safe sunscreen, dry skin solutions

A recent email from a reader raised some interesting questions about sunscreen, moisturizer SPF combos and how to tackle multiple skin concerns (breakouts, dry, dull and uneven skin tone) at once. I spent some time thinking about this and it struck me that it could be worthwhile sharing my response with the Truth In Aging community.

My correspondent, who I’ll call J, had been using big brand moisturizers with SPF, such as Clean & Clear Soft and Clinique. Despite – or probably due to – extensive product experimentation she suffered continuously from breakouts, enlarged pores and redness. Eventually she came to the conclusion that the chemical sunscreens, like octinoxate in her moisturizers with SPF may be the cause. Like most people, J had no idea how toxic they are. As she put it: “Its been kind of horrifying to read how dangerous most SPF products are – I had no idea.”

Neither did I, until recently. All I knew was that sunscreens tended to leave my skin in a horrible state. Many sunscreen actives are photocarcinogen, which means that when exposed to sunlight they can harm cells. Even mineral sunscreens such as titanium dioxide have the same controversial issue, although they remain preferable since they are far less likely to cause irritation.

J is now looking for a moisturizer with SPF that is free of dangerous chemicals. However, because she has sensitive skin, I feel it is by far better to keep sunscreen and moisturizer separate. And I would definitely avoid a tinted moisturizer (the tint is one more complication that your skin could react to). By keeping sunscreen and moisturizer separate, you have more control over the situation if your skin reacts badly. I suggested Snowberry’s Everyday Broad Spectrum SPF15 ($35), which interestingly uses a natural alternative to octinoxate. Sensitive skin also seems to do well with Colorescience, a mineral sunscreen in powder form.

J is a 30-something-year-old, experiencing the onset of dull and dry skin who really wants recommendations for products that will bring back her glow. I felt reluctant to suggest proven brighteners such as glycolics or AHAs because of her skin having dry, flaky patches as well as being very sensitive. I decided the safest might be Snowberry Bright Defense #3 for dry skin ($66). It will moisturize and do a little bit of brightening, but without exfoliating or drying ingredients. She won’t get a huge improvement in skin tone, but the objective at this stage is to get the dry patches down and prevent flareups.

For cleanser, I would start out with a gentle creamy one such as Red Flower Lymphatic ($42 in the shop) or Living Nature Vitalizing Cleanser ($35 in the shop), both of which are Five Best cleansers of 2013.

When J’s skin has stabilized, she can start out on some of the heavier guns. La Vie Celeste Restorative Exfoliating Gel Mask ($60 in the shop) has mostly natural ingredients and a 5% glycolic concentration that is just enough to give you a glow. Another good one is 100% Pure Pineapple Enzyme Peel ($18 in the shop), with an orchard of fruit extracts including, of course, pineapple enzymes for removing dead skin cells.

These and a full soup to nuts beauty routine is in my suggested regimen for 30-somethings.