When I was a kid, getting a summer tan was simple.  Once the spring days were warm enough for coats and sweaters to come off, my bare white skin evolved over time from light pink to light brown, and then to dark brown. Along the way, freckles appeared.  I played outside from morning till night without even the thought of suncreen. Then summer was over and my skin returned to its normal shade of pasty white. It was that simple. Or so I thought.

Lets' start with the "whys" and "how" of sunscreen science.

Why: Today we know there is no such thing as a "safe" tan, and we know the incidence of skin cancers is raising across the globe. We all also know that correct use of "broad spectrum" (both UVA and UVB rays) sunscreens prevent premature aging of the skin, reducing the chance of wrinkles, sagging skin, and uneven pigmentation later in life.

How: Overly simplified, sunscreens work to protect skin by absorbing rays or by reflecting/scattering rays.  They either 1) contain a batch o' chemicals which are designed to absorb the suns rays, leaving your skin unaffected by the suns UVA and UVB wavelengths, or, 2) they are formulated to provide an actual reflection barrier which, in itself, shades and protects the skin.

Sunscreens that chemically block UVB rays contain at least one of the following: padimate O, homosalate, octyl methoxycinnamate, benzophenone, octyl salicylate, phenylbenzimidazole  sulfonic acid, and octocrylene. Broad-spectrum (blocking UVA and UVB) sunscreens add oxybenzone or avobenzone (Parsol 1789) to the mix of ingredients listed above. Mexoryl is a chemical that blocks UVA; its broad-spectrum characteristics allow sunscreens to be made with very high SPF factors.

The second type of sunscreen is the "physical" sunscreen. Physical  ( sometimes called"chemical-free") sunscreens contain titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, which reflect UVA and UVB.  The summer life guard who has the white oxide-coated nose and lips is using this physical sunscreen. Physical sunscreens are especially useful for people allergic to chemical sunscreens.

Most people use the chemical-based sunscreens because they are inexpensive, effective, and don't make you look like a mutant. But if you are trying to limit the amount and number of chemicals that your body has to cope with, the oxide-based products are an equally effective and potentially safer alternative.  Physical barrier sunscreens still contain chemicals, but these are chemicals of a different and arguably safer sort; chemicals which (for the most part) are going to sit ON your skin, and not penetrate INTO your skin.

For the past two months, I have been searching for a "chemical lite" physical sunscreen to use on my face that 1) works 2) works with or without an additional layer of foundation 3) works with my very active lifestyle (read; sweaty), and 4) doesn't render me a pasty-faced zombie in the process.  (By the way, just to be clear....this is not "multiple choice" list, it is inclusive... I need a facial sunscreen that does all of the above. And at a reasonable price). On February 27th, I posted a review of the Abella ColorShade tinted facial sunscreen, and a promise of an upcoming review of the second facial sunscreen product which met the above criterea.

Drumroll please...... welcome Murads' Oil Free SPF 15 Sunblock With Sheer Tint.

The Murad Sheer Tint sunblock provided my face with great protection, especially for an SPF 15 product, and Murad also makes an SPF 30 (which I have not tried). While the tint really is quite sheer (especially in comparison with the Abella product), it has just enough coverage to make my skin look good with or without additional foundation.  I can slather on a really thick protective covering for weekends in the Arizona sun without looking like I am posing for a Cecil B. DeMille closeup. It comes in only one "tint color" which remarkably compliments almost any skin tone except the most extreme shade of white or brown/black. I especially like the fact that the sheer tint looks completely natural (although clearly matt) when applied to my neck and chest.The Murad product stays put, and it is reasonably priced. It is also decently moisturizing, yet absorbs the majority of t-zone oils through out the day.  I do wish Murad had skipped the parabens, but for now my wish list specifies "Chemical lite" vs "chemical free.

As with the Abella ColorShade product, you would likely purchase this tinted sunscreen for use on your face/neck...not your whole body. But if you have a body scar or imperfection  which warrants slight camouflage, or if freckles on your chest need a very light cover-up, Murad Sheer Tint sunblock might be just the ticket.

Active Ingredient: Titanium Dioxide 5.5%

Other Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Propylene Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, Butylene Glycol, Glyceryl Stearate, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Cetyl Alcohol, Oleth-10 Phosphate, Silica, Magnesium Aluminum Silcate, Punica Granatum Extract, Chitosan Ascorbate, Zinc Aspartate, Lysine Lauroyl Methionate, Rice Amino Acids, Lecithin, Tocopherol, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Sodium PCA, Retinyl Palmitate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Palmitoyl Hydroxypropyltrimonium, Amylopectin/Glycerin Crosspolymer, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Extract, Propylene Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Aluminum Hydroxide, Lauric Acid, Aminomethyl Propanol, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, Aniba Rosaeodora (Rosewood) Wood Oil, Geranium Maculatum Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Oil, Talc, Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499)