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By Rachel F.
As I approach my 30s, I realize that I need to start being more responsible with my skin. Finding the perfect sunscreen has proven to be the most elusive component by far. I've spent years trying to find a lightweight product with SPF that doesn't look or feel oily on my face and isn't filled with chemicals that will do more harm than good. I'm definitely not a purist when it comes to formulas, but I do read the research and try to avoid certain ingredients. Looking at the impressive list of ingredients and qualities of AO Skincare Protect Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($59.95 in the shop), this looked like the dream sunscreen — and it very nearly was.
A little background on my skin: I have inherited an oily complexion, which may mean fewer wrinkles in my future, but leaves me with a permanent sheen. In especially humid climates, or with most sunscreens, my forehead shines like a diamond. I have an olive skin tone that tans beautifully and rarely burns, but a significant family history of melanoma. I can count on one hand the number of sunburns I've had in my life, but I know the damage adds up even if I don't see it. This leaves me with a bit of a dilemma: I've always spent a decent amount of time outside, and I frequently find myself skimping on sunscreen just to avoid looking like a sweaty mess. I was hoping AO Protect would be my solution.
Ao Protect has a broad spectrum (meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays) SPF 30, the minimum sun protection factor I am willing to use. It uses mineral zinc oxide as a physical block and a natural alternative to chemical sunscreen. It’s also fortified with antioxidants, including ferulic acid, tocopherol (vitamin E) and marine algae, anti-aging niacinamide and skin-soothing aloe vera.
My first impressions were not all that positive, but it quickly grew on me. The first week I tried AO Protect was especially humid, and since my total daily commute involves over two miles of walking in the sun and an hour on a crowded train, it's not an easy start. I'm very sensitive to smells, but AO Protect had a soft, pleasant scent that disappeared within minutes. It felt smooth going on, but took a while to dry on the skin and felt a little too heavy. I prefer not to notice my sunscreen at all, but I could feel this cream on my skin all day.
Initially, I had to apply more makeup than usual, and it irked me that more time was added to my morning prep. Through a bit of trial and error, I found that I could apply the sunscreen after cleansing, then enjoy breakfast as it dried, apply a setting spray, a touch of makeup, another round of setting spray and some translucent powder to finish it off. A bit silly sounding, but it worked and didn't take up too much of my time.
The cream didn't hold up all that well in the humidity, but when that passed I found it to be a welcome treat during dry days. As summer turned to fall, I found myself enjoying AO Protect more and more. It didn't add the extra sheen and wasn't as noticeable on the skin. When the time came to cleanse my face at the end of the day, my skin felt a touch smoother. It's certainly one of the better sunscreens I've tried, and is definitely a contender during the colder months, but I don't think my search for the perfect sunscreen has ended just yet.