Safe sunbathing is now widely accepted as an oxymoron. Safe sunscreen may be one too. Sunscreen is, at the very least, controversial. There are scientists who believe that chemical sunscreens and even a mineral such as titanium dioxide are sensitive to sunlight, whereupon they break down and become free radicals rampaging our good cells. Because of this, some scientists think the population's increase in melanoma is actually due to using sunscreen. How ironic is that? Nonetheless, we know sun damage is bad for us too, so sunscreen is a necessary evil. Now, what if someone could make a sunscreen that is effective and safe? Antiaging potion maker, Chella, may have done just that.

Chella recently sent me its Anti-aging Formula SPF 25 UVA & UVB Morning Crema for normal to oily skin. Noticing that the active ingredient is ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, I grimaced slightly and put it to one side. Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate is usually listed as octinoxate, one of the most widely used sunblocks in the industry. When octinoxate is exposed to sunlight, it is converted into a less UV absorbent form (from E-octyl-p-methoxycinnamate into a Z-octyl-p-methoxycinnamate). For this reason it is usually combined with another active. In this case, Chella has added butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane, also known as avobenzone.  Some studies have demonstrated it to be absorbed by the body and secreted into urine, and is therefore not recommended to use on children or pregnant women.

Several days later, I picked up the box and squinted at it. Chella had added in something called Silasoma. What I read next was really interesting: "Silasoma is a scientifically advanced silk protein that encapsulates UVA and UVB filters so that they never touch the skin. The silk protein forms a protective barrier between even the most sensitive skin and the potentially irritating UV filters." Now you're talking!

As far as I can understand, Silasoma is polysilicone-14, which is a microcapsule that wraps itself around the sunscreen particles. If this really works, then it seems that harmful sunscreens are rendered harmless because they can't penetrate the skin. It would also mean that the avobenzone, a notorious irritant, would be less likely to bother me (there are very few sunscreens that don't make me breakout).

Chella's Morning Crema ($75, but currently deeply discounted on Amazon) also contains Matrixyl, vitamins E, A, B and C, as well as aloe vera and antioxidant posy of marigold, butcher's broom, gotu kola and green tea. I've been using this cream for the past couple of (hot and sunny in New York) days and found that the protection was good and I haven't suffered any irritation.

In the meantime, I also found Silasoma in a couple of other products, including Epicuren (who makes a cleanser I also like) Skin Mist Sunscreen ($44).

Active ingredients

Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate (6.60%), butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane (1.65%)

Ingredients

Water, cetearyl alcohol, palmitoyl oligopeptide, glyceryl polymethacrylate, glyceryl stearate, caprylic/capric triglyceride, polysilicone-14, tocopheryl acetate, retinyl palmitate, acsorbyl palmitate, panthenol, aloe vera leaf juice, propylene glycol, polysorbate 20, trimethylopropane tricaprylate/tricaprate, dimethicone, stearic acid, cyclomethicone, sodium polyacryloyldimethyl, taurate, hydrogenated polydecene, butylene glycol, C18-22 Hydroxyalkyl hydroxypropyl guar, rosemary, gotu kola, butcher's broom, marigold, horse chestnut, licorice root, green tea, grape seed, (hybrid sunflower), allantoin, trideceth-10, disodium EDTA, etidronic acid, phenoxyethanol, ethylhexylglycerin, fragrance.