My Sunday was supposed to be spent at the beach.  Anticipating a full afternoon of fun in the sun, I conscientiously applied SolBar PF Liquid Sunscreen (SPF 30) all over my face and chest.  Alas, some deviant form of global warming spoiled our beach day, as the sky turned black and pelted us with hail.  My sunscreen may have been for naught, but at least I was able to leave it on for the rest of the day without fear that it would trigger a breakout.

SolBar's gel formula is ideal for times when you want coverage without the pore-clogging effects of certain creamy sunscreens.  Unlike the white liquid emulsion typical of sunscreen, SolBar squirts out as translucent goo.  Nor does it smell like sunscreen, emitting a distinctive aroma of alcohol.

But do not be fooled by the differences.  SolBar offers some of the best SPF 30+ multi-spectrum protection on the market and, over the past five years, has remained one of the top lines recommended by dermatologists. Of the eight ingredients recommended by WebMD for broad-spectrum protection- benzophenones (oxybenzone), cinnamates (cinoxate), avobenzone (Parsol 1789), sulisobenzone, salicylates, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide,and ecamsule (Mexoryl SX)- SolBar has two.

I prefer the liquid gel formulation for its fast-absorbing action and non-greasy feel.  As you rub it on, it spreads out evenly and slightly stings the skin, similar to a toner. The reason for SolBar's astringent-like quality is its high concentration of SD alcohol.  The SD stands for "specially denatured," which means that a special chemical has been added to ordinary drinking alcohol to make it undrinkable (mandated by the government to prevent oral consumption of cosmetics).

SolBar packs a load of active ingredients to protect against both UVA and UVB light.  Though we cannot see ultraviolet light, we are exposed to it every day, since it is part of the sun's spectrum.  Because the wavelength of UV light is shorter than that of the visible spectrum, it has more energy and is therefore capable of burning.  Its effects on the skin include keratosis (tanning), erythema (reddening), sunburn, and melanoma.  The terms UVA and UVB are thrown around interchangeabley, but UVB is responsible for sunburn, while UVA is a likely suspect for skin cancer.

Both homosalate (derived from salicylic acid) and octinoxate are organic compounds that absorb UVB rays and protect the skin from damage.  On the UVA side, SolBar boasts avobenzone, one of three ingredients approved by the FDA for protecting skin from UVA damage. Avobenzone is widely considered an essential addition to the most effective sunscreens.

Oxybenzone is a controversial ingredient due to its similarities with benzophenone, which has been proven to attack DNA when illuminated (more on that topic here).  While research in Europe has surfaced mostly negative results, the jury is still out in the U.S.  At least SolBar is decidedly free of PABA.

Besides an iffy ingredient, I would like to mention two caveats: Though SolBar claims to be sweat-resistant, it might transform on the skin into white smears and get a bit sticky after an intensive workout.  Also, beware of applying it anywhere near white clothing since it has a tendency to cause a faint yellowish discoloration after washing.  This is due to the avobenzone, which oxidizes iron in the water.  Tennis players might have a hard time avoiding their white collars, but the rest of us can slather on SolBar everywhere on our bodies we don't want the sun to shine!

Ingredients:

Avobenzone (Parsol 1789)3%, homosalate 12%, Octinoxate 7.5%, Oxybenzone 6.0%, Octocrylene 1.5%.,SD Alcohol 63% v/v, isobutyl stearate, cyclomethicone, PVP/eicosene copolymer, dimethicone, hydroxypropylcellulose, acrylates octylacrylamide copolymer