I'm on a quest to find just the right sunscreen to add to my daily skincare regime. Something I should have been doing for years. But being blessed with mixed heritage meant my olive skin didn't go red or burn. Something I took full advantage of by basking in the high sun whenever the opportunity arose. 

Just the other day my sister and I were reminiscing about the days when we would slather ourselves in Hawaiian Tropic tanning oil (SPF zero!) and layout for hours, turning a perfect golden brown. 
Can you say s-u-n w-o-r-s-h-i-p-p-e-r?

These days, however, you'll find me in the shade wearing a wide-brimmed sunhat and factor 50!

Don't get wrong, I still love the sun. It is, after all our best source of vitamin D, a unique vitamin that most of us don't get enough of. A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to serious health risk and has been linked to cancer, osteoporosis, muscle weakness and depression.

So, while I may behave like a vampire when it comes to exposing my face to the sunlight. I do try to make sure the rest of me gets a healthy amount of sun, which, according to Healthline is 13 minutes around midday three times a week. I also take vitamin D supplements to be on the safe side. And because I live in the Uk!

But, back to my face, and I'm ashamed to say that I didn't make facial sunscreen a staple part of my skincare routine till my forties.  And now, after what feels like a lifetime spent carelessly exposing my face to the sun, I finally get it - the sun will age your face!

The accumulative effect of daily sun exposure leads to premature aging in a few different ways. Over time ultraviolet light breaks down collagen and elastin in the skin and interferes with the production of new collagen. And it can cause freckles, sunspots and irregular skin pigmentation.

So, basically you can be totally committed to your skincare regime, have professional treatments and use the best anti-aging products money can buy,  but unfortunately, this won't prevent sun damage. 

Bringing me to the subject of this post. Sunscreen for the face. What to look for and what to avoid. 

Mineral vs Chemical

If you happen to be making the change from chemical to physical (aka mineral) sunscreen or, you hadn't a clue that there was more than one type of sunscreen, then this post is for you.

inding just the right mineral sunscreen is no easy task, because there are a couple of downsides to choosing this type of SPF - 1) the dreaded white cast that some leave on the skin can be subtle or scary, and 2) the consistency can be a bit on the thick/greasy side.

Not major issues
if you're at the beach, but when making sunscreen a step in your morning beauty routine before applying your makeup...  you're definitely going to need the right one!


When it comes to sunscreen you need to look for the active ingredients when reading the product label. These ingredients make up the broad spectrum protection in sunscreen that protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. 


There are only two active ingredients in mineral sunscreen: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.  Note that zinc oxide is the only full broad-spectrum protection out of all the active ingredients used in sunscreen. So, when buying mineral/physical sunscreen it's best to buy one that contains zinc oxide or zinc oxide plus titanium dioxide for full-spectrum coverage.

The active ingredients in mineral sunscreen, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide work by creating a physical shield between the sun and your skin. They sit on top of the skin and deflect and scatter the suns harmful rays. This barrier begins working immediately. And for obvious reasons, this sunscreen is considered the safer, natural option.


There are over 30 synthetic ingredients used in chemical sunscreen. These active ingredients form UV/chemical filters once they are absorbed into the skin. Some of the most common ones, avobenzone, oxybenzone, octisalate and octocrylene must be combined together in order to create a broad spectrum sunscreen.

These chemical filters absorb into the skin where they create a chemical reaction, whereby when the sun hits the skin they convert the energy of UV rays into heat, absorbing and "deactivating" them.

This chemical reaction is part of what causes chemical sunscreens to break down and need reapplying every two hours. Regardless, it's still advised to reapply every two hours whichever sunscreen you use.  

Additionally, chemical sunscreen needs 15-20 minutes to absorb into the skin before they can be effective. So you must apply before you head out into the sun!


The Environmental Working Group reviewed the existing data on human exposure and toxicity for 9 of the active ingredients used in chemical sunscreen. Oxybenzone being the highest concern with potent anti-androgenic (testosterone blocker) effects, allergic skin reactions and different pregnancy and birth outcomes reported. Avobenzone and homosalate have shown endocrine disrupting concerns too. 


Last month an FDA study published in The Journal of American Medical Association showed that four active ingredients commonly found in chemical sunscreen were absorbed through the skin into the body, at concerning levels and concentrations.

According to Spotlight on CDER Science (7/8/2019) "Some concerns have been raised about the safety and effects of sunscreen ingredients on human health, in part because we have limited evidence of absorption for some sunscreen ingredients. There is a need for more rigorous and systematic research specifically evaluating the bloodstream concentration of sunscreen ingredients when users apply sunscreen as directed on the label.

Today, sunscreens, which are regulated as over-the-counter (OTC) drug products, are used with greater frequency, in larger amounts, and by more consumers than ever before. Moreover, sunscreen formulations have changed, yielding higher SPFs and better broad-spectrum protection. Lab technologies have also evolved, improving our capacity to detect the absorption of active ingredients."

Banana Boat Kids Continous Spray is one of the worst offenders at the top of Dr Axe's most toxic list

Dr Kanade Shinkai, a dermatologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who co-authored an editorial accompanying the government study says "We definitely know that the sun can cause skin cancer and melanoma. But the findings highlight the need for further research into the potential health effects of these chemicals when they wind up in the blood. The concern is that we just don't know what the systemic (blood) absorption data mean" Shinkai told Live Science.


In Feb. 2019 the FDA announced a proposed rule to update regulations. More safety and toxicology data has been requested for 12 sunscreen ingredients. These new studies will help determine if these ingredients meet the agency's criteria to be classed as "generally recognized as safe and effective" (GRASE) for the intended use. So... what were they classed as before now??

The FDA also stated in the article that while safety testing continues, the agency advises the public to continue using sunscreen. And that the results do not mean that the ingredients are unsafe.

Only two sunscreen ingredients currently meet the GRASE criteria - zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

By this point, it's probably clear why I choose mineral over chemical sunscreen. But, if you are happy to stick with chemical sunscreen I suggest reading this article by  Dr Axe on the Best Sunscreens of 2019 (And Toxic Ones To Avoid).

Dr Axe says "All sunscreen are not created equal. In fact, a 2019 report from Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that nearly two-thirds of sunscreens don't work and or contain concerning ingredients that are readily absorbed by the body. In fact, a recent study found that sunscreen chemicals hit the bloodstream within a day of using them, and at levels high enough to prompt a government investigation on safety"


My quest to find the right, non-greasy, anti-aging, alcohol-free, broad-spectrum sunscreen/day cream lead me to these wonderful products. They have all made the cut due to their clean ingredient list, and the fact that they can easily be incorporated into your daily regime without disrupting your morning routine!

1) COOLA - Classic Cucumber Face SPF30 
2) DRUNK ELEPHANT - Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF30 
3) REN - Clean Screen Mineral SPF30 Mattifying Face Sunscreen Broad Spectrum 
4) OMOROVICZA - UV Mineral Shield SPF30 
5) ELTA MD - UV Physical Broad Spectrum SPF41 Lightly Tinted

6) DERMA-E - Sun Defense Mineral Oil-Free Sunscreen 
7) DRUNK ELEPHANT - Umbra Tint Physical Daily Defense
8) HOLLAND & BARRETT - Nature's Block 100% Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF30
9) BARE MINERALS - Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream Broad Spectrum SPF30 
10) BEAUTY KITCHEN - Mineral Shield Daily Primer SPF30


One other mineral sunscreen that I need to mention in this post is Shade, from Not The Norm. I mentioned this product in my chemical peel post because it is just a pot of absolute goodness! It contains only 4 organic ingredients, coconut oil, shea butter, beeswax and non-nano zinc oxide making it the perfect post-care must-have. Shade is a heavy-duty sunscreen that really protects you from the suns harmful rays, and that's how you feel when you're wearing it. Hence why I always use it on the days following treatments like peels, microdermabrasion or micro-needling.

The reason I didn't add it to the list is that the consistency is quite thick and heavy, like that of shea butter which may clog pores. So wearing this one every day could cause breakouts for some, and it doesn't go well under makeup. I highly recommend using this if you either get professional treatments or do your own at-home.