The 2 Best Sunscreens You’ll Ever Need
I hate to admit but I didn’t start using sunscreen seriously until I reached my 30th birthday or so. I can hear some of you yelling at me for such a huge skincare gaffe and I can hear others of you asking what’s the big deal. Sunscreen is a huge deal, not just for our skin’s aesthetics but more importantly to protect us from skin cancer. Just a month ago I found out a colleague of mine had several surgeries to remove pre-cancerous skin growths all along her hands and arms that had arisen from regular daily driving. I remind my father and friends who sometimes like to tease me about my Korean-inspired driving gloves.
It’s not just about not wanting to get unsightly brown sun spots that make us look older than we are. It’s about wanting to live as long and healthy a life as possible. If the facts about skin cancer don’t scare you, then let’s talk about aesthetics. Here’s an image on a HuffPo article talking about a truck driver’s face where the two sides have aged at completely different rates- one side far more exposed to the sun than the other.
While most of us may not be driving as much as the average truck driver, most of us do drive at some point on a daily basis and all of us are out and about doing our daily business. All of these moments outside- we’re in contact with the sun and those are chances for our skin to develop both benign and malignant spots. After realizing how crucial sun care is to both living a healthy life and preserving youthful beautiful skin, I started using sunscreen with a vengeance around that 30th birthday mark. Hopefully it’s not too late, though I already battle with a smattering of little brown sun spots that thankfully, other potent skin brightening products like Honor MD Retinol Cream, Dr. Gross Alpha Beta Medi Spa Peel and Ling Hi Vitamin C 12% help to reduce.
One of the main reasons I didn’t consistently wear sunscreen in my 20’s was because I’ve always had oily/combination skin and every sunscreen on the market back then resulted in me getting breakouts. The sunscreens were all super oily and smelled strange.
These last few years have seen great progress in the availability of truly wonderful sunscreens that not only do their job to protect our skin from harmful UVA/UVB rays but on top of that, provide a little moisture without clogging pores that lead to unsightly breakouts. The cherry on top? They either don’t smell at all or have a pleasant subtle scent to them. I’ve tried about three dozen sunscreens over the years, from drugstore brands that cost just a couple of dollars per bottle to absurdly expensive sunscreens that cost upwards of $150 per bottle. Here are my personal picks for the 2 best sunscreens you’ll ever need.
Dr. Gross Dark Spot Sun Defense SPF 50 Sunscreen
Size: 1.7 oz / 50 ml for US $42
Cruelty free, vegan and paraben-free, Dr. Gross’ all-physical SPF 50 Sunscreen protects from UVA and UVB rays without chemical filters. Woven into this potent sunscreen is Dr. Gross Melatonin Defense Complex with melatonin, vitamin E and three forms of vitamin C that work together to fight free radical damage. What is an “all-physical” sunscreen versus a typical “chemical sunscreen?” All physical sunscreens denote a difference in the chemical compounds used, which are primarily Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) and Zinc Oxide (ZnO) whereas chemical sunscreens use a long list of compounds such as Octylcrylene, Avobenzone and Octinoxate. What this basically means for us is that chemical sunscreens can themselves create free radicals that damage our skin depending on what any individual company uses in its proprietary concoction. In other words, the very skincare product we apply to protect us from skin damage can in fact, be a cause of that damage.
Dr. Gross SPF 50 Sunscreen, being an all physical sunscreen, deflects the sun’s harmful rays rather than absorb them the way chemical sunscreens do. For what it’s worth, physical sunscreens are FDA approved while many chemical sunscreens are not. Of course, the support for chemical sunscreens vary from nation to nation. Some of you may have experienced the same thing I have with chemical sunscreens, where you accidentally get some of it in your eye (mostly by sweating) and you feel that stinging sensation. You don’t get that with physical sunscreens. Check out this article for a deeper explanation of chemical sunscreens.
I’ve heard people complain about physical sunscreens being harder to apply because they’re generally thicker but this is simply not true of the Dr. Gross Sunscreen. It is white and somewhat thick but spreads very smoothly and evenly, leaving no white or uneven streaks on my face. It has no scent that I can detect and doubles as a light moisturizer for someone who has oily/combination skin like me.
In the morning, I skip my moisturizer when using this sunscreen. For an average day at work where I’m simply in and out of buildings, doing light amounts of driving, this sunscreen is absolute perfection. Those moments where I have to walk outside for some extended period of time, I’m not constantly fearing that behaving like a normal human being going about my business is going to result in huge brown spots all over my face or worse yet, some pre-cancerous situation over time. I’ve never had a breakout caused by Dr. Gross’ sunscreen so this is a hands-down huge win in sun care.
At US $42 for a tube that lasts approximately 4 months with once daily use, I can’t live without this sunscreen.
Tatcha Pore Perfecting Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35
Size: 2 fl. oz. / 60 ml for US $68
Those of you familiar with my skincare reviews know that I am an ardent fan of Tatcha’s; I have yet to try any of their products that doesn’t excel beyond their promised deliveries. One of their newest skincare offerings is this Pore Perfecting Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35 and like all other Tatcha products, it goes beyond what is promised.
Tatcha is a Japanese-inspired skincare line and as such, it is a company that takes great care in upholding a high level of quality to produce an exquisite sense of beauty for its clients. Beyond a sun care product, Tatcha’s Pore Perfecting Sunscreen pulls quadruple duty as sunscreen, moisturizer, primer and bb cream, all without clogging pores.
It provides broad spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays but its non-greasy formula glides on incredibly smoothly and evenly just like a potent moisturizer would. With Green Tea and Silk extracts, it’s no wonder this sunscreen is potent in multiple facets. This too is almost odorless with perhaps an occasional whiff of delicate Rose flower. It is white as well and has a light texture resembling a serum more than a typical sunscreen.
As with all Tatcha skincare products, this sunscreen is formulated without mineral oil, synthetic colors, synthetic fragrances, sulfate detergents, parabens, PEGs, PPGs, Urea, DEA, TEA, phthalates, aminobenzoic acid, homosalate, oxybenzone or octinoxate (the latter compounds commonly found in chemical sunscreens).
Its active ingredients are Zinc Oxide and Octisalate.
As its name suggests, this sunscreen does an amazing job of glazing the skin for that camera-ready appearance as if you’ve worn a colorless bb cream, which might seem counterintuitive, but it’s really not. Imagine if your own natural skin were simply perfect, without blemishes, without clogged or enlarged pores, without sun spots or whatever other ailments you might complain about. Tatcha’s sunscreen kind of blurs all that out of focus and smoothes everything out on top of providing that potent level of sun protection.
A sweet bonus to the Tatcha sunscreen is how it arrives- packaged in a beautiful wicker basket that includes a booklet, a Japanese fan and a few pieces of Japanese candy. They definitely stay true to the Japanese tradition of creating lovely rituals even out of skincare.
This tube at 60 ml for US $68 also lasts approximately 4 months with once daily use and for those of you who want to minimize the number of products you have to use in the morning, this is a huge win.
So you might ask why I have two of these sunscreens when both seem equally fantastic. The answer is that I switch off between them depending on what my agenda is for the day. If I know that I’ll be walking around outside a little longer than usual, I’ll use the Dr. Gross SPF 50 sunscreen. If I know that I’ll be in a situation where people will be taking pictures of me or for whatever reason, I need to look like I just had the best facial ever, I’ll wear the Tatcha sunscreen.
For a clear understanding of the difference between the SPF (sun protection factor) numbers, here’s a good article from the New York Times.
I know most of you will only want to stick with one sunscreen and between Dr. Gross and Tatcha, I suggest you try both for yourself to see which one you prefer. For me, these are the two best sunscreens available anywhere in the world bar none and I get plenty of mileage out of both so I strongly recommend both.