• Karen Lee

Help! Sunscreen makes my face burn!

Disclaimer: I am not a licensed expert. I just spent a better part of a year doing hundreds of hours worth of self education on products and ingredient research. This series consists of edited conversations from people who asked for my advice. Recommendations have been tailored for each individual based on their skin concerns, skin goals, budget, and product availability in their geographic location. My personal philosophy around product recommendations is to err on the side of caution when it comes to potential lasting biological and ecological effects. As clean and green as reasonable for the individual is the way I go, and I often recommend only products that I have personally investigated/tried. For this particular piece, I had to do some ingredient detective work to see which products worked for Summer and what ingredients I could eliminate as possible problems. Names have been changed for anonymity.


Summer:

My main goal is to find a sunscreen that doesn’t physically burn as I put it on... the La Mer one is super good but it’s $115.


Karen:

I'm always iffy about stuff from La Mer because they don’t use the best ingredients. Their products feel luxurious to put on, but active ingredients wise it’s a lot of filler/there's better stuff out there. Their sunscreen actually contains this known endocrine disrupter called oxybenzone. It’s a cheap UV filter, but as it breaks down, it’s doing you more harm than good. It’s also an ingredient that’s directly linked to the destruction of coral reefs. Hawaii recently passed a bill to ban the stuff.


Anyways!

Please wax poetic about your skin. What it’s like in the morning, afternoon, end of day. Any issues (texture, discolouration, redness, etc). Also, what products are in your line up currently.

I have spent my year of unemployment reading and learning about skincare. I guess most people watch Netflix or something.

Summer:

I usually wash my face at night with a Boscia clear complexion cleanser and then use Kate Somerville oil free moisturizer. In the morning I reapply the moisturizer and use the La Mer sunscreen. My skin is pretty sensitive, and can be prone to dryness although I find the KS moisturizer works really well for me.


Karen: What other sunscreens have you used in the past?


Summer:

I’ve tried ones from Neutrogena, Clinique, Shiseido, Drunk Elephant, First Aid Beauty and a couple others that I’m blanking on the name for.


Karen:

Have you used any other products that have given you the burning sensation?


Summer:

I used to work for Sephora so I got a lot of samples, I pretty much just didn’t use anything that irritated me again. I remember a lot of the Fresh products did, Glam Glow was always terrible, Ren was kind of hit or miss, and Clinique was always bad too.


Karen:

Most Fresh products are about as fresh as my socks at the end of the day. Which is so frustrating because they position themselves as a natural-ish brand. They use so many cheap preservatives to prolong shelf-life.


Glam Glow I personally like, but would never recommend to someone with any skin irritation issues. That shit can be so hardcore haha.


Summer:

Yeah oh my god I had hives for like a week after I used the mask I got as gratis.


Karen:

Besides La Mer, have any other sunscreens worked ever?


Summer:

I also used one by Origins once that was okay, but it was only SPF 30. And since I’m really fair I usually don’t wear anything under 50.


Karen:

Okay, so I’d recommend sticking with fluid formulas because I have a suspicion what might be giving you issues are the mix of ingredients that help the cream/lotion products penetrate into your skin.


My all time favourite I picked up by recommendation of my dermatologist. It's from Skinceuticals (Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50) and is the most invisible sunscreen I've ever used. The benefit of using a mineral sunscreen over a chemical ones it that the ingredients "bounce" the rays off of you instead of "absorb" the UV energy. The absorption actually breaks down the chemicals and then they give off free-radicals. That break down is also what contributes to the stuff feeling all gross on your skin at the end of the day.

Additionally, I love using a brush on block for touching up during the day so I don’t have to touch my face, but it might be suitable for because it just sits on top of the skin without any ingredients that would sink into your skin. The most affordable one I'm familiar with is from SuperGoop. However, loose powder SPF can be hard to find in Canada. So here's a pressed powder mineral compact you can pick up online.


There's another one from SuperGoop that I'm thinking might also work for you. I find siliconey ones also just sit on top of the skin. Have you ever had problems with siliconey primers?


Summer:

Oh sweet! I’ve never heard of SuperGoop before - I definitely want to give that a try! And I don’t have problems with the silicone primers so that’s also a good suggestion.


Karen:

One that’s most similar to Unseen Sunscreen that is available in Canada is a primer from Murad. It's on the pricier side though, but still cheaper than La Mer.



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