Are you a sunscreen slacker? I hear you—but here are some real-world solutions

woman applying sunscreen to face on the beach bikini

Yesterday, I preached talked about how wearing sunscreen on your face is the single most important thing you can do, beauty-wise. So today, I KNOW 99 percent of you slapped on your broad-spectrum, UVA- and UVB-protective sun protection all over your mugs—and it would be rude to forget your neck, ears and hands too, right? Good.

But today’s post is for the tiny minority of peeps out there who, for a variety of reasons, get a bit slack-ass on the sunscreen. Now, don’t worry—no judgement here and I’m not going to bore you with all the usual sunscreen facts that magazines like to publish annually in their summer issues (zzzzzzzzzz). But I THINK I can help with some of the most common reasons for sunscreen non-compliance:

You don’t wear sunscreen because…

1. You never burn.

Okay, newsflash: even if your skin doesn’t burn, it’s still being exposed to UVA (remember “A” is for aging; the “B” in UVB is for burning). And by aging I don’t just mean wrinkles but also this lovely long list: dry, dehydrated skin; sagging; pigmentation changes; skin thickening; and loss of elasticity. Fun!

I can personally vouch for this, too, as when I’m in the sun sans protection, I don’t tend to burn as much as I will develop freckles all over my face. And I don’t mean the cute kind.

So the solution, of course, is to find a sunscreen you actually like and will wear (I promise they’re making them differently these days—non-greasy and non-chalky options ARE out there)…

Shu Uemura UV Under Base Mousse SPF 30 Are you a sunscreen slacker? I hear you—but here are some real world solutions2. It makes your skin look greasy.

I was a victim of the sunscreen-induced midday oil slick until I found Pure + Simple’s All-Natural Sunscreen SPF 30 for Oily/Impure Skin. (Check it out in yesterday’s gallery.) It’s simply amazing. You can also check out powder sunscreens like the one from Colorescience (again, in the gallery), which will help keep oil in check better than a cream or lotion. Many mineral powders have built-in sunscreens as well, or you could try an oil-control primer with built-in sunscreen like Shu Uemura’s UV Under Base Mousse SPF 30. (How smart is that, right?)

Another tip: skip the moisturizer under your sunscreen if you’ve been layering them… if your skin is looking oily, you probably don’t need it during the day.

3. It makes your skin look chalky.

If you’re into natural sunscreens (made from zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide), one of the biggest pet peeves I hear about is that they can often look chalky on darker skin tones. What you want to look for are micronized formulas, which basically means the particles are so small that they won’t give that whitish cast. (Read more about this here—and note that micronized does not mean nanoparticles, for which there are some safety concerns.)

One to try: EmerginC’s SPF 30+ Broad Spectrum Sun Protector (in the gallery), which is both a micronized formula AND tinted, which should help. If chalkiness is a concern for you, don’t be shy about asking for a tester before you buy, and remember to rub the product into your skin well.

cliniderm gentle protective lotion spf 45 Are you a sunscreen slacker? I hear you—but here are some real world solutions4. You’re afraid of the chemicals.

And this would be the reason you might choose a natural sunblock. We’re learning more and more about sunscreen chemicals like oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, which some experts say are harmful hormone disruptors. Plus, many people find chemical sunscreens irritating to sensitive skin.

The good news is that there are now PLENTY of natural choices out there. The two ingredients to look for are zinc oxide and titanium oxide, and I’ve included several in this gallery. But I ALSO encourage you to check out the Environmental Working Group’s 2010 Sunscreen Guide for more information and to look up the safety of any sunscreens you wear or are considering.

5. You’re not outdoors long enough to need sunscreen or to bother reapplying.

If your summer weekdays consist of travelling from air-conditioned car to office and home again, with maybe 10 or 15 minutes of outdoor time in between, then I can see why you wouldn’t want to slather yourself like you’re heading to the beach.

And it always struck me as CRAZY that derms would suggest reapplying sunscreen at lunchtime, thereby messing up our makeup just for a quick dash out to go buy a sandwich.

What to do? I’d opt for a mineral powder with built-in sunscreen, which you can quickly dust over your face in a jiffy. (Did I just say jiffy?) Anyway, I know most are only SPF 15, but they’ll give you at least SOME protection and you can reapply as needed without messing up your makeup underneath. Just don’t rely on them if you plan to bake on the beach or be outdoors for extended periods of time!

green pastures cod liver oil 164x300 Are you a sunscreen slacker? I hear you—but here are some real world solutions6. Don’t we need the sun to produce vitamin D?

And now we come to the health part of the equation, which I’m probably as passionate about (maybe more) than all the beauty stuff I gab about here. (But keep in mind, this is not medical advice and I’m not an MD, obviously!)

Yes, our bodies produce vitamin D from the sun, but for those of us who don’t live in the tropics (I only wish), we’re realistically never going to make enough from the limited time we spend in the sun. ESPECIALLY us Canadians (even though some of us are enjoying a heat wave this week). Oh I know, the experts like to tell us that we can get all the vitamin D we need from exposing our bare skin to the sun for 10 minutes per day, but this simply isn’t true—read this excellent article for more details on why.

Instead, we should be doing what our ancestors did—obtaining our vitamin D from food sources. Supplements are okay (and I did used to take them), but what is blowing my mind lately, as longtime readers will know, is high-quality cod liver oil. From what I’ve read here, it’s safe in higher doses than the pills (i.e. less toxicity risks), although you should still follow package directions, and there is a fabulous bonus: it makes your skin look amazing too. (Wiped out hormonal acne in me and my BFF and makes our skin, as well as my mom’s, absolutely GLOW. My hairdresser is even a convert now!)

Besides the cod liver oil (which I order from here), you can obtain vitamin D from foods like butter, whole milk, egg yolks, organ meats, lard, shellfish and oily fish. It’s a good idea to have your doctor check/monitor your levels before and during any new supplementation programs.

So whaddaya think? Have I converted any sunscreen slackers out there? Let me know if you have any more sunscreen hate-on reasons in the comments!


Thursday, July 8/2010 at 8:24 pm

I’ve used all those excuses for years. Sigh.

I’m a big fan of oil-control primers with built-in SPF. I’ve heard great things about Shu Uemura Mousse but haven’t tried it yet. I currently use Pro-Derm Daytime Fluid SPF 20 ( It can be used as a primer or on its own. It’s pretty amazing!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, July 17/2010 at 4:09 pm

Yes the Shu Uemura mousse works well – only caveat is that the ingredients are a bit iffy (chemical sunscreen plus propane, apparently.. eeeks!) But some people are okay with that. And it IS rather convenient for oily skin types to have the primer + sunscreen all in one… I just would love to find a natural version of that type of product. I’ll definitely post if I do!
I’m not familiar with Pro-Derm, will have to investigate!


Thursday, July 8/2010 at 9:44 pm

I completely agree with Pure+Simple’s Sunscreen for Oily/Impure Skin. Actually, I love everything from P+S – their facials, their products, their team. I’m a huge fan of their hydrosols especially in this weather. Both the Lavendar and Witch Hazel hydrosol help my skin feel fresh and hydrated.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, July 17/2010 at 4:10 pm

Me too! LOVE them. Best facials in Toronto and all the products are fantastic.


Monday, July 12/2010 at 10:29 pm

Does the Pure + Simple’s All-Natural Sunscreen SPF 30 for Oily/Impure Skin feel sticky? I find often that if a sunscreen isn’t greasy, then it has a tacky feeling.

I’m really interested in trying this sunscreen but the 50ml is sold out online =( Don’t want to commit to a larger size before I try it out first.

Also, does anyone know what percentage of titanium dioxide and zinc it contains?


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Wednesday, July 14/2010 at 10:09 am

@Angela – I don’t find that it feels sticky/tacky at all… on me it absorbs in really well, just like a regular lotion. It’s really very light.

BUT – always best to try before you buy. Let me check with Kristen (the owner) on whether they send out sample sizes… and also the ingredient percentages.


Wednesday, July 14/2010 at 7:40 pm

Thanks so much Michelle!

I’m currently looking for a daily sunscreen to replace my Keys Solar RX because it’s sticky. Because it feels tacky, I always end up not putting it on my whole face, just areas where I’m starting to see hyperpigmentation, which I know is not wise, especially because I’m very fair-skinned.

I’d even be willing to pay for a trial size for the Pure + Simple sunscreen, if it doesn’t cost the standard $10 shipping charge for orders under $100. I ordered trial sizes from Keys and Kabana Green Screen but neither of them worked out and it was a good thing I didn’t purchase the full size!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Wednesday, July 14/2010 at 10:32 pm

Hi Angela! Here’s the response I got back from Pure + Simple:

The 50ml Anti-aging Sunscreen is back in stock.

The active ingredient percentages for the SPF 30 are 6% titanium dioxide and 6% zinc.

Customers who wish to try the product before they buy online can order a sample through our telephone reps by calling 1-866-337-1507. The only thing is that we have to charge them shipping for the sample. The most cost-effective option for the customer would be (if they are interested) to make a list of a few products that they would like to try out and then order the sample pack. The samples sizes that we send out are from 4ml – 10ml depending on the product and will likely be enough to last 2-6 days of use.

Other news: Pure + Simple have JUST removed Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A) and Almond Oil (Almond Oil contains Vitamin A) from their sunscreens – the EWG released information on a new FDA study, which is still in its preliminary stages, that Vitamin A may increase the chances of skin cancer development. All of the Pure + simple sunscreens are now Vitamin A-free.

I hope this helps!


Thursday, July 15/2010 at 12:00 am

@Michelle- It looks like the 50ml was restocked, that’s great! I think I might go with that size, as shipping for the sample(s) will probably end up half as much as the full sized product anyway.

It’s too bad we don’t have Pure + Simple here in B.C. I’d certainly be interested in having one of their natural facials.

Thank you for all your help Michelle. I appreciate it :)


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, July 17/2010 at 4:12 pm

You’re welcome – let me know how it goes if you end up ordering it. And yes – if you’re ever in Toronto and thinking about a facial, they do really good ones. (I love that they treat your hands, feet, shoulders and scalp – not just face!)


Monday, July 19/2010 at 6:18 am

@Michelle- I’ll keep it in mind to let you know how it goes if I end up ordering it. Right now I’m deciding between the Josie Maran one and the Pure + Simple. I’ve been reading so many good things about the JM Daily Protect, I’m starting to get a little obsessed with it– so kind of leaning towards that one at the moment. It’s sold out right now online at Sephora, but I may just wait for it. I signed up for the “email me when available” list.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Monday, July 19/2010 at 9:00 am

Both great choices – would love to hear how it goes no matter which one you go with!


Wednesday, July 21/2010 at 12:23 pm

Great article! I’ve been having a problem w/ zinc based sunscreens in that when applied, they ball or pill off the face. I know it must be applied in a light and careful manner, but I’m still having problems. The few times I’ve been able to apply it correctly, it ends up balling/pilling off when I attempt to apply my face powder. Any tips on how to avoid this? I’d rather use a physical sunscreen vs. a chemical one. Thanks!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Thursday, July 22/2010 at 1:26 pm

Hmm I’ve never had this issue, although maybe because I’ve been using Pure + Simple’s one for so long now and it never does that to me. I have heard it’s a problem with some brands though – what are you using?

I know you said you apply it in a gentle way so you’re probably not doing this – but I would think rubbing your skin too much would make things worse, first of all.

But my main tip would be that you really need to let every single layer you put on your face absorb thoroughly before the next one. So, if you apply serum, wait 10 mins, then apply moisturizer, wait 10 mins, then apply the sunscreen. (Which all sounds like a pain in the bum so maybe just do 2 of these steps or even just the sunscreen, if you can find one that has other skincare benefits built-in.)

To me that’s the only thing that could possibly make sense to prevent the gummy little balls from happening… short of just switching to a different product…. but if I find anything else out I’ll post back here.

Let me know if this helps at all!


Tuesday, July 27/2010 at 10:17 pm

Hey Michelle :) I said I’d report back, so…after a long and meticulous deliberation between the JM Daily Sun Protection and the Pure+Simple Natural SPF I ended up choosing the Pure+Simple.

I did some research and found the ingredient phenoxyethanol (in the JM sunscreen) to be questionable, particularly for a daily sunscreen, where the cumulative absorption of the contents really add up. Also, argan oil, though beneficial to the skin, is comedogenic because of the oleic acid it contains. Therefore, I considered the pore clogging possibility of everyday use. Based on the reviews on Sephora online, the users with negative reviews of the product commonly state that it broke them out. I believe that can be attributed to the presence of either phenoxyethanol (which can irritate skin), the oils, or the silicone.

So on to the Pure+Simple. I selected the one for for Oily/Impure Skin, since greasiness is one of the many problems I’ve had with sunscreen in the past. I ordered it online and it was packaged very well, to ensure that the glass bottle would be protected. And they were generous enough to include a few samples, which was a pleasant surprise. I look forward to trying them out.

The Pure+Simple sunscreen was light, not sticky or tacky like you said, and does not leave a white cast on me personally. I am glad I ordered it and if it works out in the long term (I only just received it today), I’ll probably order it again in the larger size. Initially I was also considering Cliniderm, which has very similar mineral percentages to Pure+Simple, but a comparison of the two ingredients lists shows P+S to have friendlier ingredients. While the Enivironmental Working Group may not have P+S’ sunscreen listed, its individual ingredients are accounted for on the site.

So thank you Michelle for the fine recommendation.


Tuesday, July 27/2010 at 10:22 pm

Oops, after re-reading my post, I realize I could have worded this part better: “not sticky or tacky like you said”– it sounds here like you said it was sticky or tacky, which clearly wasn’t the case. What I meant was that the P+S sunscreen isn’t sticky or tacky, which is consistent with your experience.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Thursday, August 5/2010 at 7:50 pm

No worries! Thanks for clarifying!


Wednesday, July 28/2010 at 9:28 pm

I feel I should mention, for anyone reading my review, that the Pure + Simple sunscreen does ball/pill on me. I didn’t encounter it earlier when I first tried it because I only did a patch test. The balling/pilling is exacerbated significantly by re-application, I’ve discovered.

Titanium dioxide and zinc does have a natural tendency to agglomerate. One commenter mentioned that the Cliniderm does not ball/pill. It’s because of the alumina that acts as a polymer. However, based on personal preference, I’d prefer not to use products with any ingredients derived from aluminum.

So yes, there is a trade off in using natural sunscreens.

Does anyone know if the Josie Maran Daily Sun Protection have the balling/pilling effect?


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Thursday, August 5/2010 at 7:53 pm

Oh no! It doesn’t do this to me – and another reader just commented that she’s not having this problem either. I can definitely see it happening with re-application but for the first time you put it on – are you rubbing in or just lightly smoothing and then letting it sink in? Hopefully the latter technique will help.

And since I don’t have a sample of the Josie Maran one – I’m hoping someone who has tried it can weigh in here… Anyone?


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Thursday, August 5/2010 at 7:49 pm

My pleasure! And thanks for the awesome ingredient research as well. I wasn’t familiar with phenoxyethanol but if it’s a bad thing I’m glad it’s not in there!
I knew JM used argan oil as well and have read that it can clog pores…. although many people rave about it. (I have her argan oil moisturizer and haven’t tried it because I’m scared it will break me out.) I’m also so, so, surprised there are silicones! Yikes.


Sunday, August 8/2010 at 3:16 am

No problem :) Apparently phenoxyethanol is used by a lot of “green” companies as a preservative as opposed to parabens, however it may not be that much better. I’m trying to transition to more natural products, so I’ve really gotten into researching (plus being a recent university graduate and all, research mode is still freshly instilled in me). It’s just difficult to make quality matches. Like mascaras with friendlier ingredients just don’t have the staying power of the regular ones– same with eyeshadow and eyeliner, in my experience.

I’d still use the JM sunscreen, even though it has phenoxyethanol, but I’d prefer not to if I could find a better sunscreen. After my research over the years, I’ve realized being an absolute natural products puritan is probably not a realistic option for me.

I got the travel size of her 100% Argan oil, and I have to admit, it does benefit the skin. It makes my skin look more radiant, firmer, plump and hydrated, with a softening effect. I don’t use it every day, since it is comedogenic, and it hasn’t broken me out. I notice a temporary clogged pore here and there once in a while, but nothing too bad– for me, the pros outweigh the cons. It also works great as a hair smoother.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, August 10/2010 at 1:04 pm

I hear you – I was on the natural products train for a long time… still am, but I have to compromise here and there, especially with makeup. I figure the surface area of my body is the biggest thing to worry about (so I only use natural body lotions, etc.) but if I’m going out and need eyeliner that needs chemicals to stay put, well so be it!

I need to do a post on face oils, I think! For some reason I thought the botanical ones (rosehip, neroli, etc) were non-comedogenic. I wonder what the difference is vs. the argan. I’ve been dabbling with Decleor and Darphin oils for years and agree, they give a wonderful plumped-up, glowy appearance.


Monday, October 11/2010 at 1:14 pm

Hey Michelle,

I stumbled across your site in my search for a list of sulfate-free shampoos and wound up here reading about sunscreens (I’m curious because I need to choose a new fall/winter sunscreen and because my boyfriend has a sun allergy that causes excessive flaking that pretty much means he can’t be in direct sunlight 11-5pm…I’m always searching for products for him). Anyways, I love your site, but I wanted to comment on the Vitamin D point above.

I read this article in the new york times this summer which discusses going outside for 10-15 minutes without sunscreen (except for on your face) between peak hours of 10am-3pm a few times a week in the *summer*. I also wanted to highlight this passage, which I think is essential for people taking supplements: “If acquired naturally through skin, the body’s supply of vitamin D has a built-in cutoff. When enough is made, further exposure to sunlight will destroy any excess. Not so when the source is an ingested supplement, which goes directly to the liver.”

Of course our ancestors got *some* vitamin D through food, but if you consider that vitamin D is mostly found in eggs, fish and some leafy greens, the prospect that they obtained all they needed from food is unlikely (especially if we go far enough back that our ancestors were hunters and gathers and ate little to no meat). Which means they got their vitamin D from the sun…without the kinds of skin cancer we’re all so afraid of (granted they didn’t have to deal with many of the environmental factors we have today).

Anyways, I believe in getting vit D from food AND the sun. That’s a personal preference, but I did want to show you the above research, because it’s good to be thorough, yes? Anyways, again, loving your site and all your info!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, October 19/2010 at 4:29 pm

Hmmm I agree with you that a combo of sun + food sources of D are important, but I don’t agree that our ancestors got little to no meat. According to Dr. Weston Price’s research (he studied the diets of traditional cultures around the world), healthy primitive diets were rich in vitamin D-containing foods like butterfat, eggs, liver, organ meats, marine oils and seafood, particularly shrimp and crab. Source:

Since modern diets really don’t focus on these types of foods that’s why I recommend supplementing with something like cod liver oil. You could change your diet to include D-rich foods as well. I’m not anti-sun but I think in the Canadian climate where we really only get a few months of summer sunshine, it’s just not realistic to rely on it.


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