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Five Best sunscreens of 2012

December 16, 2012 Reviewed by Marta 20 Comments
We are entering a period of solar storms, experts at the Space Weather Prediction Space tell us. A sobering thought while you are nursing a beer by the barbeque on Memorial Day and all the more reason to be wearing sunscreen. Here are my Five Best sunscreens of 2012 – all great formulations that take mineral sunscreens to a new level. I am a big believer in layering antioxidants under sunscreen. According to the American Academy of Dermatology they offer a second, “active” level of protection. So, take a look at the companion post I’ve put together on the Five Best vitamin C serums. First, choose your sunscreen:

Snowberry Everyday Broad Spectrum SPF15 ($35 in the TIA shop). Snowberry has an innovative and intelligent formula that uses unusual actives to help minimize the need for chalky minerals. The result is a light and comfortable formula that doesn’t have the Casper effect. Zinc oxide is accompanied by galangal, a relative of ginger that is natural source of ethyl methoxycinnamate, which is known for its sun-protecting properties (source). There’s also ferulic acid for protecting from sun damage and Siberian larch for inhibiting melanin. This has become an everyday go-to for me. Read my full review.

MD Solar Sciences SPF30 and SPF40 ($29 for the Lotion in the TIA shop for $24 for the Tinted Gel in the TIA shop). Although I wouldn’t normally go near a product with so much silicone, I make an exception for MD Solar. Both the lotion and gel are velvety smooth, so light that you don’t know you are wearing anything and do not make me break out. It’s hard to believe that they are both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. If you don’t ordinarily like mineral sunscreens, check these out. The lotion does not leave a chalky residue and can easily be worn with makeup. With an SPF40, it performs well for outdoor activities (I wear it when I go running). The gel, which comes with an every-woman tint that most skin tones can wear, is an SPF30 and got a very positive review from reader reviewer Kira. Read Kira’s review

Suntegrity All Natural Moisturizing Face Protection SPF30 ($45 in the TIA shop). The active is zinc oxide at 20%. The thing I like best about Suntegrity (there is a body version as well for $29 in the TIA shop), is that it has powerful antioxidants such as astaxanthin. This is a potent radical scavenger, and analyses have shown that astaxanthin is also an efficient absorber of specific ultraviolet sunlight rays that may contribute to skin aging and cancer. It gets an antioxidant boost from red algae and pomegranate. No nasties and it is paraben free. Read the full Suntegrity review.

Hydropeptide SPF30 Anti-wrinkle Skin Enhancing UV Protection ($40). This sunscreen has been formulated to match your natural skin tone and will not leave a chalky residue. It does a good job of protection, over several weeks will smooth the texture of the skin and reduce redness - making this an excellent choice for rosacea sufferers. Nisha loves it and claims that it is one of the few sunscreens she can recommend to people with highly sensitive skin. There are some good botanicals here that soothe (calendula) and provide antioxidants (green tea and acai). Like Snowberry (see above), it has kaempferia galangal, related to the ginger family and a natural source of ethyl methoxycinnamate, which is known for its sun-protecting properties. It may also enhance the efficacy of other sunscreen ingredients. Active ingredients: Titanium dioxide 2.5%, zinc oxide 6%.

Nutra-Lift Maximum Protection UVA & UVB SPF 30 ($21). The actives are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. As Summer put it in her review, the ingredients read more like an organic smoothie than a sunscreen. There is aloe vera and oat protein to soothe the skin, plus extract of soybean, sunflower seed, almond, white cranberry, pomegranate, carrot, cucumber and green tea all to combat free radicals and boost protection of the skin. Good for even sensitive skins and offers good protection.
  • April 17, 2013

    by Marta

    Hi Amy, I can tell you specifically that Snowberry for sure does not have nano particles, but the much larger micron size. Suntegrity is also non-nano.

  • April 15, 2013

    by amy wayne

    Hi, Marta
    do these products contain nano particles ? i hear this is really bad and i thought the combination of titanium dioxide and zine oxide would mean they use nano particles? i am looking for a good facial sunscreen without nano particles and without avebenzone... please helpe. thanks.

  • June 11, 2012

    by Tai

    Have you guys read the new study out there that zinc oxide may cause skin cancer? I have been using zinc oxide based sunscreen for the last year and a half because it's supposed to be the best but my skin just gor worse and worse, dry, rough, hyperpigmentation, redness, irritation, etc. I kept thinking it was something in the skin products I was using, until I realized that the zinc oxide was the only new thing I had added to my routine. I tried many different brands, but they all did the same thing. I have stopped and my sking is getting better, I hope the damage isn't permanent... The study is by the Missouri University of Science and Technology, this is the link: I found it while trying to find other people who have had a terrible experience with zinc oxide.

  • June 5, 2012

    by Marta

    Hi Elena, I have noticed this too and am planning to research it.

    Regarding Lynn's question on zinc oxide, I believe it to be the lesser of evils as far as sunscreen actives are concerned, preferable to titanium dioxide and chemical sunscreens. I am still waiting for someone to come up with a safe sunscreen (there are botanical ingredients such as broccoli that look promising), but until then we'll have to make do with zinc oxide.

  • June 5, 2012

    by elena

    Lancaster, a European sunscreen brand has just launched its new line of sunscreens with anti-infrared technology. Infrared light is supposed to cause the most damage to the skin in the form of free radicals and breaking down of enzymes. Unfortunately i couldn't find more info or a list of the ingredients in this, but found it to be very interesting as this company is into cutting edge technology when it comes to suncare. Anything you can find out would be most appreciated!!

  • June 5, 2012

    by Lynn

    I had recently read that zinc oxide has been discovered to actually be bad for your skin. Have you read any of this research? I noted that all the above sunscreens contain zinc.

  • May 27, 2012

    by Dennis

    Thank you, Marta.

  • May 27, 2012

    by Marta

    Hi Dennis, I would say the Suntegrity is the most hydrating. A reader with very dry skin, who loves in Greece, wrote and told me that it doubles up as her moisturizer and has even reduced a couple of lines.

  • May 26, 2012

    by Dennis

    Marta, which of these is the most hydrating in your opinion?

  • May 25, 2012

    by Marta

    Hi Joyce, here's my take on Photo Dynamic Therapy <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>

  • May 25, 2012

    by Joyce

    Would like your input on the new Photo Dynamic therapy by DERMAdoctor a sunlight activated laser lotion spf30. Seems innovated especially for us who have to be out in the sun anyway. I've tried it for 3 days now and not sure if any difference except seems to go on smoothly, absorbed readily and skin is tighter. Cost is beyond what one would consider as a sunscreen but if it also changes light rays it is cutting line worth it.

  • May 19, 2012

    by Marta

    I'm jealous of your Provence trip Julie. Bon voyage! Just an FYI that the Hydropeptide SPF is in the current <a href="" rel="nofollow">Discover With Marta</a> box for those that would like to sample before committing to the full size:

  • May 18, 2012

    by Julie Kay

    Marta- Maybe it's having been a sun-loving diva for the majority of my life, but I've had nothing but bad luck with finding and using sunscreens. I'm talking on my face here. Early this year I really tried on my trip to Disneyland w the grandkids. I faithfully applied it each morning, and I think it worked to avoid burning. But it wrecked my wrinkle routine, in which I mean it found and pretty much destroyed hard work done to eradicate fine lines and wrinkles I've worked hard on over the past 4-5 years. It frazzled my skin.

    SOOOO... I'm heading to the south of France next month. Not the Riveria, but Provence. After reading this article and the reviews on all the products listed, I decided to buy (which I just did) HydroPeptide SPF 30 Anti-Wrinkle Skin-Enhancing UV Protection. I also suffer rosacea, so I thought this might provide duo relief. I have my fingers crossed on this one. Big time! ~jk

  • May 18, 2012

    by tiffany

    My husband works outside and needs sunblock. i would love to review it on my blog

  • May 18, 2012

    by maribel

    I would like to try this product. I love skincare and now the importance of the care of my skin now that it's more mature. Thanks

  • May 17, 2012

    by Hina

    Hi I have read many articles its help me to know about different new products. It's made me easy to choose any product for my beauty I trust Marta and dare to try Lumixyl moistur lock sunscreen.

  • May 17, 2012

    by Naveed

    After read this article it's easy to choose a sun screen. I like to use Nutra-Lift maximum protection because it's all natural. I would like dare to try it.

  • May 17, 2012

    by Jayne

    Oooh, i'd like to try this. Having just turned 45 and my husband getting reassigned (Coast Guard) to Puerto Rico, I'm in need of a seriously good sunscreen. I can't wait to enjoy all that Puerto Rico has to offer but i worry about those damaging rays that always seem to get through even with sunscreens i've tried. A problem i have on my face is that they seem to leave a greasy film on my already oily face AND they leave my face white. I want to purchase your Ultra Renew device but will it be in vain without blocking the suns rays properly?
    Please consider me to try out a sunscreen you think applicable, i could really put it to the test : )

  • May 16, 2012

    by Kim

    Wonderful to see companies making products intelligently - I would love to try something with sunflower oil which I hear is a perfect natural sunscreen ! Thanks for bringing these products to our attention Marta ~

  • May 16, 2012

    by Michelle

    Thanks for info about serums under sunscreen. I've been under the illusion that sunscreen needed to be applied to clean skin for proper absorption...

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