We get this question a lot. As many of you have noticed, we have no SPF or sunscreen product in our lineup.
Yes, we do think that sunscreen is essential to any skincare routine for everyone no matter what age, gender, ethnicity or lifestyle. If such a product is so essential, why do we not have one in our lineup?
Let's start with some info about UV rays. There are two types: UVB and UVA. UVB rays are the rays that burn your skin and lead to skin cancer, while UVA rays are the rays that contribute to aging, leathery-looking skin and wrinkles. In the US, sunscreens are only required to protect you from UVB rays. Your typical drugstore brand won't shield you from any UVA rays. On top of that, the law doesn't allow brands to list exactly how much UVA protection it contains, leaving the most broad-spectrum formulas to be questionable, at best. In addition, the FDA regulates sunscreen as a drug, rather than a cosmetic, resulting in a ridiculously slow approval process for new ingredient additions, like the highly effective UVA-filters commonly used in European and Asian sunscreens.
There are two types of sunscreen ingredients: mineral and chemical. Mineral sunscreen blocks and repels sun's rays from the skin while chemical sunscreen ingredients absorb the sun's UV rays. Chemical sunscreen ingredients include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Mineral sunscreens use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Some ingredients such as oxybenzone and octinoxate are known to be endocrine disruptors, so continuous exposure can be toxic. Avobenzone and mexoryl SX have lower risk; however, avobenzone is known to degrade quickly and become a skin allergen for some. Mineral sunscreen ingredients are safer but often leave a whitish cast on the skin which never look great on those with darker skin tones.
Due to the regulatory environment that prevents us from formulating the best sunscreen product and launch within a reasonable time frame, we decided it was best to recommend a few of our favorites that we swear by.
Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence is among the holy grail in Asia. It combines chemical UV sunscreen ingredients like Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate and Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate. Chemical sunscreen ingredients work by absorbing UV rays, and these break down into free radicals. This sunscreen include antioxidants like Vitamin C and sodium hyaluronate for hydration to counteract the free radicals. The texture is very light and almost no fragrance. There is a lot of alcohol in this product (2nd on the list). We're in the camp that alcohol in a well-formulated product is good and aids in absorption of good ingredients. On average, it retails for US$15 or 2 for US$20 which is a great value.
La Roche-Posay's Anthelios XL non-perfumed fluid is another great option, and one of the few options with Mexoryl XL (a safe sunscreen ingredient that's not know to cause allergic reactions) sold in the US. It's fragrance-free, paraben-free, water resistant, non-comedogenic (a.k.a. does not clog pores), and lightweight. It smells a little funky, but it disappears after a minute. Unfortunately, mexoryl SX/SL are all pending FDA review, and there are not many sunscreens sold in the US with this ingredient.