Making Sense of Sunscreen

There is a lot of controversy out there about sunscreens these days. What is safe, what is effective and why you need it.



The American Academy of Dermatology recommends you use an SPF of 30 or greater every single day to prevent sunburns, premature aging and skin cancer. The Environmental Working Group thinks sunscreens are dangerous. There is a lot of mixed research out there. What should you believe, and if you decide to use sunscreen every day because you want your skin to have even pigmentation, less wrinkles and a firmer texture which sunscreen products will be most effective?


I strongly feel using sunscreen should be an important part of your comprehensive sun protection program. This includes wearing protective clothing, a hat and sunglasses and reinforcing your sun protection with an additional antioxidant formulation that also contain anti-inflammatory ingredients. Doing this will help stop the cascade of free radicals that contribute to aging. To take full advantage of sunscreens, you should choose a sunscreen that is both effective and a good fit for your skin. To that end, it is useful to understand how sunscreens work, what impacts their effectiveness, and what the potential risks are.

Physical Vs. Chemical Sunscreens

A physical sunscreen ingredient is one that sits on the top of your skin and acts like a shield against UV rays from the sun. When ultraviolet rays hit your skin they are deflected away from the skin and this prevents sunburn and sun damage. Common physical sunscreen ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Sensitive skins enjoy physical sunscreens because they don’t create heat in the skin, thus creating less redness. Darker skins don’t like them because they tend to leave a whitish cast on the skin. Those who spend time doing outdoor activities might not like them because physical sunscreens tend to run off down your face when you perspire, resulting in white streaks. For physical sunscreens to work these inorganic mineral particles must be layered on thickly. If not, UV rays can get through by traveling in between the little spaces between the physical sunscreen particles. Although physical sunscreens are considered safe, their potential for getting into the bloodstream is increased with the advent of nanoparticles. Nanoparticles are made from grinding down inorganic materials into tiny pieces that they are less likely to appear white on the skin. Zinc Oxide is a much safer choice and a more effective sunscreen than Titanium Dioxide. Titanium Dioxide's UV absorption is not as broad spectrum as that of Zinc Oxide. Zinc Oxide is a better absorber across more wavelengths which results in better, safer protection. Titanium Dioxide contains titanium, which is a metal that has no biological purpose in our bodies and and has poorly defined long term exposure risks. Zinc is a critical mineral nutrient that keeps us healthy.

Chemical sunscreens contain organic compounds like Avobenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalet and Oxybenzone. These sunscreens work by capturing ultraviolet rays and chemically changing them into heat which is then released from the skin. Chemical sunscreens are liked by some because they tend to be thinner and have a more cosmetically appealing feel on the skin. Less product is needed because there are less gaps between particles that let light through, and chemical sunscreens can be more easily combined with other ingredients like antioxidants and peptides. However, those with reactive skins might be more easily irritated by chemical sunscreen ingredients and the heat that is produced. Higher SPF numbers will increase the likelihood of irritation. Chemical sunscreen ingredients activity get used up throughout the day so reapplication is essential if you are out in the sun.


Some chemical sunscreens have come under scrutiny by the FDA. Of the ones we’ve mentioned, Oxybenzone, contains a higher likelihood of getting absorbed into the bloodstream. The first three are less absorbed. Testing does not conclude that these ingredients are dangerous to our health but they do say that more testing should be done by sunscreen manufacturers to prove their safety. Although more testing needs to be done, we at Elizabeth Renee have decided not to include Oxybenzone or titanium dioxide in our sunscreen products. The FDA has cautioned that the results of its recent studies do not indicate individuals should abandon sunscreens, which have been strongly demonstrated to protect against skin cancer and other harmful effects from ultraviolet radiation.

So what to do?


I still feel wearing sunscreen every day is essential. I can’t tell you how many clients I have seen that have developed skin cancer after years of spending time in the sun unprotected. Aside from skin cancer they regret not using sunscreen because of the other detrimental effects the sun has had on their skin. Wrinkles, pigmentation changes, a leathery texture and loss of tone are difficult to correct barring invasive medical procedures.

Elizabeth Renee offers two types of sunscreens. Both are made specifically for application on the face and for regular daily use.

Peptide Protection SPF 30

This is a chemical sunscreen that uses Avobenzone, Octinoxate and Octisalet as it’s sunscreen ingredients. It goes on light and smooth and comfortable and also acts as a nice daytime moisturizer. The great thing is, it contains Vitamin E and CoQ10 as antioxidants and peptides such as Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide and Palmitoyl Oligopeptide which are reparative ingredients and are collagen boosters.

Gentle Screen SPF 30

This is a hybrid sunscreen. That means it is mostly a physical sunscreen based on Zinc Oxide with a little bit of Octinoxate thrown in to fill in the spaces in-between the zinc oxide particles. Zinc Oxide also has antimicrobial properties which is great for acne prone clients. Gentle Screen feels very comfortable on the skin for most sensitive skin skin types. It contains Japanese Green Tea Extract as a powerful antioxidant known for its anti-irritant properties, preventing redness, rough skin, and peeling caused by sun-exposure. It also contains light moisturizing ingredients which eliminate the need for an additional moisturizer.

Which ever sunscreen you choose you can enhance the effects of your sunscreen by also wearing a Vitamin C Serum underneath your sunscreen. Vitamin C not only protects skin from damaging free radicals, but it helps make your sunscreen even more effective. A study by Duke University Medical Center determined that using a serum with both Vitamins C and E under sunscreen actually provides four times the protection of sunscreen alone.

Don’t count on your foundation to supply enough sunscreen protection for your skin. To do so you would have to apply 1\2 teaspoon to your face to get that SPF number written on the bottle. Nobody applies that much foundation. You can however supplement your sunscreen with foundation. Even if there is no SPF number written on the bottle there are probably some mineral sunscreen ingredients in your foundation to will boost your protection. The manufacturer just didn’t want to go through that expensive process of declaring itself as a sunscreen, making it a drug (yes sunscreens are considered drugs) and all the testing that is required to do so. I love our mineral powder foundations. They are easy to travel with and since they are powders they are easy to apply during the day. Bring it with you when you travel to supplement your sunscreen protection.

In conclusion sunscreens aren’t perfect. But until we come up with a better alternative I recommend continuing using your sunscreen every day. We will continue keeping up with the research and passing our advice on to you.



Elizabeth believes in "Longevity Skincare", the idea that beautiful skin can endure throughout one's lifetime when utilizing the best that science and nature has to offer. Longevity by Elizabeth Renee is a science-based skincare line that appreciates skin of all ages. As skin changes throughout your life you can keep looking youthful and vibrant, no matter what your chronological age. Longevity by Elizabeth Renee is a line that provides hydration, nutrition and protection from environmental aging. Your skin will receive high performance ingredients to help energize and repair its cells, resulting in a healthy skin with an enduring, vital glow.

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