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Chances are you have had at least 10,000 chances to read all you would ever want to know about the grisly effects of too much sun on your skin. But if you have missed all the messages-good for you! You have to have been living under a rock where you definitely don't have any risk of sun-induced skin cancer.
The issue most of us who don't live under a rock have with sun protection products is that they are utterly necessary but messy. Some products stain your clothes. Some product sting you eyes. Some smell funky, and some give you zits.
And no single sun protection product defends you against every last ultraviolet ray-except possibly zinc oxide.
Zinc and sunscreen once went hand and hand, and the protective benefit of zinc oxide cream and zinc oxide ointment has been rediscovered.
If you ever notice a lifeguard with a white nose, or beach goers who seem to be wearing white face, the products they are using are most likely some kind of zinc oxide cream. These creams offer excellent protection against sunburn, sun damage, and the kinds of injuries to the skin that cause skin cancer.
The big advantage of zinc oxide and titanium oxide is that they protect the skin from both UV-A and UV-B rays, the UV-A rays being the most damaging. Other sunblocks usually do not offer UV-A protection. Zinc oxide protects against more of the UV-A and UV-B spectrum than titanium oxide.
The problem with these products is that they tend to keep on working even after you get back indoors; they leave a white case on the skin. The smaller the particle size of the zinc oxide or titanium oxide in the cream, the more sun protection they offer, but the smaller particles also whiten the skin.
The best products find the right balance of sun protection and cosmetic effect. Here is what you need to know about specific brands of zinc oxide sunblocks and how to use them effectively.
Epicuren is an SPF 20 sunblock that includes aloe to moisturize the skin and stop inflammation. It's possible to put makeup over Epicuren, so you could go straight from the beach to an indoor function. The problem with Epicuren is that it offers relatively little protection from the sun, and you should not stay outdoors more than half an hour or so if it is all that you are using.
La Roche Posay's sunblock relies on the chemical ingredient mexoryl to protect the skin from the sun not zinc oxide. Mexoryl dissolves in sweat, so the sunblock has to be reapplied every 90 minutes to 2 hours throughout the day, if you stay outside.
Lucrèce makes both a lightly tinted sun cream and a thicker version, both with 18 per cent zinc oxide. These products allow you to get the sun protection you need without tinting your face white. They can also be used as foundation under makeup.
Makeup Forever's blush does not protect the skin from sunlight, but it does cover up the white coloration left by zinc oxide or titanium oxide.
Shiseido's Sun Protection Lotion SPF 60 is nongreasy and lightweight, and contains about 17 per cent zinc oxide. Shiseido also makes as SPF 32 Eye Protection Cream, to prevent peeling skin around the eyes.
Soleo Organics offers the highest concentration of zinc oxide of any product on the American market, 22 per cent.Many users would find it necessary to use a blush for 1-2 days after use, however.
The product line VMV Hypoallergenics, made in the Philippines, offers the highest concentration of zinc and titanium oxide combined. Their Armada Baby Cream is especially good for children's skin.
Zinc oxide powders don't actually protect against the sun. They are used to lighten skin tones. Since powders come off easily, their effects are very short-term if you perspire outdoors. They offer almost no sun protection and very little cosmetic benefit in outdoor use.
If you don't want to put lots of petroleum-based chemicals on your skin, and you want to keep your skin care as natural as possible, think zinc. But remember, skin protection only works if you remember to put it on!