SPF for Haters
Megan O’Neill is the senior beauty editor at goop. Which is another way of saying she has a passion for clean products, loves anything that reduces stress, and will happily guinea pig herself in the name of wellness.
I have a gnarly keloid scar on one of my shoulders. Before it was a scar, it was a black speck of freckle that I sometimes glanced down at fondly; it looked pretty dotted there. It was discreet, not sloppily shaped or asymmetrical, so I was surprised when, during my annual skin check, my dermatologist flagged it: “See how it’s jet black, while your other beauty marks are a softer brown?” she said.
I was floored when the tiny pinch of skin she clipped out on that day came back two weeks later reporting irregular cells. Irregular didn’t mean malignant, thank god, but it did mean a return visit with topical numbing cream and some menacing-looking surgical tools. The dermatologist scooped out a deeper piece of skin from my shoulder, excising all the irregular cells. But the fact that I’d had them at all means I have an increased risk of developing skin cancer. “Stay out of the sun, and get a skin check twice a year now,” my doctor said, affixing a bulky square of gauze over the incision. “And wear sunblock every single day of your life.”
Staying out of the sun is, for me, an unthinkable prospect. I live for the sun and even blistering summer heat. I’ve known for a long time that SPF is crucial: Everyone, no matter how pale or dark their skin, whether it’s brilliantly bright out or dismal and grey, should wear it every day to significantly reduce the risk of skin cancer and premature signs of aging. I know this, but for superficial reasons—inertia, fear of breaking out, lack of adoration for any one particular SPF formula—I don’t always comply.
But the statistics are frightening: Every hour one person dies of skin cancer. A mere five sunburns in your entire lifetime increases your risk of melanoma—the deadliest skin cancer—by 80 percent. Incidence of melanoma is higher among Caucasian people but more deadly in people of color (black people, specifically, have the lowest survival rate because we’re more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma in its later stages), and using SPF daily reduces the risk of skin cancer by 50 percent.
Scared straight, I started shopping for a clean, nontoxic option to really—really—fall in love with. And after a few false starts, I discovered Vive Sana. Like all clean, nontoxic sunblocks, it contains only a mineral, physical UVA/UVB blocker, in this case zinc oxide. Along with zinc oxide, titanium dioxide is the only other mineral ingredient used in SPF formulas. (Check the “active ingredients” part of any SPF label to make sure there’s only zinc, titanium, or both. Otherwise the product is not clean.) These blocks sit atop skin to prevent exposure to UVA and UVB rays, as opposed to absorbing the rays, which is how chemical sunscreens work. I avoid chemical sunscreens because they contain irritants and endocrine disruptors, degrade in sunlight, and kill coral. (In May 2018, Hawaii became the first state to ban products containing the very common sunscreen chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, both of which are known endocrine disruptors. Research shows that oxybenzone strips coral of nutrients and bleaches it white, disrupting the symbiosis between fish and aquatic life. While a mere drop of chemical sunscreen is enough to harm coral, about 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion collect in coral reefs around the world each year.)
While I feel great about physical sunblocks, they are harder to smooth in and have, many times, been impervious to my blending efforts, showing up brazenly streaky on my dark skin. The Vive Sana, though, is lusciously hydrating and gives me the dewy, hothouse vibe I’m always aspiring to. It feels more like a silky night cream than a typical sunblock, melts in like a dream, and doesn’t make me break out.
It’s also overflowing with nourishing botanical oils and extracts: organic apricot; argan, astaxanthin, and raspberry oils. There’s no water, so the need for preservatives is eliminated (plus, water in skin care is drying). Smoothing it on feels luxurious and pampering, not like a chore.
Then I discovered the Daily Protezione SPF 30 from the same brand, which is a bit creamier and thus awesome for a day at the beach or a sunny Saturday gallivanting around Brooklyn. I wore it on the plane on a trip to 107-degree Arizona a few weeks ago, and it held up fantastically against the recycled cabin air. I disembarked with incredibly hydrated, soothed skin. Viva the Vive.
These are the musings and opinions of Megan O’Neill based on her own personal experience. Individual responses can vary greatly.