The Food and Drug Administration’s new labeling rules for sunscreen have been closely parsed by the health community.
But how will they affect your beauty routine?
Especially come humid summer days, many women (and complexion-concerned men) rely on just their color cosmetics for their daily dose of SPF. The labels of trendy beauty balm and color control products (a k a BB and CC creams); their close cousins, tinted moisturizers; liquid foundations; and face powders often boast coverage of up to SPF 50. The new F.D.A. rules require that any SPF claiming “broad spectrum protection” must cover both UVA and UVB rays.
So if your makeup offers broad spectrum SPF 15 (the recommended minimum level of protection) or above, you’re covered, right?
The short answer: “No,” said Dr. Jeanine Downie, a dermatologist based in Montclair, N.J., and a contributor to YouBeauty.com. “Because if you put on foundation, it’s thicker in some places and thinner in some places. Also, you’re probably not putting it on your neck. So I tell people, you need to first put a generous amount of sunblock and then your makeup on.” Dr. Downie recommends lotions for more-even coverage, but layering cosmetics with SPF on top doesn’t hurt, either.
Lest you think the oft-clinical-sounding BB and CC creams are better for protection than classic foundations, Dr. Downie said: “It’s more makeup than sunscreen. It’s about how you apply it, and you’re probably just dabbing a color product on only where you need it.”
The good news is that technology for color products containing SPF is improving. The F.D.A. rules have led many beauty companies to boost their protection levels and invest in reformulation. (Many BB and CC creams have provided only UVB protection in the past, Dr. Downie said.)
For example, in March, AmorePacific, a Korean company, introduced the CC Cushion Compact with one of the highest SPFs around: a broad spectrum 50+. “Sure, you’ll use Banana Boat or Coppertone for the beach, but you don’t want that on your face daily,” said Esther Dong, the senior vice president for sales and marketing of the company’s United States division.
She said the company had spent much time and money coming up with a stable formulation that would pass American standards and deliver smooth, weightless color. (In Asia, the company often uses Tinosorb-S, which is not approved for use in the United States.) This is often difficult with titanium dioxide, a common sunscreen that is naturally chalky, Ms. Dong said. Rather than water, AmorePacific used bamboo sap, which also offers hydration benefits, to dilute the product, she said. It is now the company’s best-seller in the United States, with consumers touting its silky coverage and high SPF on e-commerce sites. Though lightweight in feel, the compact comes at a hefty price: $60.
Many foundations contain chemical sunscreens like avobenzone (sometimes called Parsol 1789, one of its trade names), oxybenzone or octinoxate, because they avoid the inherent “matteness or chalkiness” of mineral ingredients like titanium dioxide andzinc oxide, said Vic Casale, the chief of innovation for Cover FX and a founding partner of MAC Cosmetics. But when Mr. Casale got wind of the F.D.A. rules (an early draft circulated in 2011), he wasn’t taking any chances. Starting in January 2012, Cover FX reformulated all of its products, he said, removing all SPF claims from their liquid and powder foundations. “We had to with the powder, it was a choice with liquid,” Mr. Casale said, referring to his interpretation of the F.D.A.’s new guidelines.
The brand has incorporated chemical sunscreens into its Total Cover Cream Foundation compact with SPF 30 ($42), because the coverage is “very consistent” (the formula is thick) and it stays on for most of the day, he said. It also introduced an SPF 30 primer, intended to go under makeup. Both feature broad spectrum protection.
When deciding on the exact chemical composition, Mr. Casale said, he turned to the Web site of the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization, to choose safer options. “We have today what I call the ‘Google customer,’ ” he said. “The Google customer is reading online, they are going to the EWG Web site and other skin Web sites. They e-mail us. So that’s why we improved our safety profile.”
But mineral sunscreens also have their devoted fans because they’re “inert, and completely nontoxic,” said Dr. David Colbert, a dermatologist in Manhattan who says that he slathers himself with zinc oxide before he goes surfing. And if white-nosed surfer dude is not your daily look, there are lighter options out there, like Chantecaille Just Skin tinted moisturizer with mineral SPF 15 broad spectrum protection ($64).
“Mineral sunscreens don’t penetrate the bloodstream,” said Sylvie Chantecaille, president and chief executive of the beauty company. “That was top of my mind when we started developing it. But I really wanted to create a product that was also easy to wear and not ugly. I had to go to Japan, which is sometimes 10 years ahead of the U.S. and Europe, for the technology.”
If other lo-fi mineral foundations are less luminous, a touch of highlighter (the NARS multiple works well) on the cheekbones, brow bones and down the nose can help. For those with darker skin tones, Dr. Downie, who is African-American, suggests a balance of chemical and mineral sunscreens. Particularly look for micronized minerals, Dr. Downie said, which blend better into tanned skin.
The jury is still out on powders — many of which (including the popular Bare Escentuals line) have made protection claims for years. Dr. Colbert, for one, is not a fan. “Powders are millions of little particles,” he said. “They can’t form a uniform shield. They’re a physical sunblock in a way, but they let too much light through.”
Ms. Chantecaille is in the process of removing SPF claims from Chantecaille’s powder products (but keeping the existing formulations). “You can’t control what women do,” she said. “I think they are applying the powder definitely to the nose and forehead, but I can’t guarantee where they are applying and how much.”
But Shiseido has no plans to change the labeling of its top-selling Sun Protection Compact powder foundation with SPF 34 ($27). The company’s executive director of marketing, Gisela Ballard, said the brand “retested all of our products to make sure that we comply with broad spectrum.”
Lisa Powers, a spokeswoman for the Personal Care Products Council, a trade association in Washington that lobbies for its members (including Shiseido), pointed out that the F.D.A. has not yet definitively ruled on the matter. “We, along with many in the dermatology community, believe that powders are an important sunscreen dosage form,” she wrote in an e-mail.
The dermatologists do agree on one thing: That it’s important to wear sufficient sunscreen. “Just use broad spectrum protection every day,” Dr. Downie said.