kills. Why would you want to take that chance? A quality sunscreen won’t kill you, in fact, it may help you live.

Sunscreen do’s and don’t’s:

Sunscreen should not be used on babies under 6 months - protect your child with umbrellas, sun hats and other protective wear until they are old enough for sunscreen

If chemical sunscreen makes your rosacea flare-up or is causing inflammation, try and switch to mineral formula or find a better chemical one. It’s there, you just need to find ‘the one'.

Wear an appropriate amount of sunscreen - I can’t stress it enough, only by wearing lots you are actually protecting your skin. Also re-apply. Read the label for how often. And if you’re wearing makeup there are lots of mists around - now I would not recommend them as your only sunscreen as mists tend to go everywhere and may miss a spot or 10, but it’s better than not reapplying.

Wait at least 30 mins after application before leaving the house.

Use sunscreen on dry skin. That means do your skincare, wait for it to sink in then go with an appropriate amount. Let it sink in.

Do not mix sunscreen with other products. You are likely to make it less effective if at all. Sunscreen is a separate step and a separate product.

Remember that oils can impact on the effectiveness of sunscreen. If you use oily formulas use them first, let them fully sink in and go with the sunscreen. For example, hybrid makeup/skincare bases should be applied before sunscreen. Better safe than sorry.

The best sunscreen is the one you’ll wear every day. Sali Hughes had recently taught me that and it’s really that simple. If you don’t like the formula the chances are you’ll skip it more often than not. Find one that works for you, and makes you happy. 

Few drama-free sunscreens worth your attention:

For the SPF30 gang, I’m a huge fan of a couple such as Dermalogica Prisma Protect SPF30* - a beautifully light formula that sinks in easily and is able to combat even the sunniest of days. Having said that, I tend to go for it on cloudy days or in winter and opt for factor 50 any other time.

Another goodie -  Fenty Skin Hydra Vizor SPF30 is just as beautiful - from the scent to the gloriously glowing finish, it applies and feels just like any moisturiser and will make any SPF hater think twice! I’ve finished mine and need to purchase a backup ASAP!

For the SPF50 squad the Skingredients Skin Shield SPF50 PA+++* is my personal hero! A mineral sunscreen that feels like nothing - it’s just so light yet it keeps our mugs fully protected. With the peachy tint that helps fight the white cast associated with the physical filters, it’s one everyone should be able to enjoy, whatever your skin tone or SPF preference. I’m about to finish mine, but thankfully have another to see me through the rest of summer, or a month, considering my top up as much as I can habits!

The one and only in K-Beauty the Thank You Farmer Sun Project Water Sun Cream SPF50* survived the recent SPF-gate and came out a winner publishing their results and proving that it can be done: an ultralight formula and the feel we come to enjoy from Korean sun cream and a full SPF50 as advertised. It has many fans and the brand has a couple more in their offering. This one’s more glowing in finish and dry skin-friendly whereas the oily skin may want a play with Light Sun Essence which offers a more natural finish. Click the links for automatic -15% off on Tonic15.com or use code: BDQBLOG on checkout ***affiliate***

Budget-friendly Garnier Amber Solaire Super UV Anti-Dryness Protection Cream SPF50+ is a newcomer on my vanity but it’s a goodie too and comes recommended by Caroline Hurons meaning it was quite hard to get for a while, but now it’s back in stock, it’s time to stock up. It’s worth mentioning that the product had undergone the strictest testing and conforms to EU recommendation for sun protection, and Garnier’s research has been recognised by the British Skin Foundation. 

By now the whole world is a fan of Dr Dennis Gross peels, but did you know they also do sunscreen and recognise the importance it is to protect that face. If you’re using actives it’s a damn must! Their Dark Spot Sun Defence Broad Spectrum SPF50 not only protects skin from damage, but it also aims to repair the existing changes. FDA-approved, it’s the name we came to trust because of their science and practice-led approach to skincare.

And if budget ain’t a problem, and you don’t like thick sunscreen formulas, look no further than ultralight YSL Pure Shots Airthin UV Defender SPF50*. The watery formula goes on like nothing and sinks in instantly leaving you with a healthy glow and a good level of protection against the rays. Even the pickiest of sunscreen users agree - it’s one of the lightest formulas out there!

From left: Dr Dennis Gross, Skingredients, Thank You Farmer, YSL Beauty, Garnier & Fenty Skin

I'd love to know your thoughts on sunscreen and the constant misinformation we see in the media and on socials? Do you wear sunscreen every day, if so, have you always, and if not, why? Let's have an honest chat.


Until next time my Queens,

Full disclaimer:

In line with an updated CMA/ASA Non-broadcast Code, if gifted products are present, the disclaimer at the top of the post will be specific if all or some products have been sent for review consideration. In the instance there's a need to differentiate between PR and non PR, all products marked with * have been gifted to Beauty Drama Queen for review consideration, therefore are considered sponsored and displayed as a form of an unpaid advertisement.

All articles sponsored by a brand, a retailer or via a PR agency where specific product placement has been paid for on top of product gifting will be clearly branded as AD.

Products I've bought myself, but there's a current or past (up to 12 months) relationship with the brand present will be marked with **.

Products unmarked have been purchased by Beauty Drama Queen, gifted by family and friends or won in a giveaway and therefore not in the scope of the legislation.

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