Summer 2014 SPFs Round-Up

Summer may be over, but wearing SPF should be year round. UVA rays are one of the primary causes of signs of aging in the skin, and I personally think that it's always easier to prevent these signs before they appear rather than try to fix them afterwards. I featured quite a few SPF numbers on the blog over the summer, so here I compare them against each other and give you guys all the deets on the pros and cons. Get ready for a very lengthy post! Or just read the pros and cons if you hate quality writing (I jest).

(image from usa.loccitane.com)

L'Occitane Immortelle Brightening UV Shield SPF 40 ($70 for 30mL)

Featured in my post "Trialling SPF's". This was the first SPF I used this summer, so unfortunately I've used it all up and threw out the bottle. It has a very liquid texture and is a physical sunscreen, which are both properties I prefer for my daily SPF. It also happens to be the only SPF I'ved owned that comes in convenient pump packaging (!!!), so you can control how much you want to use, which is going to be important since this sunscreen is very, very pricey. That being said, sunscreen is not one of those things where "less is better". If you do not use a sufficient amount, you will not get the proper protection, and that would just be a waste of time and money.

I don't think it's possible for a physical sunscreen to leave no white cast at all, but this one is very,very subtle. The texture of the product is very easy to rub in and it absorbs easily. It has a slight floral scent that's quite pleasant and isn't too overpowering. It contains a myriad of plant extracts aimed at brightening the skin, but I personally don't think these ingredients are going to be able to absorb into the skin efficiently, especially since they're probably only present in very small quantities. Water, silicone, and the mineral SPF ingredients make up the majority of the product. And since you apply SPF as the last step of your skincare routine, those plant extracts are going to have to penetrate moisturizer and whatever other products are underneath, which I think is highly unlikely. So if those plant extracts are what make the price so high, I don't think it's worth your time. Plant ingredients can also cause irritation to the skin. I personally had no problem with this product, but those with sensitive skin should ask for some samples at a L'Occitane store before committing to the full sized product.

Another thing I'm somewhat concerned with is that the only SPF ingredient contained in this product is titanium dioxide, which is great for protection against UVB rays, but cannot provide sufficient protection against UVA rays unless the concentration is high. In this case, the product has 11.52% titanium dioxide, which might be enough to provide UVA protection since the product does make the claim of being broad spectrum (ie. protects against both UVA and UVB rays). However, for us regular consumers, it's hard to be really sure about these things, so I'd rather err on the side of caution and opt for something that also has UVA-protection ingredients.

 - lightweight texture
 - not a very noticeable white cast
 - sinks in quickly (not sticky at all)
 - has plant extracts that may or may not help with hyperpigmentation

 - expensive
 - titanium dioxide may not provide sufficient UVA protection
  - plant extracts may irritate sensitive skin

Shiseido Gentle Sun Protection Lotion SPF 33 ($41 for 100mL)

Featured in my post "July Favourites". This one is a physical sunscreen that has a whooping 13.9% zinc oxide and 3.3% titanium dioxide so it has got both the UVA and UVB protection down. Again, a very liquid texture that is easy to spread. The white cast is also hardly noticeable. I first started using this while I was in China and didn't enjoy it as much, because the product does feel a bit oily. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because physical sunscreens require oil to make sure that the mineral sunscreen ingredients (ie. zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) can be blended evenly over the skin. However, in very humid weather, the oil just felt a bit heavy on the skin and wasn't the most comfortable thing to put on. 

Since coming back to Vancouver, I've been enjoying this product a lot, probably because my skin is a bit drier and I'm not sweating buckets all the time. When I say oily, I don't mean super heavy and sticky. This product leaves more of a satin-y, soft finish on the skin. I like to apply in 2-3 thin layers rather than in 1 thick layer because I find that feels more lightweight, and it can help to evenly distribute the sunscreen and make sure you cover every bit of skin. 

Because this product is free of fragrance and alcohol and is a physical sunscreen (rather than a chemical sunscreen), it's a great option for those with sensitive skin, and I always gravitate towards it when my skin is acting up. It's also pretty reasonably priced because you get a whooping 100mL, which is more than 3 times as much as the standard 30mL you get with other products. The one real downside to this product for me is that it doesn't always sit the best under makeup. It can kind of slip and slide a little bit depending on the base makeup I'm using, but using makeup primer helps fix this problem.


 - lightweight liquid texture
 - not a very noticeable white cast
 - high concentration of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to provide full UVA/UVB protection
 - great for sensitive skin
 - good price for the amount you're getting


 - slightly oily texture not good for humid weather
 - can slip and slide under makeup if you don't use a primer

Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 42 For Face ($30 for 30mL)

Probably the longest name for an SPF anyone has ever seen. This is a relatively new one for me. I picked it up from Sephora Times Square on a recent trip over to the states. Again, lightweight liquid texture, you know the drill. This is actually a physical-chemical sunscreen hybrid, which means it contains both physical and chemical sunscreen products. In this case, 4.9% octinoxate (UVB protection), 3.0% octocrylene (UVB protection), 12.5% zinc oxide (UVA/UVB protection). Strangely enough, this leaves the most obvious white cast out of all of these options. It's actually quite noticeable and doesn't really go away even if you leave it for a few minutes. I don't mind the white cast if I'm going to be wearing makeup because it'll be covered anyway. Strangely enough, this sunscreen actually has a bit of a perfecting quality in that it blurs out my acne scars and covers up some of the redness in my skin. It doesn't really provide coverage, but just makes things a little less noticeable, which means I can use less of my base makeup. 

This product is oil-free, which seems to make the texture quite dry. That seems strange since it is a liquid, but once you start spreading it over the face, you'll start to notice that it doesn't glide over as smoothly as something like the Shiseido Gentle Sun Protection Lotion. It really can dry quite matte, which may not be suitable for dry skin. I have combination skin but I don't really suffer from dry patches, so I can get away with using it. Because it does dry down very matte, it doesn't slip and slide at all under makeup, which I really like. 

 - liquid, lightweight texture
 - dries matte = good for under makeup
 - does not irritate sensitive skin
 - blurs imperfections on the skin

 - leaves a noticeable white cast
 - dry texture not suitable for dry or combination-dry skin

Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Water Base SPF 50 PA+++ ($13.99 for 50g)

Featured in my post "A Love and a Shrug #3: SPF Edition". (Let's not even talk about the Dr. Sebagh SPF also mentioned in that post. That was just a disaster to apply and such a waste of money.) This is the only chemical sunscreen I'm talking about today. As a result, it does not leave a white cast at all and has an oil-free formula. It has a very interesting watery-gel texture that feels like a lightweight moisturizer and sinks in almost instantly, so this is the most comfortable to wear out of the four options. It has kind of a strong fragrance and contains alcohol as the second ingredient listed, which is typical of Japanese drugstore skincare, but makes it unsuitable for sensitive skin types. This product doesn't break me out, but kind of gives me that uncomfortable feeling like it's irritating my skin, so I don't use it as much, but it is fantastic for hot, humid climates. I also think it would make for a good body SPF at the beach as it sinks in super quick and is pretty affordable, being a drugstore product.

I've seen a lot of bloggers recommend this product, so I think it really is a matter of personal preference for me. I prefer physical sunscreen to chemical sunscreen, because physical sunscreen is less irritating for sensitive skin, and I don't like the idea of chemical sunscreen ingredients absorbing into the skin. Physical sunscreen (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) works by forming a shield over the skin and reflecting UV rays, while chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays before they get to the skin. Chemical sunscreens degrade over time or become inactivated by the sun, so you have to reapply often, which really is just unrealistic for those of us who wear makeup. I suppose I also just think that the image of UV rays bouncing off of a shield looks way cooler, but that's not important, shhhhh...


 - lightweight watery-gel texture makes it the most comfortable to wear 
 - oil free
 - no white cast
 - most affordable option 


 - contains fragrance and alcohol (not good for sensitive skin types) 
 - have to reapply often (not possible over makeup) 

Innisfree Eco Natural Suncare BB Powder ($20 for 150g)

Featured in my post "Innisfree Haul + First Impressions". This is an SPF pressed powder that is slightly tinted. Let me just start out by saying that powder sunscreen can not replace liquid sunscreen. You would have to apply an absolutely ridiculous amount of powder sunscreen to get the sufficient SPF protection. However, for those of us who wear makeup on a daily basis, it's unrealistic to take all the makeup off, reapply liquid sunscreen during the middle of the day, and put all the makeup back on. This is where powder sunscreen comes in! This Innisfree one is great because it comes with a puff attached to the lid which makes for easy application on-the-go. It doesn't make my makeup go cakey either. Obviously you're not going to get the same amount of SPF protection as you would by reapplying a liquid sunscreen, but it's better than nothing.

Sometimes when I'm having a no-makeup day, I also apply this powder over top of my liquid sunscreen. It gives a very slight tint that helps to even out the skin tone, and it mattifies the skin so dust particles won't stick to the liquid sunscreen.

The Verdict

Overall, I think the Shiseido Gentle Sun Protection Lotion comes out on top for my daily SPF. The high concentration of zinc oxide ensures sufficient protection against both UVA and UVB. It's a great fail-safe option for sensitive skin or skin that's breaking out, and doesn't leave a noticeable white cast.

My second pick would be the Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 42 For Face. Although it leaves a white cast, I'm very fond of its perfecting qualities, and it makes a great base for makeup.

I don't really have any special feelings towards the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Water Base SPF 50 PA+++ and L'Occitane Immortelle Brightening UV Shield SPF 40. They're both great products and could be suitable for those with skin types different than my own, but I likely will not repurchase them again.

The Innisfree Eco Natural Suncare BB Powder is a great item to keep in your handbag for mid-day touch-ups, but cannot replace a daily liquid SPF application. 

What was your favourite SPF this summer?


The Ultimate Blackhead Fighter: Enzyme Washing Powders

Balm cleansers, cleansing gels, cleansing milks, facial bar soaps... we've really seen it all when it comes to different textures of cleansers. Still, the idea of a washing powder seemed very strange to me, mainly because it reminded me a bit too much of laundry detergent. I first picked up the PIU White Washing Powder as a more gentle exfoliating alternative to acids/chemical exfoliation, which I mentioned in my post "Are You Over Exfoliating?" was much too harsh for me and really damaged my skin. Like all the other washing powder options I will be mentioning today, PIU contains fruit enzymes (specifically papain from papayas, which seems to be the most popular choice), but it foams up (sort of, I'll explain in a bit) like a regular face wash, so you can gently exfoliate the skin while washing your face as normal. It really is a great way to exfoliate and my skin is always super smooth and soft afterwards, but the best thing about washing powders is that they got rid of my blackheads.

Blackheads are a problem that I've struggled with for such a long time. One of the first things I learned when
I started getting into skincare products is to fight blackheads with salicylic acid, and I was slathering on a salicylic acid gel from Neutrogena every night from the age of 14 all the way up until 17. Now that I look back on it, I really don't know why I kept up the habit for so long considering it did absolutely nothing. Nowadays, for the most part I have combination-normal skin and really don't suffer from blackheads as much as during my earlier teenage years. But during the summer, my skin turns combination-oily and hello strawberry nose. The skin on my nose starts to feel all bumpy, like you can feel that all the pores are clogged up. Ew. Mud masks helped, but the effect was only temporary. Seeing as I've never gotten any success with blackhead products in the past, I sort of just gave up and tried to ignore the problem.

When I started using the PIU Washing Powder as my night time cleanser, I started noticing that after washing my face, I would see little white dots floating out of the pores on my nose, like the trapped sebum had been washed out of the pore. After a few days, the skin on my nose didn't feel as bumpy any more, and after a week or so, I didn't see any more blackheads! The PIU Washing Powder makes for a really deep cleanse, yet it is gentle enough to use everyday. My skin was feeling a lot less congested, and more importantly, no more strawberry nose.

I'm demonstrating here using another great washing powder option, the Orbis Oil Cut Powder Wash. I'm not sure why it's called "oil cut" since it doesn't mattify the face or anything. I guess they're referring to the fact that you get rid of all that excess sebum that clogs pores. The Orbis option should only be used 1-3 times a week depending on how sensitive your skin is. However, for those who suffer from blackheads in the T-zone, I think you can use the powder wash more often just on that area.

1. As you see, the product comes in a solid powder form. The Orbis option comes in circular granules, while PIU is a powder that looks a lot like laundry detergent (but I promise it's not laundry detergent).

2. The enzymes are activated upon contact with water. Try to use water that's luke warm so you don't denature the enzymes (ie. cause them to stop working). By adding water and rubbing your palms together, you can get this sort of light, sudsy foam, which is completely fine for washing your face.

3. For those like me who prefer more of a dense, creamy foam, rub a foaming net between your palms.

4. You'll be left with a really dense foam that helps to reduce friction from your fingers when washing your face to reduce irritation, and just feels that bit more luxurious.

I like to pair my washing powders with my Clarisonic Mia, because the Clarisonic seems to be able to wash off the gunk that floats out of my pores. I've been love love loving the new Luxe Cashmere Cleanse brush head as it's just about the softest thing ever, but more on that in another post. You can also gently (and I mean GENTLY) go over the skin with one of those loop extractors to clean out the pores.

Personally I find the Orbis and PIU options to be pretty similar apart from the fact that PIU can be used everyday, while Orbis can only be used 1-3 times a week. However, PIU has a really bizarre scent that I can't quite describe but I certainly don't find pleasant, while the Orbis doesn't have any scent. It really is a matter of personal preference.

Another option that looks oh so luxe is the TATCHA Rice Enzyme Powder. Just look at that gorgeous packaging ugh. Of course, gorgeous packaging seems to be always come with a price, so the price is definitely more high end, but I've seen great reviews for the product. TATCHA also contains papaya enzymes and is gentle enough for everyday use. Rice is also one of my favourite ingredients in skincare, so someday when I'm ready to fork out $65 for a cleanser, this gorgeous little number will be mine.

If you're someone who really struggles with blackheads or congested skin and cannot find a solution, I would 100% recommend you try washing powders. They've really made a world of a difference for me and are honestly kind of fun to use, and who doesn't love that?


Cleansing Lotions Over Cleansing Oils

In my last post, "Are You Over-Exfoliating?", I mentioned that I did not get along with the trend of acid toners, like, at all. Another huge trend that my skin was just not on board with is the craze for oils in skincare, both in the form of facial oils and cleansing oils/balms. In theory, great ideas, and it's true that they worked out well for many people. But on my skin, facial oils wrecked havoc - every single one I tried broke me out badly and just left my skin so congested, including the well-loved Clarins Lotus Oil, Josie Maran Argan Oil, and Pai Rosehip Seed Oil. I completely gave up on the whole facial oil idea and just went back to my regular moisturizers, so I don't have a whole lot more to say on that.

With cleansing oils/balms, I loved how simple and easy it was to just rub them in and be able to take off all my makeup, including heavy eye makeup and lip sticks. However, my skin was always still a little bit congested from using them and it felt like I always had bumps under my skin that just never came to a head. I put off looking for an alternative because the process was just so quick and I didn't really know what else to use for makeup removal anyway (apart from makeup wipes *shivers*). In comes summer, and let me just say that in the 40°C temperature + humidity in China, rubbing oil on my face was really the last thing I wanted to be doing. 

In my mind, I always had the impression that milky-textured cleansing milks, lotions, and creams did not have the ability to thoroughly remove makeup. However, I picked up the Neutrogena Deep Clean Cleansing Lotion and was amazed by its ability to even remove lipstick and waterproof mascara. Its fragrance-free, oil-free, and alcohol-free formula makes it ideal for sensitive skin. I just take a couple of pumps of the product (usually 6-8 pumps), smooth it over my entire face and neck (I don't wear makeup on my neck but I do wear SPF, and all SPF products need to be removed with a makeup removal product), draw circles on my face with my fingertips for a minute or two, and then rinse off with water. Because there is no need to remove with a towel or muslin cloth like cleansing oils/balms do, I found that my sensitive skin was much less irritated.

Here I decided to show the Neutrogena Deep Clean Cleansing Lotion in action:

1. I have on the back of my hand, from left to right, YSL Touche Eclat Foundation, Anastasia Brow Wiz, Bobbi Brown Gel Liner, Makeup Forever Rouge Artist Natural Lipstick, and the notoriously hard to remove Kiss Me Heroine Make Mascara

2. I applied the Neutrogena Deep Clean Cleansing Lotion and spent a minute drawing circles on the back of my hand to really dissolve the makeup.

3. I rinsed off with water, and as you can see, all of the makeup is gone, even the mascara!

4. I went over the back of my hand again with some Bioderma just to be sure nothing was left. The cotton pad was spotless.

The only downside to this product is probably that I go through the bottle quite fast. A 200mL bottle probably lasts me a month. Then again, the Neutrogena Deep Clean Cleansing Lotion is a fairly affordable product, it being drugstore and all, and I feel that it removes makeup better than the other options I've tried.

Another option that I enjoyed using is the Bevy C. Purifying Renewal Makeup Cleansing Milk. While it is called a milk, it definitely feels more like a lotion as well. What I like about this product is that it contains plant extracts to help gently slough away dead skin. I've lost the packaging so I can't be 100% certain, but I believe it uses yeast enzymes for this rather than acids, so it makes for a much, much more gentle exfoliation. However, this product is only available in China, so definitely not the most accessible of options. 

The Elemental Herbology Bio-Cellular Super Cleanse, on the other hand, is much easier to get a hold of. Elemental Herbology definitely feels like more of a luxurious product with the scent and packaging. I also appreciate the tube packaging as pump bottles are hard to travel with. This offering also gently exfoliates while removing your makeup with the addition of malic acid. It also contains a bunch of other plant extracts to help nourish and moisturize the skin. Bottom line: it removes makeup well, but not so much waterproof eye makeup, and is very pleasant to use. I believe Lancome also have a milky-cream makeup removal product that has good reviews (Galatee Confort Comforting Milky Cream Cleanser), but I have yet to give it a try. 

While products like the Neutrogena Deep Clean Cleansing Lotion are capable of removing waterproof eye makeup and long-lasting lipsticks, I prefer to go in first with one of those dual-phase waterproof makeup removers on a cotton pad. I'm currently loving the Clinique Take the Day Off Makeup Remover for Lids, Lashes and Lids (what a mouthful!) because it removes eye makeup so easily without any rubbing or tugging at the lids, and it doesn't contain any artificial colouring or fragrance. Then, I go in with a cleansing lotion to remove my face makeup and eyebrows. I know it's still more of a hassle than using a cleansing oil, but I honestly think it's so worth it. Since making the switch, I've seen such a difference in my skin in that it doesn't feel congested anymore, and I don't seem to get those under the skin bumps. 

Do you think you'll be making the switch to cleansing lotions?