Tag Archives: Sunscreens

Why You Shouldn’t Use A High SPF Moisturiser

use low spf for anti aging

Glorious as it is, the Sun is the skin’s worse enemy.

There is no doubt about it. The biggest thing that makes your skin look old is sunlight. There is plenty of academic backup for this suggestion, but most of us can prove it simply by looking at ourselves. Areas of skin that are routinely exposed to light always look older than parts that don’t. In my case I have the habit of rolling my sleeves up in summer and the skin just below the join is rougher, darker and more hairy than above. Continue reading

Lip Balm With Sunscreens

Sunlight is bad.  It is a source of UV radiation which releases free radicals in your skin which damage the collagen in your skin which is why the skin on parts of your body exposed more often to the sun look older. It is a good idea to be liberal with the sunscreen as a rule.  And it might sound like it is a good idea to seek out products that contain UV filters.  A lip balm with sunscreen for example. Continue reading

Is Benzophenone A Risk To Reproductive Health?

Is benzonphenone a risk to reproductive health

Can a widely used sunscreen harm your chance of having children?

Big corporations are run for profits and are not too scrupulous about how they seek them.  We have seen tobacco companies ignore the health of smokers.  Big chemical companies have pushed lead into petrol.  Mining companies leave the public to foot the bill for clearing up the mess their operations create.  The list goes on.  Cosmetic companies are no different ethically from any other type of corporation.  As it happens there are almost no serious health effects arising from the cosmetic business.  But this is not because their standards are higher – it is simply a fact that cosmetics are pretty safe.  If that gives those of us involved in selling them any kind of moral high ground, well we throw it away pretty quickly by the outrageous claims we make for them.  It is very hard to do anybody any harm via the skin – but it is equally hard to do much good either. Continue reading

Mixing Sunscreens

mixing sunscreens

I was asked an interesting question on Twitter today.   Not Anita asked me “If I apply a SPF50 suncream to my face, then a SPF15 mineral foundation, what SPF protection do I have?”

It is an interesting question when you think about.  People are mixing sunscreens every day.  Do the two products blend and give you an SPF half way between the two, of 32.5. Or does the second one to be applied cancel out the first one, which would leave her with an SPF of only 15. Or does the bigger number trump the lower one? Continue reading

Is Titanium Dioxide Safe?


I enjoy being a cosmetic chemist, but like every job some things can be a bit tedious.  None is more so than complying with legislation.  In California they have a particularly irritating example of this in the form of a thing called Proposition 65, which includes a list of chemicals that California has decided are linked to cancer.  If you sell a cosmetic containing any of these chemicals you have to go online and notify the state of this fact via a particularly user-unfriendly database.  The list is quite long and is comprised mainly of chemicals I have never heard of, or that would have no use in any cosmetic product. Continue reading

BB Creams

BB creams have taken the beauty world by storm over the last two years.  Are the consumers demanding what they want from the industry? Or is this marketing people cunningly foisting a trend on an easily led public?  There is certainly a lot of interest in them as this graph from Google Trends shows.   Nobody was searching for BB creams until early in 2008.  Since then interest has steadily grown. In 2012 interest really started to pick up and shows no sign of having peaked yet.

BB CreamsBut despite all this excitement, I think that a lot of people still either haven’t heard of them or haven’t quite worked out what they are about.   So what are BB creams?  The BB cream started in Korea, where they have been around for a long time apparently – I am not sure how long.  They are a combination of a foundation with a moisturiser.  If that sounds to you like what we used to call a tinted moisturiser, well that is basically what they are.  There is nothing wrong with that of course.  Tinted moisturisers can, but usually don’t, also contain a sunscreen.  BB creams don’t have to, but usually do contain a sunscreen.  So basically the innovation is making a virtue of being multifunctional.  When I first started seeing BB creams the three functions were just that, foundation, moisturising and sun protection. Continue reading

Colin Solves Your Problems 24 – What Are The Risks of Hydroquinone


Should you risk hydroquinone on your freckles?

An interesting enquiry from Tracy, who uses hydroquinone and gets good results.

Hi Colin, I have had freckles ever since I was a child and have always detested them. I now use a Hydroquinone 4% cream which gives excellent results. The only trouble is, as soon as you stop using it, back come the freckles (and I am very careful with sunscreen). Is it very risky to use HQ off and on for long periods? The only side effect I have ever noticed is occasional dermatitis-type redness around my nose. Once I stop using the HQ for a while it goes away, and it doesn’t happen every time I use it by any means. Why is there such concern about this ingredient? Thanks!

Tracy doesn’t say where she is from, but you would have a hard job finding a 4% hydroquinone cream in Europe, so I am guessing either America or Asia.  It is generally frowned upon everywhere, but lots of people really like the results they get with it.  So how bad is it? Continue reading

UVA Protection – What Do the Ratings Mean?

UVA Protection

UVA Protection is wise if you are going to be exposed to the sun

Stasya has put me on the spot.

Hi Colin, I have a question that’s been at the back my mind for some time now, and after having made my way back to your blog after some time and read your post on titanium dioxide, I figured I’d ask you. I’m sure you might agree with me that it is quite frustrating how as of date there is no universally-agreed method of categorising levels of protection against UVA radiation. I was wondering if you might be able to do a cross-comparison between the East-Asian PA (+ to +++) system based on PPD, and the Boots star rating system based on absorbance of UVA? For instance, what would PA++ be roughly equivalent to, using the Boots star rating system? Thank you for your help Stasya

Now there is a tough question! Continue reading

Do Sunscreens Protect Against Skin Cancer?


Summer is here and my favourite scare mongers are at it again.  They are putting out dire warnings of the risks of using sunscreens if you don’t first check with them and then buy the ones they recommend.  I am sure readers of Colin’s Beauty Pages are savvy enough to see through anything so transparently self serving.

One argument I have seen put forward online against these scare tactics is to say that far from causing skin cancer sunscreens do in fact protect against skin cancer.  It sounds plausible, but is there any evidence?

Continue reading

Dermalogica Total Eye Care

Dermalogica Total Eye Care is one of those products that just commands respect.

But first a few words about Dermalogica the company.  Looking at its packaging and promotional material there isn’t much that makes it stand out from other similar mainly french brands. These companies all have the same kinds of vaguely clinical looking packs, make similar vaguely science based claims based on actives with names that sound like Star Trek characters and marketing full of photos of women that owe a large debt to the classical Greek ideals of beauty and an even larger one to the ready availability of Photoshop.

This approach is so widely used it must be successful, but I confess it leaves me cold.  As, generally, do the products.  The formulations have the same dreary familiarity as the packaging and are just as forgettable.  But while Dermalogica’s marketing is just more of the same, their formulations always seem to have a certain elan.  I have been really impressed by a number of them over the years and recently have been having a close look at their Total Eye Care.

Dermalogica Total Eye Care is sold in an unremarkable 15ml tube.  It claims an SPF of 15, thanks to a chemical free sunscreen.  The most damaging thing for our skin is light, so anything that keeps light away from skin is a good thing.  In the case of the very thin skin just around the eyes this is a particularly good thing.  It is an area that is always going to be the most exposed to light and which it is difficult to protect.

It also highlights that it has optical light diffusers to help diminish dark circles.  This is part of the same thing really.  It works by having some finely dispersed pigments suspended in the product.  These both reflect light to protect the skin from the sun, and diffuse the light coming from the surface of the skin to cover up wrinkles.  This approach only really works with very fine wrinkles, but these are exactly the kind that you tend to get around your eyes so it works well.  The main pigment is titanium dioxide, which is the same pigment that turns up in any application that needs something white, like paper making or crown emulsion paint.  But to get the sun protection they must be using particularly fine particles.  Some iron oxides are included to give a rough match to average skin tone, but once it is spread on the skin you can’t really see them.  They do give the product an appealing colour and are probably adding a subtle tint that overcomes the slightly ghostly effect you get when you use titanium dioxide on its own.

The thing that makes this formulation really stand out is the texture.  It is rich with a pleasing sheen when the light falls on it. You can use your fingers to produce long peaks, that on breaking fall down to produce something that reminds you of a wizard’s hat.

Let’s have a look at the formulation.

The headline ingredient is titanium dioxide which I have already  talked about.   On top of the titanium dioxide there are some other pigments that contribute, i.e., the talc, iron oxides and mica.

What else is in the formulation?  There are a couple of actives that have a mild anti-inflammatory action: allantoin and bisabolol.   These aren’t going to be effective enough to treat any really serious skin problems, but might be quite suitable for any area of the skin that can sometimes be subject to stress and trauma but which is not actually unhealthy.

In addition to these worthy components are a whole set of pointless tip-ins.   Companies, or at any rate their marketing departments, are under the impression that consumers like to have lots of natural ingredients in their products.  This particular one contains things like bitter orange extract, cetella asiatica, tyrosine and lots lots more.  They are a total waste of time as far as I am concerned, and more importantly as far as doing any good to your skin is concerned.  Please people, you’ll get a lot more from your personal care purchases if you judge products on their performance not fairy stories.

This is the product's ingredient list:
Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Flower Extract, C12-15 Alkyl Ethylhexanoate, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Silica,
Lactic Acid, DEA-Cetyl Phosphate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate,
Propylene Glhycol, Extracts of: Spiraea Ulmaria Flower, Centella Asiatica; Leucine, Valine, Tyrosine Arginine, Lyine,
Sodium PCA, Tocopheryl Acetate, Bisabolol, Lauric Acid, Aluminum Hydroxide, Allantoin, Ceteareth-20, Xanthan Gum,
Sodium Hydroxide (for pH adjustment only), Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben,
Talc, Iron Oxides (CI 77492, CI 77491), Mica (CI 77019)

And this is what it would look like if all the pointless additives were dropped.

Water, C12-15 Alkyl Ethylhexanoate, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Silica,
Lactic Acid, DEA-Cetyl Phosphate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate,
Tocopheryl Acetate, Bisabolol, Lauric Acid, Aluminum Hydroxide, Allantoin, Ceteareth-20, Xanthan Gum,
Sodium Hydroxide (for pH adjustment only), Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben,
Talc, Iron Oxides (CI 77492, CI 77491), Mica (CI 77019)

But don’t let this minor gripe put you off.  This is a very well formulated product that commands respect.  If you think the area around your eyes is looking a bit tired and wrinkled this might help.  It won’t work miracles but you should be able to see an improvement within a couple of days.  If you don’t, it isn’t for you and you need to look for something else.