You’ve probably seen this photo of a man who received chronic UV exposure on the left side of his face over the course of 28 years working as a truck driver. While this shows the effect that UV has on the skin, what’s important to keep in mind is that windows only block UVB light whereas UVA is often passed through.
Chronic UVA exposure can result in thickening of the epidermis and stratum corneum, as well as destruction of elastic fibers.
Unfortunately, for those of us living in Canada, the US, and Australia the amount of UVA protection offered by sunscreens is only given in relative terms. The UVA circle logo, for example, let’s you know that the UVA protection is at least 1/3rd of the SPF protection of the sunscreen, but it’s not as informative as a UVA protection factor (UVAPF) or persistent pigmentation darkening (PPD) number. While the PA system used in some Asian countries is based on a PPD number, the data is compressed into categories.
My personal thought is that the UVA protection should be as close to the SPF protection as possible. These are the sunscreens that I personally recommend; based on UVA protection, how they feel and wear on the skin, and affordability. While there are many great sunscreens out there, many of them are too expensive for me and I end up “rationing” them – which is a no-no when it comes to sunscreen application.
Bioderma Photoderm MAX Spray SPF 50+ with UVAPF 33 is a large sized and affordable sunscreen with a moderately high UVAPF. It is a lipid based formula (Dicaprylyl Carbonate) which spreads easily and is not greasy on the skin. I recommend the larger 400 mL size which comes with a snap lock which makes it easy to travel with. I use this on face and body.
It prices out to about 10 US cents per mL.
Sunscreen filters in bold:
Aqua/water/eau, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Octocrylene, Methylene Bis-benzotriazolyl Tetramethylbutylphenol [Nano], Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, Bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine, Cyclopentasiloxane, Methylpropanediol, Ectoin, Mannitol, Xylitol, Rhamnose, Fructooligosaccharides, Laminaria Ochroleuca Extract, Decyl Glucoside, C20-22 Alkyl Phosphate, C20-22 Alcohols, Xanthan Gum, Propylene Glycol, Citric Acid, Caprylic/capric Triglyceride, Sodium Hydroxide, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Pentylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, Cellulose Gum, Disodium EDTA.
Ombrelle Ultra Light Advanced Weightless Body Lotion SPF 50 is another affordable sunscreen I recommend. Canada’s Ombrelle was acquired by L’Oreal which is why this product contains Mexoryl sunscreens, which are patented and used exclusively by L’Oreal companies. Because of regulations, the UVAPF or PPD is not able to be listed, but this does have the UVA circle logo. It contains 2% Mexoryl SX which is the stronger UVA absorber compared to Mexoryl XL. It is lightweight, dries quickly, affordable, and easily accessible for Canadians. While it is marketed as a body sunscreen, I use it on my face. It’s much lighter in texture compared to Ombrelle’s other sunscreens marketed for the face.
It prices out to about 12 US cents per mL.
Sunscreen filters in bold
Homosalate: 10%, Oxybenzone: 6%, Octisalate: 5%, Octocrylene: 5%, Avobenzone: 3%, Ecamsul (Mexoryl® SX): 2%. Others/Autres: Aqua, Cyclopentasiloxane, Alcohol Denat., Cyclohexasiloxane, Styrene/Acrylatescopolymer, Silica, Dicaprylyl Ether, PEG-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate, Dimethicone, Triethanolamine, Glycerin, Nylon-12 Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Tocopherol, Dodecene, Phenoxyethanol, PEG-8 Laurate, Poly C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate, Poloxamer 407, Caprylyl Glycol, Disteardimonium Hectorite,Disodium EDTA, Lauryl PEG
Sheer Zinc Face Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50 is a newer sunscreen and contains only Zinc Oxide as its sunscreen filter. Be warned, this has a very strong whitecast and a thick silicone texture which can pill. I find it best to apply this to small areas of the skin while blending thoroughly.
The reason why I recommend this sunscreen, despite its drawbacks, is based on a presentation that Johnson & Johnson gave at the 2017 American Academy of Dermatology’s Annual meeting showing that their 21.6% Zinc Oxide sunscreen had a UVAPF of 30. Other inorganic sunscreens I’ve seen have only been able to reach a UVAPF of about 18-25.
While the Neutrogena Sheer Zinc was not explicitly named, the launch time and Zinc Oxide content of 21.6% suggests to me that this is the product described.
They compared its absorption spectrum, in vitro, with other common inorganic sunscreens and were able to show that it absorbed more UVA in comparison
I must say again how strong the white cast is, hopefully in the future they release tinted versions!
Based on the above chart it’s likely that the tinted Elta MD SPF 41 with 9.0% Zinc Oxide and 7.0% Titanium Dioxide has a UVAPF of around 28, I’ve not personally tried the product, but I do know it is popular. It prices out to about 35 US cents per mL.
The Neutrogena Sheer Zinc prices out to about 15 US Cents per mL.
Sunscreen filters are in bold
Zinc Oxide 21.6%. Others: Water, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Styrene/acrylates Copolymer, Octyldodecyl Citrate Crosspolymer, Phenyl Trimethicone, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Dimethicone, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Glycerin, Ethyl Methicone, Cetyl Dimethicone, Silica, Chrysanthemum Parthenium (Feverfew) Flower/leaf/stem Juice, Glyceryl Behenate, Phenethyl Alcohol, Caprylyl Glycol, Cetyl Dimethicone/bis-vinyldimethicone Crosspolymer, Acrylates/dimethicone Copolymer, Sodium Chloride, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.
J.R.S. Gordon, J.C. Brieva, Unilateral Dermatoheliosis, The New England Journal of Medicine (2012), DOI: 10.1056/NEJMicm1104059