Thursday, June 6, 2013

My Sunscreen Obsession

I admit it. I have a serious sunscreen fetish (sun cream to my fellow Brits and those using British-oriented English). I wear sun protection every day, even inside (my desk is next to a big, sunny window in sunny Silicon Valley). The results of an Australian clinical study validated what we've suspected all along:

 "The result, the researchers reported on Monday in The Annals of Internal Medicine, is that those assigned to use sunscreen every day had noticeably more resilient and smoother skin than those assigned to continue their usual practices." 

The results of the clinical study are 100% consistent with my own personal experience.

 This is why I am so obsessive about wearing sunscreen, on every exposed inch of skin, every day, all year round. I am WELL into middle age (many of you know exactly how old I am!) and I have managed to resist the ravages of time by compulsively applying high-SPF sun protection. I have been doing so since my 20's - when I was very young, sunscreens were not very common. I learned about them from my very pale school friend, who got hers from a dermatologist (he told her she would get skin cancer if she did not protect her skin). My mother's dermatologist also told her to wear sunscreen - and a big hat! Fortunately, I grew up in overcast Tokyo, the foggy Bay Area and rainy Seattle and was never a sun worshipper. I've only burned twice in my life, and only mildly - but I think that's genetics. In any case, sun damage is cumulative, and I've tried in every way to minimize or mitigate the effects of sun exposure, primarily by wearing sun protection. Genetics is an advantage only up to a point - if you are Asian, you need to protect your genetic advantage by wearing sunscreen on all exposed areas of skin, daily. Most photo-aging is caused by daily, cumulative, incidental sun exposure, not sunbathing or sun beds (which accelerate photo-aging at a terrible rate).

 I'll run though some of my favorite products in this post, and why I like them. In no particular order, let's start with lip protection. We all know that the skin on the lips is very vulnerable to sun damage, but we often forget to wear lip protection, especially if we're not wearing a fairly opaque lipstick which does provide sun protection. For gloss lovers, I can recommend 3 products: The Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment Line is one of my faves - but it does tend to get soft and melty in very hot weather. For beach, desert and snow, I like SPF lip products in a tube, like Supergoop Acai Fusion Lip Balm SPF30, which is slightly tinted, and Neosporin Lip Health SPF20, which is clear.

Next, 3 sunscreens that I like to wear under foundation - and two of them are Japanese. Personally, I think that Japanese sunscreens have the best formulation for facial application, followed closely by the French pharmacy brands (Bioderma, LaRoche Posay, Vichy, etc.).

The Estee Lauder Cyberwhite Brilliant Cells Full Spectrum Brightening UV Protector SPF 50/PA+++ is a product developed for the Japanese market and not sold at U.S. Estee Lauder counters. However, you can buy this on I bought this at Narita Duty Free and fell in love with it's sheer texture and delicious scent and it's totally worth $35.00.

Next up, Peter Thomas Roth Sheer Liquid SPF50 is $52.00. Sephora used to carry it, but no longer, unfortunately. I love the staying power of this product - it's sheer, great under foundation, and stays put in heat and humidity.

Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Mousse Sunblock Sunscreen Face SPF 50 Water Base is one of my all-time favorite facial sunscreens - you can't beat it's sheerness under makeup. However, it is less resistant to heat and humidity, so you may want to go with a denser formulation like the Peter Thomas Roth in extreme conditions. Available at for $17.87. Excellent value for money.

 Next, the more hard-core sunscreens. When I'm outside in the intense California sun, I wear Neutrogena Face Shield SPF110. Now, we all know that scientifically, the incremental protection provided by sunscreens with an SPF over over 15 is quite small; however, most people do not tend to apply enough product, so a higher concentration of active ingredients can be helpful in achieving the necessary level of protection. The Neutrogena Face Shield SPF110 is the best ultra-high-factor sunscreen for wear under makeup.

I like Neutrogena Beach Defense Water + Sun Barrier Spray SPF30 for walking around town or driving in shorts. It's really easy to apply, has great staying power, and is non-staining.

If I'm not wearing foundation, I like to apply Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch SPF100+ to my face, neck and chest in the Spring and Summer. This is thicker than the Face Shield, which has a sheerer formulation.

If my skin is feeling extra-sensitive, I'll use Clarins UV Plus HP SPF 40 mineral sunscreen. This is great for every day conditions, and I also have the tinted version too, which can be worn in place of tinted moisturizer - and it comes in 3 shades, Light, Medium, and Deep. If you are allergic to chemical sunscreens, I highly recommend the Clarins mineral sunscreens.

Here are my Beach favorites for body and hair. The Neutrogena Ultimate Sport SPF100+ is great for spraying sunscreen on those hard-to-reach places like your back. It has outstanding staying power and is a beach bag staple for me. At $9.00, you can't beat it.

If you color your hair like I do, then you'll want to use some UV protection for your hair (and your scalp and part!). I like Shiseido Refreshing Sun Protection Spray SPF 16. It keeps my hair color from fading, and keeps my part from burning.

For the Europeans, there is Nivea Sun Moisturizing Sun Spray SPF 50+, great for lounging by the pool in the late afternoon. If you have dry body skin, you'll like this product. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find this product in the U.S.

Also for the Europeans and residents of the UAE, Bioderma Photoderm Max SPF100 is a fantastic high factor sun cream for very pale skin. Americans can also purchase it on, but it's labelled as SPF50+.  This product is fantastic for those who have extremely sensitive skin - it's very soothing.

Hope you enjoyed my sunscreen line-up - happy summer!




  1. wow! what a nice sunscreen arsenal!!
    Yes! Sunscreen product is very important!

    1. Yes, you might say I'm obsessed! Sunscreen is really important in preventing those nasty brown spots, too!

  2. Wow, a lot of sunscreen products! I am not obsessed, but I do love them. I admit that I very often forget to apply it in the morning when I am at home. My current face sunscreens I use are by MyChelle and Devita. For body Blue Lizard (it is actually for my child).

  3. Doraemon - I live in a very sunny climate, so I can't be too careful! I will check out your recommendations - thank you!

  4. Hello!
    Welcome back. I love sunscreen and I am also stocking up on sunscreens lately. U will love Biore Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen (blue one). I like it more than the one u had (white packaging). It is realtively cheaper in Asia. If u like, I can help u to cp stuff from Singapore or Taiwan as I am heading to taiwan. U should check out Kose Sunscreen gel (I test it over the counters, it is so awesome! No trace of stickness....)
    There are a few other Asian brand sunscreen like Hado Labo, SkinAqua that u can check out. :)

    1. Hi misselainnio - Thank you for the recs! I will check into them :)

  5. the Biore Aqua is way cheaper here, I can send you some backups if you need (yours running flat I see)
    Thanks for the sunscreen post - I like me a lot of protection!

  6. By the way, jamilla, have you tried Coola sunscreen? Any good?