Helpful skin protection definitions

I recently found a brilliant article in the Fall 2012 Allure Insiders’ Guide entitled “Skin Care, A to Z.” (p. 163) (Sorry to get so college paper on everyone but I want to document properly!) The article presents a super comprehensive list of skin-care terms and definitions found in so many articles that assume the reader already knows the drill. Here are some used in the sun protection world that I think are particularly helpful to understand.

1. Avobenzone. Allure’s definition confirms that this is an ingredient used in sunscreens that “absorbs aging UVA rays.” (p. 163) Avobenzone is used in chemical sunscreens that I try to avoid because I want to BLOCK the sun with a physical sunscreen or clothing. Allure goes on to explain that avobenzone is “often used in combination with other active ingredients because it breaks down quickly when exposed to sunlight.” (p. 163) Yet another reason to go the physical route, in my opinion, because chemical can break down over time, diminishing protection.

2. Titanium Dioxide. And I quote, “This sunscreen ingredient is a physical block, meaning it reflects UVA and UVB light, keeping it from being absorbed by the skin.” (p. 166) I could weep this is so beautifully said.

3. UVA rays. The bottom line is that these are the rays that cause skin cancer and aging. Allure mentions that these rays “are also the kind generated in tanning beds.” (p. 166) Completely incredible that people continue to use tanning beds.

4. UVB rays. These rays are the ones that cause “darkened pigment in the form of tanning, freckles, and age spots…” (p. 166) So, when products say “broad spectrum,” this means that they block from both UVA and UVB. Remember these are the rays that can come through car windows!

5. Zinc oxide. The mineral of my dreams! Allure clearly states that ZnO (zinc oxide) “physically blocks UVA and UVB light from penetrating the skin.” (p. 166) Your best friend! Your main man! Your number one! Go find sunscreens that use ZnO! Suggestions include Eucerin Daily Protection SPF30 Moisturizing Face Lotion (Zinc Oxide 4.85%), EltaMD UV Daily Broad Spectrum SPF40 (Zinc Oxide 9%), and Koh Gen Do UV Care Milk (12.6% Zinc Oxide).

Arm yourself with information to make smart product selections for your skin, my friends!

Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid & Koh Gen Do UV Care Milk SPF30

Two facial sunscreens are on my radar because they fall into the physical sunscreen category and possess formidable amounts of active ingredients: Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid and Koh Gen Do UV Care Milk SPF30.

Remember, my friends, I am the “Joan of Arc” crusader for physical sunscreens. Let’s review. Physical sunscreens use titanium dioxide and zinc oxide that physically sit on top of one’s skin like a shield to block the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Conversely, chemical sunscreens are absorbed by and work with one’s skin to block these rays. These chemicals can potentially breakdown which can ultimately compromise skin protection and/or irritate sensitive skin.

Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid is made by La Roche-Posay, a French skincare company that has been around a long time ( Back in my 20s, I remember reading that Sharon Stone bought her Anthelios sunscreen in Europe which I thought was so cool. I asked around Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue way back when, but no one had heard of the stuff. Lucky for us, La Roche-Posay products are now available in the US through drugstores or online.

Anthelios 50 Mineral has 11% titanium dioxide which is really incredible. La Roche-Posay has other chemical sunscreens, but this one has “MINERAL” on the label in yellow letters to differentiate it from the others. Please look for “MINERAL” because a chemical sunscreen also by La Roche-Posay is available in the exact bottle. In addition, this product now comes tinted. So, be sure to read the labels when shopping, my friends! Not all sunscreens are the same!

Koh Gen Do UV Care Milk SPF30 is from a Japanese company that is breaking into the US market. One can buy their products on their website(, through Sephora (, or at Barneys New York ( The UV Care Milk contains 5.8% titanium dioxide and 12.6% zinc oxide. Yippee!

These two sunscreens are similiar to each other in that they need to be shaken before application and have a milky consistency. They are not like a cream but a little runny right out of the bottle. Don’t get me wrong: they are easy to use! The best part is that they are beautifully absorbed by one’s skin, leaving a silky finish.

Because I sometimes need a little more moisture in the morning, I apply Oil of Olay Beauty fluid first (just the pink, back-in-the-day moisturizer without any added sunscreen) then apply one of these products on top after the Olay has absorbed. (Oil of Olay is really such an old friend. Try finding a basic, daytime facial moisturizer with no added sunscreen, wrinkle fighters, fruit acids, brighteners, etc. etc. etc. Tough!)

Physical sunscreens on one’s face, neck, and chest should be a part of each and every morning. So, my friends, in the immortal words of Olivia Newton John, “Let’s get physical!”