Below are my sunscreen history, filled with trials and errors. Not that I know that much more now, just a bit of experience...
Olay Complete All Day UV Moisture Lotion SPF 15
My sister and I used to use this in our high school days, and I think she was still using it up until last year before switching to Lancome Aquafusion. Yeah, I know, these are lotion, not sunscreen, but I used to think that's what sunscreen is! My very first big mistake! If I'd have to use 1/4 teaspoon of *real* sunscreens just to get the labeled SPF, and products like these probably have only a percentage of sunscreen by volume, think about how much of them I'd have to use to get that puny SPF 15! If this Olay lotion contains 25% sunscreen by volume, I'd have to use a whole teaspoon of it on my face! But of course they don't tell you that on the label now, do they? Urgh.
***Picture from Olay.com.
I'm glad I know better now, and the lotion used to make my face all shiny and greasy anyway. Yuck. If you like Olay, it's better to just use one without the SPF and wear a good sunscreen on top for *real* protection.
Lancome Aquafusion Lotion & Cream SPF 15
Same mistake as above, unfortunately. I started out with the non-SPF ones, and I really should have just stuck with them and wear a separate sunscreen...
***Pictures from Lancome USA.
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sun Block SPF 70
I first effort to make a change after learning I've been duped. Granted, I didn't start out with the SPF 70. Back then, the highest one Neutrogena made was SPF 45, I think. So I tried it on top of my lotion. And to my horror, it had zero substantivity. Not only that, it melted in the presence of my lotion, seeping into my eyes and burn them like crazy. I then tried to use it only my neck and arms, but again it melted, even in the dry heat of Colorado, and made me a sticky icky mess! Another thing I had issue with is that this sunscreen claims to be "sunblock" when it really is a chemical sunscreen. See why I really really hated it?
***Picture from Neutrogena.com.
Clarins UV Plus Protective Day Screen SPF 40
Before going to Japan, I thought about my daily struggle with Neutrogena and came to the conclusion that there was no way I'd do the same given the humidity and heat in that lovely country. So during my quest for a lighter and more manageable sunscreen, I came across this one. A red flag initially went off when the Clarins SA insisted to me that it's not technically a sunscreen but instead a "day screen," whatever the hell that means, however, I ignored my intuition and brought it with me to Japan.
***Picture from Clarins USA.
Pros: I've read that this thing is, in fact, a physical sunblock lotion, and with an estimated PPD 8, it's pretty darn good! It was exceptionally light, even more so than the Shiseido SPF 55 and didn't bother my eyes a bit, even when the instructions say to keep it away from the eyes.
Cons: Unfortunately, it had more bad points than good. First of all, it had zero substantivity. One wipe with the hand or tissue and it was off! Secondly, it didn't sit well on top of my lotion and turned my face oil-slick. Thirdly, the bottle was tiny, about 3.5 inches in height containing 30 mL for all of the $36 I paid for it. Plus, Clarins was just as devious as the others and didn't say anything about using 1/4 teaspoon, so out of my ignorance I used several drops! Needless to say, I didn't get much protection and my face was red and tanned the whole time I was in Japan!
Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion & Cream SPF 55 PA+++
Embittered with my failure in finding a good sunscreen, upon coming home from Japan I gave these two a try, even though I had to change my daily routine to include the oil cleanser needed to take them off every night.
***Pictures from Shiseido USA.
Pros: Absolutely substantive and mattefying, it zapped all the oil on my face and gave me beautifully clear skin for the first time in my life! Plus, I came in a generous bottle for the same price as Clarin's.
Cons: Yes, it cleared out my skin, but because it absorbed every bit of oil on my face! My skin was wrung dry! So dry, in fact, that I started seeing fine lines and wrinkles I never saw before! I substituted with the cream version, but that didn't help at all, not to mention the much heavier texture and finish. Sad. Very sad, indeed.
Lancome Soleil Ultra Expert Suncare SPF 50
While I was using the Shiseido stuff for my face, I used this for my neck and body. Just didn't feel like washing my neck and arms with an oil cleanser everyday too, you know? This stuff was pretty good, decently priced, substantive enough but not so stubborn that it wouldn't wash off. My only complaint is that it's overwhelmingly fragranced. But if you don't mind that, give it a try.
***Picture from Lancome USA.
Even my mom liked this enough to use it for her face because she didn't want to add another facial cleanser to her routine. So far, she says it's good too. It turns her face a bit shiny towards the end of the day, but it doesn't irritate her eyes or clog her pores.
California Baby SPF 30+ Sunblock Stick
After the Shiseido SPF 50 deep fried my skin, I thought may be all the chemicals in it are to blame, so I went through an organic sunblock phase and tried out this one.
Pros: no eye irritation, smelled decent - a citrusy scent that reminded me of Tang, dried to a semi-matte finish after rubbing in.
Cons: impossible to rub in, left behind horrendous white cast, the decent scent turned sour and disgusting towards the afternoon (so bad hubby wouldn't even kiss me!!!), turned my t-zones shiny in the afternoon, low substantivity, clogged the hell out of my pores, creased all makeup except for blush, and worst of all, my face tanned after several weeks of using this and my face almost NEVER tans!!!
***Picture from Californiababy.com.
Badger SPF 30
Turned to this one after the California Baby sunblock stick failed.
Pros: surprisingly, it was rather moisturizing! Unscented, at least not that I noticed.
Cons: very thick and pasty and therefore extremely difficult to rub in, left very apparent white cast, low substantivity yet very pore-clogging, creased all makeup including blush! Again, my face also tanned with this one, so I stopped using it immediately after noticing the tan.
***Picture from Badgerbalm.com.
Bioderma Photoderm MAX Fluide SPF 50+ PPD 35
Disappointed with the organic sunblocks' failure, I decided to give European sunscreens a try. People were raving about the high PPD protection, so I was dying to see how suitable it is for my skin.
Pros: the protection, of course! This one was light yet very moisturizing, even for my dry combo skin. It did leave a very shiny film after application, but I found that skipping moisturizer eliminated this problem. It actually went on dewy and dries to a semi-matte finish on bare skin, much like the Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Cream SPF 55 PA+++
Cons: this stuff burned like hell!!! If you would believe it, it stung my eyes during application around the forehead and chin - not even close to the eye areas! I was guessing the culprit must be the Avobenzone or the Tinosorbs? I wasn't sure which it was then. After just 1 week (that felt like an eternity) of watery and irritated eyes, I couldn't take it anymore and gave up :( The sunscreen never really absorbed into my skin anyway. Yes, it dried to a semi-matte finish on bare skin but would slowly separates and shifts around in patches as the day wore on. I looked so awful by the afternoon that I had to wipe it all off and reapply. Also, perhaps because it never really absorbs into my skin, it had ZERO substantivity! Forget the "water resistant" claim!
Bioderma Photoderm MAX Lait SPF 50+ PPD 35
Tried this one after the Fluide above didn't work. This one had a much better finish than the Fluide, better absorption and even more matte, but, boy, I was sorry still. I got all the trouble I did with the Fluide (see the Cons above), and then some. After just one more week, my face had exploded in such horrific acne I thought my skin was reverting to its puberty days! Ack!
***Pictures from Bioderma International.
Eau Thermale Avene Ultra High Protection Lait SPF 50+
So I theorized my skin couldn't tolerate Avobenzone and tried one without it! This lovely sunscreen uses Tinosorbs and no Avobenzone for UVA protection, but unfortunately, I learned with this trial that it wasn't Avobenzone my skin couldn't tolerate. It was actually the Tinosorbs all along!!! Anyhow, it broke me out again, and much worst than last time! Sigh...
Eau Thermale Avene High Protection Lait SPF 40 for Children
This one has the best finish out of all 4 European sunscreens I tried, and it's also alcohol and fragrance free. But again, my skin couldn't take Tinosorbs, so now I'm using these 4 for my neck and body. Funny, isn't it? The ingredient doesn't bother my neck and body at all, all the while wrecking havoc on my face. I just don't get it!
***Pictures from Tubotica.com.
Sofina Perfect UV SPF 50 PA+++ Lucent
So, after many a sunscreens (and a couple of sunblocks) later, I just didn't want to go back to Shiseido SPF 55. I was just so sick of piling on a ton of moisturizers on my face and still looking like 100, so I started looking for a similarly textured but less drying sunscreen and, thanks to MUA, I've arrived at this awesome little angel!
Pros: It does everything the Shiseido SPF 55 does minus the drying factor. The finish is also mugh lighter! I could barely feel it on my face even when I use the 1/4 teaspoon amount! It is also fragrance-free, and it keeps my skin matte to the very end of the day until I take it off (the Shiseido did not, as drying and mattefying it was!). The bottle is about half the size of the Shiseido bottle, and thankfully it's also half the price. Using it daily, one bottle lasts me about 10 weeks.
Cons: its PPD is only about 8-10, but since I'm never under the sun for more than 15 minutes at a time without cover, I guess it's okay. I'm just so happy my search ended with a great and affordable sunscreen! Hooray!!!
See the ingredients list translated from Japanese.
***Picture from Adambeauty.com.
See the first Sun Protection! post.
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