Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Does Brush On Sunscreen Give You Any Sun Protection? May 24, 2012

The first post I ever wrote for my blog was entitled: Brush-On Mineral Sunscreens – Do They Give Enough Protection?.  In this post I went over the pros (portable, good way to reapply sunscreen over make-up) versus the cons (expensive, perhaps really not giving you enough sun protection) of using mineral brush-on sunscreen.  I concluded the post by recommending these products as a great way to reapply your sunscreen over make-up during the day and while you were on the go.

As much as I have been a devotee to these products for about three years I always had this nagging suspicion at the back of the head that perhaps they weren’t really giving enough protection at all.  One thing that clued me in to this was when I would try to demonstrate on the back of my hand how these products work to a client or a friend you couldn’t even see that I had anything on the back of my hand.  I was also hard pressed to even tell how much product was coming out of the container or if any product was coming out at all.  Additionally though I was a devoted, daily user of my brush-on sunscreen the product was used up very, very slowly which lead me to believe that nothing was really coming out when I was applying it.  So how much sun protection was I really getting?  (On the other hand,  since these products are so expensive that wasn’t such a terrible thing)  Since I also always caution people to never rely solely on their make-up with spf in it for their sun protection needs how different are brush-on sunscreens from make-up really?

While these suspicions were percolating in my head I came across the following from Future Derm in her post The Ugly Truth About Makeup and Moisturizers with SPF:

Why SPF Powders Aren’t Giving You the Protection You Think

Any powder product requires about 14 times the amount of normal powder application to receive the SPF listed on the package.

You see, the average face is about 600cm2 (although that varies from person to person, of course). This means the average woman needs to apply about 1.2g of facial powder to get the SPF stated on the product’s label. However, most women only apply about 0.085g of powder at a time – fourteen times less than you need to get the SPF listed on the package!

Of course, there are always two sides to every debate.  In the June issue of Vogue they write the following about brush-on sunscreens in a mini article entitled Summer Skin Savior: Sunscreen in a Brush (page 119):

The fact that sunscreens lose most of their efficacy after approximately 90 minutes in the sun is something most of us prefer not to think about, since we feel we’ve done our duty applying a thin film, under our makeup, at the about 8:00 in the morning.  Is anyone really going to slather on another layer over foundation?  (Exactly.)

This summer, salvation comes in a brush.  The new powder sunscreens – lightweight mineral blends that provide chemical-free broad-spectrum protection (ideal for sensitive skin) thanks to micronized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide – are the ultimate multitaskers.  They dust on invisibly over makeup (some even come with a hint of bronze), and ingredients like silica and cornstarch absorb excess oil, leaving a smooth matte finish.  “I use them a lot because I hate a four o’clock shine,” says Debra Jaliman, M.D., author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Top New York Dermatologist.  She’s also a fan of the high levels of zinc: “Physical block is like wearing a shirt on your skin.  You really get so much more protection.”  Plus, she adds of the slim tubes, “it’s something you can throw in your bag, and it won’t spill because it has a brush.”  Reapplying just got really easy.

Reading what Vogue has to say does make for an interesting argument, but as for what they have to say about these powders not being messy that simply isn’t true.  I’ve tried a few of the brush-on sunscreens and had the tubes crack and break causing the powder to pour out all over my car and bag.  Not fun, definitely not mess free.  But also the Vogue blurb reads like an ad for the sunscreens as opposed a well researched and science backed article.

Because of the reasons stated above in the Future Derm post, I started experimenting with reapplying cream or lotion sunscreen mid-day over my make-up and found that this worked fine.  My make-up stayed intact.  I still have a brush-on sunscreen in my bag for on the go touch-ups, but I’ve decided that I shouldn’t rely on it even as a way to just reapply sunscreen during the day since I wasn’t really sure how much, if any, sunscreen protection I was getting when using the powder.  Instead I have it with me for emergency reapplications of sunscreen and for cutting down on mid-day shine.  I still do think that using a brush-on sunscreens is better than not using anything at all and going out in the sun without any protection, but I definitely would advise my readers to use a lotion or cream sunscreen first before using this kind of product.

In my search to find a quick, easy, and effective way to reapply my sunscreen I decided to purchase Shiseido’s Sun Protection Stick with SPF 35.  This is a solid and very portable sunscreen that you can just swipe across your face making reapplication a snap, and in my opinion, you also are getting real sun protection when using this product.  (I heard about this product from one my favorite blogs Scatterbraintures so thanks Rae!)  I decided to get translucent shade and was actually disappointed when I got the product and tried it for the first time since it actually looked white on my face until I rubbed it in well.  I’ve used this stick sunscreen on my son and niece as well and you could definitely see where I had applied it on their faces.  The so-called translucent shade left a distinct white cast on their skin (on the plus side, using a stick sunscreen on a child is very easy)  So I suggest perhaps getting one of the tinted ones.  The tinted shades can also be a perfect, light make-up for some people so that is an added bonus.  (I also just discovered Sun Bum Sunscreen Stick which is oil-free but haven’t tried it yet)

I think that life is only worth living if you are constantly learning, and learning comes from questioning.  So dear readers – after much thought and research I have to conclude that purchasing a brush-on sunscreen isn’t such a great idea.  Carry your lotion (or stick) sunscreen with you and reapply as needed.  That is the only way you will be sure that you are really protected from the sun.  Save your brush-on sunscreen for getting rid of mid-day shine.

Image from thesnowmag.com

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2 Responses to “Does Brush On Sunscreen Give You Any Sun Protection?”

  1. Rae Says:

    Too bad the translucent stick didn’t work on you. I found another review from a surfer, Hungry Walrus. He’s a guy and he’s using the beige one, I think. http://www.hungrywalrus.com/2011/08/12/shiseido-face-stick-spf-35/ It’s an interesting read, because he’s a guy’s guy and he doesn’t seem to know much about makeup, yet, shiseido sun stick is his go to sunblock for surfing all day


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