Tag: sunscreen

It’s not only redheads with freckles who need to be concerned about sun damage. The problem is, the sunscreen aisle is confusing!

June 24th, 2012 — 12:33pm

If you’ve been conflicted about which tube of sunscreen to buy when standing in the drug store, staring at the wall of them, you’re in good company. It’s not only this freckly redheaded beauty named Chantal I worked with recently who needs to concern herself with sun protection – we all do. Not only are there countless options when it comes to the mainstream brands like Coppertone, Neutrogena, and Hawaiian Islands, but the non-toxic market for sun protection, which you may have guessed is what  I favor, is seeing a surge in better-for-you-and-the-environment sunblocks to keep sun related skin damage at bay. Good news! Some of the mainstream brands are now offering better options with far fewer scary chemicals. You can see how the ones in your home rate on the Environmental Working Group’s database, here

There are still a number of factors that you may want to weigh before grabbing the first bottle off the shelves of our local Whole Foods, the ‘green products’ section at Target, or at our favorite health food store.

  • What level SPF should I use for every day?
    According to the current recommendations,  30 is sufficient. Anything that claims to have protection over 50 is supposedly not any more effective than 50 SPF.
  •  Will it make me break out?
    Unfortunately, there’s no way to know until you try. Oil-free and non-communagenic (supposedly formulated not to clog pores) are targeted at those of us prone to breakouts, but my strong belief in the benefits of using a face oil for those with oily, breakout-prone skin, goes against this. I’ve used all of the ones in the photo below and none seem to have triggered a breakout in my very temperamental skin. That doesn’t mean, sadly, that it won’t for you, and that it won’t for me in the future. One sunscreen not pictured below that reliably doesn’t break people out is from EltaMD, and is oil free.
  •  If I have a darker complexion do I still need to wear sunscreen?
    Yes, if you want to prevent long-term damage like wrinkles, liver spots, and skin cancers. The more melanin you have in your skin, the more natural sun protection you have, therefore, the likelihood of women with dark to very dark skin experiencing any of these is less than those with lighter skin, but the possibility still remains.
  • What about the ‘questionable ingredients’ in some all-natural sunscreen?
    This question made it difficult for me to tackle writing this post. I had to look at the continuum of ingredients – from those that have been proven to be highly toxic yet still remain in many mainstream sunblocks, to those that some of the more natural lines use that get highly conflicting responses from the scientific experts, with regard to their potential for skin irritation. As I’ve said before, I don’t believe in all or nothing philosophies, which translates in the sunscreen debate to me saying this: despite containing an ingredient or two that may be questioned by some, those that contain, for example,  ingredients that give creamy products their slippery feel, making them easier to rub in, like dimethicone, and paraben alternative preservatives like phenoxyenthanol, both of which have been shown in some studies to cause mild skin irritation, the natural brands I’ve listed below are FAR less dangerous to us and our environments than the mainstream ones.
  • What’s the deal with chemical and barrier sunscreens?
    The difference between chemical sunscreens and barrier sunscreens is this: mainstream lines (Coppertone, Neutrogena, Hawaiian Islands, AND most of the traditional makeup brands that sell sunscreen) block the sun by coating your skin with a hefty dose of toxic chemicals. These chemicals may block the sun, but articles like this one from the Environmental Working Group(the leader in honest reporting on cosmetic product ingredients) show that they may also lead to neuro-toxicity, hormone disruption, and even deadlier forms of cancer than what we would be exposed to from direct sun.  Ironically, it’s been found that most of the US-approved UV filters, ie. chemical sunscreen ingredient, including: octylmethoxycinnamate, oxybenzone, avobenzone, octocrylene, padimate O, PABA, menthol anthranilate, and Mexoryl SX may release free-radicals into the skin – exactly what they’re trying to prevent the sun from doing.

    Barrier sunscreens protect the skin by coating it with sunshine ray reflecting particles. Oils like coconut and jojoba have a natural SPF of 4, and carrot seed oil, wheatgerm oil, and crushed red raspberry seed oil, have  SPF ratings of 20 and higher, yet they absorb into the skin, making them less than ideal for long-lasting protection. The way natural sunscreens do their job is through the use of small particles of titanium dioxide- a mineral that’s the whitest substance on earth (often used to make white paint its whitest) – which forms a barrier, preventing rays from touching the skin.

  • Nano vs non-nano protection?
    As advancements in nano-particle technology (nano = making things smaller, think: iPod nano) have advanced, researchers and laboratory scientists began creating teeny tiny titanium dioxide particles for sunscreens so that they wouldn’t leave the users’ skin coated with that tell-tale white haze. Numerous studies over the years had proven no threat from titanium dioxide to the human body when applied to its’ barrier – the skin, so it was thought that we had nothing to worry about. What was overlooked, however, is  that the skin isn’t impermeable, and what sits on it is at least 60% absorbed into the blood stream – more so, if it’s micro-sized. Titanium dioxide particles were making their way into organs causing genetic and possibly cellular damage, i.e. cancer, and into our environment through excreted material, causing all sorts of potential weird problems.
  •  How easy is it to rub in?   *  Will it leave a white residue on my skin even after I’ve rubbed it in? 
    The products below offer a range of options. As they’re all small containers with price points higher than you may be used to, below I’m offering my thoughts on their use for the face, ears, neck/decollate, and backs of hands.
  1.  The light spray from Cosmedix is very easily rubbed in, and won’t leave you shiny or moisturized at all (you can use your moisturizer beforehand) and has little to no scent.  Ideal for under makeup.
  2. Keys Solar RX is a moisturizer with sunscreen that rubs in very easily, leaves no residue, and is moisturizing enough for most to use in place of an oil or moisturizer, and has a very mild, non-offensive scent. Ideal under makeup.
  3. SunTegrity is moisturizing but not greasy, rubs in very easily, leaves no white residue nor shine, has a very light and pleasant scent, and offers a few other products, including essentially, a BB cream. Ideal under makeup.
  4. Vive Sane is highly moisturizing,  will leave you with a moisturized glow (read: not ideal for the men in your life), has a very light and pleasant scent, takes a little time to rub in, but once it’s fully in, doesn’t leave a white residue. Great under makeup if you like a highly moisturized look (which I do!)
  5. Soleil Organique: The highest SPF (45) I’m including. The container is very small, but very effective. It rubs in quite easily, leaves no white residue, and has a moderate scent that smells more chemically than others, but the ingredients are very clean, and offer more skin treatment components than the rest.
  6. Dr. Robin for Children: Can be used by adults, too, of course. Rubs in easily, has a very light chemical scent, despite absence of any worrisome ingredients. It’s the only one that rubs in easily that is water resistant.
  7. Alba Botanical Very emollient sunblockand Badger anti-bug sunscreen: Both are more difficult to rub in, leaving behind white residue. Despite this, I like their scents – lavender and citrus, respectively, and they’re both highly water resistant. Alba doesn’t get a great rating this year from the Environmental Working Group, however, so I’m less likely to reach for this one. Given that they’re both very thick, they are good for extended periods of time in the sun, and great for skin that tends to burn more readily: ears, nose, cheek bones, shoulders,and backs of neck.There are lots of others on the market I haven’t yet tried, but am excited to. Next on my list are Coola, 100% Pure, Burt’s Bees, Neil’s Yard, and John Masters Organics. Check out this great blog where the writer posts photos of how the natural sunscreens look on skin and how they wear on her kids at the pool here.

I read one skincare expert say that if you’re not wearing sunscreen every day, you might as well not spend money on anti-aging creams and serums.  I rarely believe in all or nothing philosophies, and I urge you, through trial and error, to figure out what’s right for your skin, and your lifestyle, and your bank account. Just like organic produce, some of the best newer natural sunscreens are very expensive. Additionally, I believe that some vitamin D3 directly from the sun onto my skin makes me feel great and is necessary  (along with the vitamin D3 supplements I take and LOVE), but I burn pretty easily in direct sunlight, and in recent years my once adorable freckles have started to merge together and old age spots have reminded me that I’m not in my 20’s any more.

I believe in hats, sunglasses (it’s so important to protect the delicate skin around your eyes AND your eyes themselves – sun damage can lead to cataracts!) and walking on the shady side of the street, closing the shade on your car’s sunroof, and wearing a shirt to keep the sun from beating down on your shoulders, ears, neck, and décolletage (collar bone to breast skin). Don’t forget to protect the delicate skin on your lips, too! Luckily there are numerous lip balm products with SPF. You can enjoy the outdoors and the benefits of the sun if you plan a little in advance. Try storing summer hats and sunglasses along with sunscreen by the front door so you never forget them as you leave the house each day.

Enjoy the warmth, everyone! I’m heading out now to do just that.








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VOGUE.com features my guide to going green for Spring!

April 19th, 2012 — 11:08am

I couldn’t be more excited to share this article from Vogue.com:  Makeup Artist Katey Denno’s Guide to Going Green for Spring

I really believe in the brands I recommend in the article, and have actually had the pleasure of getting to know some of the people behind the different product lines, as I always want to know the story-behind-the-story of how they got their start, and what keeps them going.

A HUGE thank you goes to the beautiful and brilliant Catherine Piercy, Beauty Editor at Vogue.

Thanks to photographer Jason Brownrigg for snapping these shots while I was working last week, and to the lovely model McKenzie Raley for sharing the photo with me.


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Sun-Day is followed by Monday. Now what’s this I hear about a ‘Sunshine Drug’?

February 27th, 2012 — 5:06pm

I went for an annual physical exam a few weeks ago. I love that my doctor has his patients return after having blood work to review the findings in person and discuss what action to take if there is cause for concern.

I was happy to learn that my body is functioning at above optimum level… EXCEPT that it’s not getting enough vitamin D3.

This didn’t come as a surprise to me, as it’s been mostly grey and gloomy (albeit unseasonably warm) here in NYC lately, and I foolishly didn’t schedule myself on any warm-weather get away this winter like I have the past few years. Lack of direct sunshine on the body = low Vitamin D3 levels.

So what am I to do about this deficiency? My doc suggested D3 supplements, upping my intake of foods that contain this ‘sunshine drug’ and offering my skin up to the rays a few times a week for at least 5-10 minutes at a time.  I live for the feeling of sun on my skin. I’ve had countless sunburns as a kid, despite being the kid whose mom often made her wear a t-shirt to the beach, and I’ve learned in recent years to cover my freckle-prone face with a hat or a scarf and huge sunglasses while on the beach. I’ve learned this by watching the cute little freckles I’ve always had on my cheeks and nose spread into large brown spots.  Old age spots are wonderful teachers!  Future posts will focus on the confusing information about sunscreen – physical vs chemical forms – and will of course include my favorites.

I decided to do some research on the miraculous vitamin known as D3. It really is crucial for us all to make sure we’re getting enough. You won’t believe all the things this important vitamin impacts! (note: Tanning Beds do not provide Vitamin D3.)

(This post was intended to go live yesterday, but during the only down time I had on Sunday, I couldn’t resist the huge patch of bright sunshine that was illuminating the center of my bed. I put on a tank top and shorts and enjoyed a little sunbathing (of course there was a pillow over my face), New York-in-the winter –style.)

Vitamin D 3 is different from plain old Vitamin D, and D2. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol, if you care) is the form of the vitamin manufactured within the human body from sunlight. An exhaustive online search of articles written about the conclusive scientific connection between vitamin D3 deficiency and disease is incredibly persuasive.

The basics are: Vitamin D3  builds and maintains your bones.Every tissue in the body, including the brain, heart, muscles and immune system, has receptors for it, meaning that this nutrient is needed at proper levels for these tissues to function well.  Humans cannot digest calcium without adequate amounts of Vitamin D3. Please take note: the form of vitamin D3 that we get from food or supplements isn’t fully active. It needs conversion by the liver and then the kidneys to activate. This means that if you’re having difficulty with either your kidney or liver, you aren’t going to be able to absorb vitamin D3 or calcium properly.

The overview of the research I conducted shows that by exposing our non-sunscreen’d skin to the sun’s UVB rays for 5-10 minutes a day for three days a week is generally an effective way to ensure that adequate amounts enter the body. The big down side to living in towns where tall buildings obscure most of the sunshine has resulted in an overwhelming number of people not getting enough of it. Of great importance to note: researchers have found that very dark-skinned people in particular aren’t getting enough vitamin D3 because their beautiful melanin acts as a natural sunblock, and from what I’ve read, it’s recommended that you, with the gorgeous natural sunscreen, spend an average of 20 minutes in direct sunshine, three days a week.

Since Vitamin D3 improves the antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-parasitic functioning of the immune system, a lack of it has been shown in numerous studies to be highly correlated with the following ailments:

Cancer, Heart Disease, Psoriatic and Rheumatoid Arthritis, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Musculoskeletal Disorders (including back pain)Asthma, Osteoporosis, Autoimmune disorders (type 1 diabetes, chron’s disease, MS), Parkinson’s Disease, Autism, ADHD, Influenza, Fibromyalgia, Hypertension and High Cholesterol, Depression, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Tooth Decay.

When I was in Social Work grad school we learned about Vitamin D being added to the US milk supply back in the early 20th century: there were so many children living in slums with buildings packed so closely together, without much outdoor play space or time in the sun at all, there became an epidemic number of cases of a disease called Rickets, which is essentially soft bones. It was found that the disease could be avoided by these poor kids if they took a daily dose of cod liver oil, which is rich in Vitamin D3. Much to the joy of children everywhere, cod liver oil sales fell in popularity (it had never been popular based on its taste) when Vitamin D began to be added to milk, instead.

Finally, here are some foods you might want to feed yourself during your most sun-deprived times:

egg yolks, shiitake and chanterelle mushrooms, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, vegetable oils, alfalfa, horsetail, nettle, parsley, fish liver oils, fatty saltwater fish, dairy products, butter, oysters, sardine, salmon and tuna.


 Back to this being a beauty blog!!: 

Most of us love a sun-skissed look and there’s a ton of makeup out there to help us get it. It makes sense that a post on my favorite bronzers should be next, right? Check back soon!

My friends John and Liz posted this picture yesterday of their Boston Terrier, Miyagi, doing just what I was doing: soaking up the afternoon Vitamin D3!

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