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Being the “sunscreen nerd” person, I get a lot of questions about unusual sunscreen products and whether or not their claims work out. Last time I talked about the Colorescience powder sunscreen and the Skinnies “pea-sized amount” claim.
This time I’m talking about two more products that people have been asking me about:
- Evy Technology has a range of high-tech foam sunscreens that are meant to last for far longer than standard sunscreen claims
- Dermablend Flawless Creator pigment drops can be mixed into sunscreens without compromising the protection levels
Keep scrolling for the text version…
Like I mentioned last time, I try to talk to the company to work out what their reasoning is behind the claim (Why exactly are they making the claim? What evidence do they have?). Then I try to match that with what we know about sunscreen.
I try to keep an open mind about innovations, even if they sound pretty unusual, because a lot of the time, sunscreen is… not that great. There are lots of issues, which is why a lot of people don’t apply enough, or they don’t apply it properly, or they might not even wear sunscreen at all. And there are also a lot of innovations that just don’t show up in the peer-reviewed literature – a lot of the time there’s just no incentive for a company to do the research to a standard that will be accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Sometimes it’s just too new to be there, sometimes they just want to protect their intellectual property, and sometimes there are complicated legal reasons for not publishing publicly. So I think it’s important to talk to the company, and try to understand where they’re coming from.
Again, a disclaimer: these are my opinions. I could be wrong! If you disagree, let me know in the comments (and please don’t sue me).
Evy Technology’s 6 Hour Sunscreen
Evy Technology are a Swedish sunscreen brand with a range of mousse sunscreen products. They’re really popular in Sweden, and in Europe generally. Their most impressive claim is that their sunscreen lasts through a lot: 6-8 hours on your skin, water, sweat, towel rubbing.
Evy’s claims have actually been on my radar for a while, because they solve some serious issues with sunscreens, and it would be amazing if they were true. And based on the data I’ve looked at… I think it could actually be true! (I bet some of you never thought I would actually say that.)
Most sunscreen products rely on the sorts of formulation tricks that barrier creams use – trying to make the sunscreen stay in a layer on top of skin, and making that layer as continuous and even for as long as possible. Some of them also sink a little bit into the top layers of skin. But a product that’s mostly on top of a moving flexible substance like skin will shift around and get rubbed off. So over time the protection decreases, which is why you’re meant to reapply your sunscreen every two hours or so.
To try to deal with this longevity issue, some sunscreens use different technologies to get the sunscreening ingredients a little bit deeper into the skin’s top dead layers (the stratum corneum). You might have heard of liposomal sunscreens – liposomes are micelle-like packages that can sink into the stratum corneum and release the sunscreen ingredients there. This means that the UV-absorbing substances are shallow enough that they can still protect the lower living cells, while not being rubbed off too easily.
Evy uses a similar concept – a special patent that involves a mix of glycerin, dimethicone and fatty acids like lauric acid and stearic acid. This patent is actually used for other things as well, like treatments for atopic dermatitis.
One really interesting thing about this patented delivery system is that it can actually increase your skin’s barrier function. This is very unusual for a penetration enhancer that lets things go deeper into your skin, because most of the time, these will actually decrease your barrier function (they open the skin up so actives can get through, but that means irritants can also enter more easily). This delivery system is slightly different: it seems to deliver actives, then seal them in.
Another bonus: because this isn’t a barrier, it also doesn’t seem to interfere with sweating, and it doesn’t make you feel as hot. The biggest bonus, obviously, is that a layer that’s sunken in won’t get wiped or washed away anywhere near as easily.
So there’s a mechanism for why Evy sunscreens might be more durable than other sunscreens… but does it actually hold out in practice?
Evy is sold in Sweden, which tends to have higher requirements for claims compared to other countries (they’re under the EU regulations, and Sweden tends to enforce these quite strictly). They’re also a pretty famous brand in Sweden, and they’ve won lots of awards, so it’s not really like they’d slip under the radar of their regulators.
So I asked Evy if I could see their tests. They were nice enough to show them to me, and they said I could share some of the results. I don’t think they showed me all of their tests (there’s probably some stuff they want to keep private), but I’m really impressed by the tests I’ve seen so far, and I get the feeling that they’ve done many more tests on their products.
The tests I saw were conducted by a third-party testing lab which used modified versions of the official ISO tests for SPF (I talked about that in an earlier post about SPF testing) and water resistance.
Related post: Purito Sunscreen and All About SPF Testing (with video)
For the ISO SPF test, the sunscreen is applied at 2 milligrams per square centimetre on the backs of volunteers. These patches are then exposed to UV, and the amount of UV required for burning is measured.
Lasting 8 hours on the skin?
Two Evy sunscreens were applied to volunteers. The SPF was tested immediately, then again 8 hours later. With both of these, the SPF actually increased after 8 hours!
I’m not sure if the SPF actually increased because the sunscreen interacted with the skin differently, or if it’s just experimental error, but I think either way it’s a pretty good indication that the SPF stays at least around the same.
8 hours water resistance?
They also performed an 8 hour water resistance test on their SPF 50 mousse. The standard water resistance test is only 80 minutes – this test was 480 minutes, 6 times longer than normal. After applying 2 mg/cm2, the volunteers sat in a whirlpool for a total of 8 hours (the actual protocol involves them going in and out of the whirlpool, with a total of 8 hours actually in the water – so it’s more like a total of 12-14 hours). After letting the sunscreen area air dry, the SPF was tested again. It went from 53 down to 35.2, which is far less of a decrease than I expected.
Towel and sweat resistance?
They also performed towel abrasion tests on two of their sunscreens. 20 minutes after applying the sunscreen, a towel was stroked over it several times with moderate pressure before testing the SPF again. For both of the sunscreens, the SPFs stayed around the same.
They also tested sweat resistance. Volunteers sat in a sauna at around 37 °C for at least an hour of sweating (the timer was started when there was profuse sweating, with drips of sweat going over the sunscreen). After air drying, the SPF was retested. For both sunscreens, the SPF went down by around 10%.
Resistance to different types of water?
The standard 80 minutes water resistance test was also conducted with chlorinated and salt water. In both of these circumstances, the SPF went down by about 10%.
I am really impressed with Evy’s testing. They’ve done quite a lot of in vivo clinical testing on actual humans with their actual sunscreens! This is pretty rare because these tests are really expensive. If you look at my older video on Colorescience and Skinnies, you can see some examples where brands have used less expensive tests and just tried to join the dots, rather than test it as realistically as possible.
One issue with these supplementary “extracurricular” tests is that they were only done on 2-3 people, unlike the standard SPF test which is generally done on 10 people. So these results are going to be less reliable; however, the individual measurements are actually in close agreement, so I think it’s reasonably reliable.
I would obviously prefer more subjects and maybe tests from different labs (I think Evy are actually working on getting tests from different labs for their claims). But I also understand that these tests are really expensive, and it can be really hard to get volunteers (the protocols are pretty nasty – getting sunburned, going in and out of a hot tub for 12 to 14 hours, then getting sunburned again just sounds like medieval torture).
This evidence is also considered enough by the Swedish regulators to substantiate Evy’s claims, so there’s not really a big incentive to pay so much more for tests that tell you pretty much the same thing.
So I think these claims are pretty legit, but I also understand the regulatory perspective: regulators in some countries just don’t want to let a brand claim that their sunscreen lasts for 6 hours, even though we have these results. These tests were done on a small area of skin with perfect application, but in real life people don’t apply enough sunscreen, and often skip sunscreen in certain areas (between and around the eyes, tops of ears). Having a second application means you’re more likely to cover the missed areas, so instead of having a bare patch for 6 hours, it would only be bare for 2 hours.
I personally use the Evy sunscreen and I trust the six hour claim, but I still personally try to reapply every two hours because I know that my application is going to be pretty imperfect a lot of the time. But I appreciate the fact that this sunscreen is a lot more resistant to whatever activities I’m doing, and it’s an extra level of backup in case I forget to reapply on time.
Mixing Dermablend Flawless Creator Drops into Sunscreen
Dermablend is a L’Oréal brand famous for their high coverage complexion products – they can cover up tattoos, and they’re recommended for a lot of different pigment issues.
Their Flawless Creator drops are pigmented drops that can be used alone as a lightweight foundation, or they can be mixed into other products. Supposedly you can mix them into your sunscreen without compromising the protection. This isn’t currently on their website, but it’s been mentioned in sponsored content, in their product descriptions on Ulta and Macy’s (these are usually supplied by the brand), in their Instagram highlights reel, on some of their posts on their page, and in some responses from customer service.
This claim would be fantastic if it were true, because white cast in sunscreens is a big problem. If you’re in the US and you’re sensitive to avobenzone, then you’re pretty much stuck with mineral sunscreens, which usually have a white cast. If you have darker skin, you can end up looking white and ghostly looking if you use a standard mineral sunscreen.
Tinted sunscreens usually only come in three colours at best – if you’re not one of those three colours, you’re going to look a bit weird if you apply the right amount. With this sort of product, you can theoretically mix in one of the many shades available to get your own custom tinted sunscreen.
But the issue, of course, is whether or not it actually works. Mixing anything into a sunscreen could potentially disrupt its ability to form a continuous film that protects your skin, resulting in gaps and cracks for UV to get through.
There’s a study from July 2020 in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology from Dermablend that some people have sent me that’s meant to show that mixing in these drops won’t compromise SPF. I actually looked at this study for my recent blue light protection video – it doesn’t look at mixing or SPF.
So I reached out to Dermablend (about seven times since October). They said they’d send me the data a few times then eventually, after a lot of back and forth (mostly forth from me), I ended up with this response in my DMs:
We at Dermablend recommend following the current FDA guidelines for sunscreen application and directions for use on the sunscreen you are applying. We continually research to innovate and improve our products in order to share emerging learnings with dermatologists.
This is obviously a very carefully constructed and formal statement, and I’m not sure what happened between them promoting mixing and this statement. I’m guessing it’s one of two things:
They have studies that they believe show that mixing is fine, but they want to play it safe and not piss off the FDA, so they are tapping the sign:
Or they’ve realised that they don’t have enough evidence to recommend it after all, so they’re walking it back.
Either way, the official stance from Dermablend is not to mix the pigment drops into your sunscreen… so don’t mix the pigment drops into your sunscreen!
But it seems like Dermablend hasn’t really put a lot of effort into telling people about this change in their policy. I think they have deleted some of their Instagram posts (I remember commenting on some of their posts to chase them up on the data – I waited patiently for them to post about the Dermablend drops so I could make a relevant comment and try not to sound too naggy, and I can’t actually find my comments anymore).
But it’s still on the descriptions for Flawless Creator on the Ulta and Macy’s websites, and there’s still a tutorial in their Instagram story highlights showing you how to mix it into sunscreen. They have an Instagram post with a quote from a magazine with a dermatologist, talking about how great it is to mix these drops into sunscreen, and there’s a sponsored IGTV tutorial showing you how to mix it into your sunscreen (I want to make it clear that I’m not blaming influencers for anything – like I said, a lot of the content from the brand has this tip and so I’m pretty sure the brand approved it, and why would you not trust a brand that’s recommended by so many dermatologists?).
So I think Dermablend could probably just put a bit more effort into communicating this change in their advice, because what’s in my DMs is very different from what you would get by looking on the internet.
If I were producing a product like this this is how I would test the claim:
I’d get a bunch of consumers to mix the pigment drops into the sunscreens themselves to see how much they mix, and how thoroughly they mix it.
Then I would replicate the worst case scenarios in the lab with a bunch of different sunscreen formulations, and then test them on people and see how it affects the SPF.
If the SPF stays around the same for all the common sunscreen formulations, then I would be happy with that claim. But because there are a lot of different sunscreen formulas, with different strategies for keeping the film intact, I’m not sure it’s possible. I’m guessing the drops would have to have some SPF protection in them for that to work, and it would probably be really difficult to make sure it didn’t destabilise any emulsions.
Remember these are just my opinions on the claims from these companies, with the information I have! Maybe there’s some information I don’t have that would be relevant as well.
Are there other products with weird claims that you want me to go through?