In a recent video, I talked about the advantages and disadvantages of organic (chemical) vs inorganic (physical) sunscreens. One of the big drawbacks of inorganic sunscreens is that they tend to have significant white cast, which is when the sunscreen leaves a white layer on your skin. Out of the two inorganic filters (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide), titanium dioxide tends to give a stronger white cast. It’s also more photoreactive and doesn’t give much protection against UVA, so zinc oxide tends to be the more popular choice.
While my preference is for organic sunscreens, a lot of people like inorganic sunscreens (often due to sensitivities to organic sunscreens). I decided to review three popular inorganic zinc oxide-only sunscreens in Australia to see if I was missing out.
The most important thing about sunscreen is protection, and all three deliver well here. In Australia, SPF labelling regulations classify sunscreen into brackets, which is why they all have round SPF numbers. SPF 50 means SPF 50-60, while SPF 50+ is the highest classification allowed, and means at least SPF 60. In my opinion anything above SPF 30 is acceptable for daily use, so these all work.
Niacinamide, also known as vitamin B3 or nicotinamide, is an ingredient with a cult following in skincare communities. It has lots of skincare benefits and no major side effects, which is pretty rare! Niacinamide is beneficial for pretty much all skin types, and there are loads of independent scientific studies to back up its effects. Here’s what it looks like:
What does niacinamide do?
Niacinamide is naturally found in your skin where it has a lot of jobs. Most importantly, it’s a precursor for a lot of enzyme co-factors, which means a lot of processes in your skin don’t work properly without it. So it’s no surprise that it does a whole bunch of good things when it’s included in skincare products!
Niacinamide helps your skin maintainits normal barrier function and reduce skin sensitivity. “Barrier” is a word that shows up in skincare discussions a lot these days, for good reason. Your skin’s main job is to act as a barrier to keep essential components in, and to keep outside things out. When your skin isn’t working properly, you can end up with all sorts of problems:
Water leaves your skin too quickly, leaving you with dehydrated skin that feels tight and looks dull and “tired”
Here’s a simple skincare trick that I’ve found ridiculously useful lately that I thought I’d share in case it helps anyone else out. I’m sure I’m not the first person to do it, but I also haven’t seen it discussed anywhere else (though I haven’t been looking very hard).
I’ve started doing something that can be best described as “multi-sunscreening”, a bit like the “multi-masking trend” that a lot of brands are jumping on. I was inspired to do this when I watched Fiddy Snails apply her sunscreen using a BB cushion puff on Instagram, when she patted her sunscreen in all over her face using the puff then went back to part in extra on her pigmentation problem areas.
Here’s my issue: I get pigmentation very quickly on the tops of my cheekbones. It’s an annoying genetic thing that a lot of East Asian people have, and I’ve managed to inherit it from my dad’s side (thaaaanks). Right now it’s not too bad, but mostly because I throw hydroxy acids and vitamin C at it all the time to try to lighten it, and cover it with high UVA protection sunscreen to stop it from getting worse.
The problem is that I also have oily skin, from my mum (again: thaaaanks). The sunscreens with the highest UVA protection that I know of come from French brands Bioderma and La Roche-Posay. And unfortunately, they’re greasy, at least on my oil slick face. Even their “fluids” designed for oily skin turn me into an unsightly mirror ball at the end of the day. So I find myself reaching for more “cosmetically elegant” sunscreens most of the time – usually Bioré Aqua Base Watery Essence – which keep my oily areas manageable but aren’t waterproof or sweatproof, and have lower UVA protection as well. I’ve noticed that my sunspots are steadily creeping back.
Here’s where multi-sunscreening has saved both my long-term skin health as well as my daily try-not-to-look-like-melting-wax efforts. My sunscreen routine now goes like this:
Wearing sunscreen daily is the #1 best thing you can do to prevent wrinkles, so naturally I slather my face in sunscreen every morning (it helps prevent cancer too of course, but I’m vainer than I’d like to admit), under my make-up. I haven’t reviewed sunscreens in a while – here’s what I’ve been trying lately and what I thought.
Cetaphil Suntivity Liposomal Lotion SPF 50+
This sunscreen from dermatologist-faves Cetaphil has a surprisingly light texture, at a middling price of $20.99 for 100 mL. “Cosmetically elegant” sunscreens (i.e. formulations that don’t feel like you’ve slathered your face in greasepaint) are more common now, though they’re still not as easy to find as I’d like! Interestingly, this isn’t actually Cetaphil’s lightest sunscreen – they also have an Ultra-Light Lotion that’s also SPF 50+, and a Hydrating Lotion and Liposomal Spray that’s SPF 30+.
After much searching I found the following inactive ingredient list for the liposomal lotion here, provided after a redditor asked customer service:
It doesn’t look complete though, and has a few typos, so I’m not sure how accurate it is. It really annoys me that full ingredients list aren’t required for sunscreens in Australia. I understand that it’s good for them to be able to protect their trade secrets so they can invest more into sunscreen research without jacking up sunscreen price, but it’s so much easier to guess if a sunscreen is likely to break you out or suit your skin type if you have an ingredients list to work off.
The texture of this sunscreen is a little sticky, but it sinks in pretty quickly and the stickiness can be easily fixed by setting it with some translucent powder. It’s broad spectrum (which means UVA protection is 1/3 of the SPF, no other UVA protection indications), 4 hours water resistant and fragrance-free. The only real issue I have with this sunscreen is the packaging – the container is quite rigid and the sunscreen comes out of a little hole at the top. I can see myself having to take a saw to this when I run low!
Pros: broad spectrum, 4 hours water resistant, pleasant texture, fragrance-free (if you’re sensitive)
Cons: incomplete ingredients listing, no exact UVA protection rating, difficult to get the last of the sunscreen out of the packaging, a bit sticky
Elucent Anti-Ageing Day Moisturiser SPF 50+
Like with Cetaphil, there’s no official inactive ingredients listing available for this moisturiser, and it’s only available in Australia so there aren’t any sneaky overseas listing we can refer to. Like the rest of Elucent’s anti-ageing line (such as Elucent Anti-Ageing Serum that I reviewed earlier) it contains AHAs, at 4%. Additionally, there’s niacinamide and vitamin E, though the actual amounts are unknown. The texture is quite sticky but sinks in with some rubbing. I really like the hygienic and convenient pump packaging, and in terms of protection it’s broad spectrum and SPF 50+. Unfortunately, it’s moderately pricey at $42.39 for 95 mL, so I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re looking for a straightforward sunscreen, though if you’re after a multitasker this is a good option.