Summer sun care update

My sunscreen of choice has shifted a bit over the past couple of years. I’ve got some strong and updated opinions kicking around, so I figured I’d weigh in and give a little update since it’s just now FINALLY summer-like here in Seattle! (Apologies to any of you who could have used this info in, like, May, what with the heat wave and all. We write what we know, and all I know is that it’s totally cloudy and overcast where I live right now.)

DEVITA. I still love me some Devita body block,  but my concerns remain about it being less apt at protecting (since the particles are soooo micronized and since the formulation is more like a lotion and doesn’t seem to stay on your skin in hot weather). So I like to mix this with other sunscreens, or use it when I know I won’t be out for long. What I still love is that it doesn’t make my pores feel clogged like many other mineral sunscreens do. It does still sting my eyes a tiny bit even if I just use it near but not right next to them—no one I’ve talked to knows why this happens, but it goes away after a bit so overall the benefits outweigh the ouch or inconvenience. Just wait a few minutes before you put on mascara! (Note: you’re welcome to spend too much on their facial formulation, but the body block is nearly identical and is much better value for your money.)


BURNOUT. The lovely ladies at EDS also turned me on to Burnout. I’ve tried their kids’ formulation. While it’s a bit dry, it doesn’t look as white as it comes out in the tube and its dryness is great at keeping oil at bay in the summer heat. I like to mix it with some Devita to thin it out and make it a bit more transparent. Sometimes I also mix in a little argan oil (I get mine from Garden of Wisdom, but this seems like a better deal) to try to make it more moisturizing. I recently used up the last of this tube (took me FOREVER, in a good way, and it stayed fresh ’til the end) so I’m about to order their sensitive formulation to see how that goes. I’ll update if there are any significant differences in how the sensitive stuff (blue writing and cap) seems in comparison.

O HUI. Back in the day I posted about O Hui’s compact powder sunblock, and I still love that stuff but only for REALLY intense sun days. The fancy little compact broke (waaah!) and the pale creamy off-white color does give me a very slight ghostly cast, so I only use it when I need extra protection and I also know my face will be sweaty/shiny—I brush this on instead of normal loose powder, and I use a short-handled very soft synthetic kabuki brush. Incidentally, O Hui seems like it’s getting a little easier to find online—but the only Amazon product I see that’s a powder sunblock is this one, which is described as being “white.” So no thanks. Still, seems like others will be able to share in my O Hui summer joy soon!

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MYCHELLE (BOO!). I was on a recent trip to Dallas when I was forced to pick up a tube of MyChelle’s facial sunblock at Whole Foods. They’ve reformulated this at least once (and probably more like 3x; WTF) since I last tried it, and it’s much worse now—it clogs my pores horrendously. I’ve been using it up anyway, but this blog post has finally inspired me to click through to check out on my Amazon order so I can get some better sun care reinforcements in, stat. The new(est) MyChelle is dry, chalky, and generally sticky-feeling without being sufficiently moisturizing. Like Burnout but without the benefits. It seems to protect well, but yech—I plan to use this as a body block and/or husband block (he won’t know better unless he reads this post, heh—the proof is in the comment, honey!) to use it up since it’s also quite pricey. Weirdly, this actually looks cheaper on MyChelle’s site than on Amazon’s. Either way, avoid!


Upcoming: ELTA & NIA24. Lastly (I swear), I recently received some exciting sunscreen samples. My awesome mother-in-law stayed with us for the past week, and she brought me a sample of Elta sunscreen that her fancy DC dermatologist swears by. The stuff is nice and chemical-free just like I like, but it’s also tinted so it hopefully doesn’t give that chalky cast (or WAY too dark and orange a cast, *ahem, Dr. Perricone*). So I’m excited to try that out soon! I also got a small vial of NIA 24’s sunscreen from the Amazon vendor who sold me my magical Peter Thomas Roth pads. I’ve heard good things about NIA24’s sun formulation but I keep giving away my samples to more excited skincare nerds—no longer! This one’s mine! (And I promise to tell you all about it soon.)

Aaaanyway, I hope you lovelies are all surviving the heat wave one way or another. Stay protected out there!

Chicken skin begone!

Look Ma, no bumps!In recent years, I’ve started to notice keratosis pilaris on my upper arms, and a teensy bit on my tush and the backs of my thighs. The latter two don’t matter AS much, since my hubby thinks my skin is smooth is butter (and it IS compared to his). But I really wanted to eradicate the arm stuff before my wedding!

For years I’ve used the blemish-clearing formulation of  St. Ives Apricot Scrub as a body scrub, in conjunction with a foaming shower gel and waffle scrub gloves and some DIY skin oil immediately after. That quadruple-combo usually helped, but only if I was REALLY regular with scrubbing and moisturizing, which I generally am not.

So I bought Diana Yvonne Lactic Acid 10% gel and Fruit Acid gel 15% combo, plus KP Duty by DermaDoctor and Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Correction Pads.

Combining the above-mentioned products really did the trick. I eased in, using part skin oil and part one of the gels, and I would kind of try to homogenize them in my hands first and then apply. I would sometimes use straight KP, sometimes mix KP and a gel, sometimes wipe arms down w/ pad when I couldn’t shower. It all really helped!

My arms were lovely and bump-free for the big day, and not nearly as discolored/blotchy as the KP used to make them look. The Diana Yvonne products were fab — not chock full of propylene glycol like so many other AHA/BHA formulas. I now just do a little bit of any one of the above when I think of it or notice the stuff coming back!

If I could do it over again, I wouldn’t bother with the KP Duty. Pretty pricey and kind of stinky. I’ll use it now that I have it, but the Diana Yvonne was better bang for my buck.

Blum face pads — worth a try!

I’ve been hunting for the perfect face wipes for AGES — I’ve never found a formulation that wasn’t chock-full of dimethicone, propylene glycol, and harsh surfactants. Not exactly what my sensitive, breakout-prone skin ordered! (I even shelled out for Josie Maran’s Bear Naked wipes and found that they sting SO BAD!)

But I just spotted this product on Glamour’s beauty blog and I think my search might finally be over. (I love that they contain tea tree oil AND a low percentage of salicylic acid.) Now I just have to actually find a vendor that sells them so I can read the full ingredient list…

Powder power

Okay, I’ve talked about making a DIY version of a powder product before, but now I HAVE to do it! Check out Peter Thomas Roth’s two new sunscreens.  The first is an SPF 30 formulation that’s specifically meant for oily and/or problem skin, and it contains such additions as salicylic acid and “willow bark extract” (ahem: same damn thing, PTR), as well as the old standard antioxidant cocktail.

However, the new stuff ALSO contains powdered dimethicone, which we all know I’m not a fan of.  And can you blame me?  The stuff blocks pores like none other, so I don’t exactly consider it a wonder ingredient for a product that’s designed to alleviate oily skin and acne.  (Perhaps there’s something I don’t know here — maybe dimethicone in powder form is less comedogenic.)

The second new tube contains the same antioxidants and sunscreen ingredients (albeit in higher concentration), and no salicylic acid. And they’ve somehow packed butylene glycol in there.  But BOTH new versions contain bismuth oxychloride, which is a real bummer — it’s known to make some people break out in an irritated, bumpy red rash.  No thank you!

The old stuff I still have a tube of contains silica and the Antioxidant Trifecta, but no dimethicone or bismuth oxychloride.  It also has significantly less titanium dioxide (and less zinc oxide as well), and it’s WAY too dark for my skin tone so it’s pretty obvious.  I tested these two new ones on my hand at Sephora and they both seemed a bit paler, but it was tricky to tell.  However, the ingredient list in the old stuff is much shorter, which of course makes me happy.

Honestly, since they still share the same crappy packaging with the coarse, shed-prone brush and the cap that comes unscrewed, I’ll probably just concoct my own and put it in a synthetic dispensing brush that I found online.  I will update if and when I get around to actually seeing this through… now I just need some free time to clear out our storage closet!

Borrowing from Bare Escentuals

I recently caught wind of the Rare Minerals acne-fighting mineral powder concealer by Bare Escentuals, and now I see that it’s been voted a Sephora best-of.

I’ve always wanted to avoid anything by BE, since they are notorious for including the chemical bismuth oxychloride in their formulations.  (Many people are quite allergic to bismuth, and it causes a rash-like reaction that takes ages to clear up.  I’m not eager to find out whether I should count myself in those ranks or not!)  And bismuth aside, this stuff definitely has some other ingredients (like dimethicone) that would aggravate my breakouts.

However, the idea of making a powder concealer that contains acne-fighting ingredients definitely intrigues me.  I’ve been trying to figure out a good BHA solution for ages and ages, and concealers that help dry up and bust blemishes definitely appeal to me.  And since my problem with salicylic acid was always figuring out how to get it to dissolve in a liquid base, the idea of being able to leave it in its powdered form is a definite bonus!

I’m going to try this out with my Everyday Minerals concealer set.  I’ll mix the shades that best match my skin for covering blemishes, and I’ll add a few drops of manuka essential oil (gentler than BE’s tea tree oil, and less stinky), and a bit of powdered salicylic acid.  I may also try adding some powdered zinc oxide, both for extra sun protection and for its soothing properties.  (I just have to make sure it doesn’t lighten the mix too much.)

If I can track some down, I might also add powdered sulphur, since that’s the acne-fighting ingredient that always shows me great results on individual blemishes.  However, sulphur’s smell really turns my stomach, so it may be worth while to leave that out of the mix.  It looks like I’ll be making up to four different batches to test this idea out, so I’ll post updates soon.  Thanks for the great idea, BE!

D I Why?

I’ve been working on a DIY beta hydroxy solution that doesn’t contain any alcohol, and I pestered the chemist over at The Personal Formulator about solubility, and they were pretty informative:

Salicylic acid is only slightly soluble in water, one gram dissolves in 460mL water. To incorporate salicylic acid to a formulation, the following methods can be used:

1) it can be added to the oil phase of the emulsion and heated to 80-85C

2) it can be added to a water phase containing sodium phosphate, borax, alkali acetates or citrates to increase its solubility in water

3) it can be combined with a glycol, such as propylene glycol

Since I’m not gung-ho about using borax, glycols or any other unnecessary chemicals, I went ahead and tried to dissolve it in oil alone. However, the crystals seem to re-crystalize once the oil returns to room temperature. I’ve been shaking the solution vigorously and applying it anyway, and I haven’t had any problems — but I’m just not convinced it works well.

Blast it, I wish I knew more about solubility and other basic chemistry concepts! Next time, I’ll be trying to add it to a lecithin-emulsified solution to see if that helps. If any other skincare gurus have ideas, please share them!

Beta Hydroxy Standstill

I’ve been wanting to add a good beta hydroxy acid product to my regime, but I’m having a lot of trouble finding the right one. I’ve read before that salicylic acid (the main BHA in cosmetic formulations) is only soluble in alcohol or oil, and I’m not interested in using alcohol-infused products on my sensitive and dryness-prone skin.

So of course, I started keeping an eye out for BHA products that were oil-based instead… but I haven’t found a single one. Nearly every BHA product out there is chock-full of harsh alcohol that this picky complexion just won’t tolerate.

One BHA product I found which doesn’t seem to contain large amounts of either alcohol OR oil is Juice Beauty’s Blemish Clearing Serum. However, this stuff is weaker than I’d like at only 1% salicylic acid, and the texture is kind of unbearable. It goes on incredibly sticky and the sticky feeling never really leaves you.

So my search has continued. I was thrilled when I found Devita’s Acne Solution Pads, since they claimed to be 3% salicylic acid but completely alcohol free, which is obviously a rare find.

I was a little skeptical, since I’d read those solubility claims elsewhere, and since I know witch hazel (the main ingredient in these puppies) can often be chock-full of alcohol even if it isn’t listed in the ingredients. But I figured that since they make a specific point of calling out the glaring absence of alcohol, then these must be safe.

And boy, was I wrong. I opened up the jar, and one whiff nearly knocked me out. These pads CLEARLY contain alcohol, and quite a lot of it — I haven’t been able to use them on my face at all. (I still use them to exfoliate after trimming my bikini area or shaving my underarms, because the BHA helps prevent ingrown hairs. But I had intended to use them on my face, and this is simply not an option.) Normally, being the consumer-hound that I am, I’d be more frustrated that these products are using deceptive marketing. But instead, I’m just still focused on finding a dang BHA product that I can use!

Years ago, I had used Aveda’s Botanical Kinetic Exfoliant, so I looked into going back to that stuff. But my older and now wiser self noticed that this stuff also has a high witch hazel and alcohol content, so that’s out (now that I know better). It would seem that everything in a toner-like consistency is completely off the table as far as alcohol concerns go. Continue reading “Beta Hydroxy Standstill”