Good day sunshine: the facial sunscreen guide

July 6, 2014

Facial sunscreen picDo you mind if I sing a little Cher? “If I could turn back time…” (this is me belting it out) I’d, well, I’d wear more sunscreen on my face. I’m pretty sure milky pale Cher loves the stuff and she’s got better skin at 68 then I do at nearly 38. Okay, fine, she may have done a little nipping and tucking but regardless, a woman that pale has got to swear by sunscreen. I, on the other hand, have shunned it most of my life, opting to channel by Greek ancestors (although who knows, maybe they wore olive oil; it does have some SPF, as I’ve written about before). Regardless, I’m changing my tune and am actually wearing some on my face at least these days. Better late than never, I figure. So which facial sunscreen to choose? There’s lots of beauty-industry talk about mineral sunscreens fending off UV rays more effectively and safely than reef-damaging, skin-sensitizing, endocrine-disrupting chemical sunscreens. And they’re right. Still, not all mineral lotions are created equal. Make sure your face is protected with the right stuff.*


Hyped at mainstream cosmetics counters as a cream-of-the-crop solar protector free of dodgy sunscreen chemicals (such as the octinoxate in Avène Emulsion). Too bad they’re using controversial nano versions of the minerals (under 100 nanometres wide) – enviro and health impacts of these are still under-studied. Plus this one contains junky fillers like cyclomethicone, which Environment Canada pronounced to be a danger to the environment, but then recanted after the industry complained. Also in the mix, lots of petroleum-derived ingredients and preservatives like butyl and propyl parabens being banned from children’s products in Europe. $30/50 ml  1/5


Aveeno has all sorts of sunscreens it claims are “safe as water” and chock full of “active naturals,” when they’re loaded with dubious sunscreen chems like oxybenzone and octinoxate (both reef-damaging estrogen mimickers). Aveeno Mineral Guard, however, uses more effective zinc oxide and titanium dioxide minerals. It’s just a shame that J&J (maker of Aveeno) uses teeny, tiny, nano-sized versions of the particles, which are contentiously under-studied, under-regulated and possibly harming coral reefs, too. The fillers here are far from natural. Still, this one’s generally a better option than other drugstore sunscreens. $20/80 ml 2/5 


These two lovely locavores offer excellent unscented mineral protection without turning you goofy white like a 50s surfer (though it can take a minute for the initially white minerals to be absorbed by some skin types). Like MyChelle and True facial sunscreen, they’re not organic, but they are natural/naturally derived without greasing you up. Consonant’s Matte Finish aloe-based sunscreen dries the quickest and has either SPF 15 or tinted SPF 30 ($35/50 ml). Graydon, an SPF 30, is initially a little stickier but also cheaper($20/50 ml). 4/5


If you’re looking for the most ecologically enlightened solar protection, opt for certified organic brands Green Beaver or Goddess Garden (although Green Beaver wins in Canadian books for being an Ontario native that folds in Canadian-grown, naturally UV-fending raspberry seed oil). Green Beaver’s nano-free facial sunscreen (SPF 15) is non-whitening and less oily than its original formula but still sits a little heavier than some others, making it better for dry skin. Goddess Garden has a bit more of a white cast initially but is water-resistant and higher SPF (SPF 30). Both contain some lavender. $21.99/40 ml  4/5


I try to like other brands as much as I dig Devita, but this U.S.-based skin care line still makes the most feather-light natural facial sunscreen in town. It’s totally non-whitening on almost all skin tones (although my two year old bottle is starting to leave white streaks), unscented, made with nano-free zinc oxide (SFP 30), in a base of certified organic aloe. Like Andalou, it’s got a good tinted Beauty Balm with SPF, too. It’s cheaper to buy Devita Body Block and apply it on your face, but Body Block is slightly richer, with a little lavender. Devita’s not water-resistant, so reapply after serious sweating. Hard to find in Canada but available at the Big Carrot, and (which raises funds for women with breast cancer). $34/75 ml 5/5

*A version of this article first appeared in my weekly column in NOW Magazine