Updated: Jun 6
and you're likely not at prepared as you think you are.
Ok, you’ve been an excellent skincare student and you’re doing all the right things according to the “Holy Trinity” of skincare – you’ve got a vitamin C, you’ve got a retinol, and you’ve got a sunscreen. Heck, you’ve even got SPF in your makeup. You’re ready to ace the skincare test and instead it comes back as a… B-
EDIT: Since we posted this, NPR ran a quick 4-min segment talking about exactly what we are talking about here in this blog. Have a listen after you read this article for further support of physical sunscreens this summer season, and remember...REAPPLY!
The year was 2018. I was in my early 30s and a new(ish) mom to my first baby. I had lost the baby weight, found my groove back at work, gotten rid of that awful ombre balayage hair color, and was back to using all of my good skincare at the end of my breastfeeding journey. I admit it was past time for Botox (however I was not yet working in the aesthetics field, and hello daycare costs $$$), but I was religiously applying my subscription-based MLM skincare morning and night and wearing hats. So why did my skin look lackluster and why was my pigment so much worse?
“It’s your hormones from pregnancy”, my mom friends would volunteer. “It’s from all those years of soccer in the sun!”, my mom added. “It’s your Scottish heritage”, my dad proudly quipped. They were all correct. My melasma had worsened over pregnancy, I had spent years in the sun without SPF (hello 80s and 90s kids), and I am quite Scottish on both sides, lassies. But I’d been doing the hydroquinone and vitamin C thing for a long time and the pigment kept coming back!
Enter Melasma. She’s the childhood friend you can’t just leave in the dust because “we go way back”. She’s the meddling mother-in-law who can’t take a hint. She’s the telemarketer who keeps acting surprised when you’re angry by her 4th phone call in a week. You get it! She’s not going anywhere, but if you could get her to just pipe down for longer than 5 minutes you’d be so grateful.
I’m here for you, friends. Stick with me. While we can’t cure melasma, we can greatly diminish and inhibit it. And if you struggle from general hyperpigmentation or redness, this will help you, too! The difference in the two is this:
So between the two, melasma is definitely the trickier one to address. It can be caused or triggered by hormones, genetics, certain medications like birth control pills, sun exposure and heat. And here’s where my problem lay. I was doing all of the right things by using hydroquinone and wearing hats, but I was using the WRONG SUNSCREEN. I was using chemical sunscreen and not mineral or “physical” sunscreen. It was a lightbulb moment for sure when I figured this out.
Check out this image I took with just sunscreen on (no other makeup other than eye makeup was on my skin). To take these images I used our EMAGE ImagePro Facial Imaging system, which looks below the surface of the skin into the dermis in order to isolate elasticity, UV damage, and oil production issues.
On one side I have on Supergoop’s Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40, which is comprised of 3% Avobenzone, 8% Homosalate , 5% Octisalate, and 4% Octocrylene. On the other I have on my beloved Epionce Daily Shield SPF 50 Tinted Sunscreen, which is a mineral sunscreen comprised of 9.3% Zinc Oxide and 4.8% Titanium Dioxide.
Admittedly, I failed miserably at application on my nose since I was applying these on camera with a blinding ring light in my eyes, but the comparison I could make is this: If you’re reapplying sunscreen on a bright beach or boat day, don’t you want something that others can see well enough to say “Hey, you missed a spot”? Anyway, I digress…
What’s most noticeable to me are not the areas I missed (since I typically apply in the mirror), it’s the differences in opacity and coverage between the two. The Epionce is visibly more opaque than the Supergoop. And those of us in the skincare world would expect this. Why?
Read that again. Chemical sunscreen does not block the sun’s rays, whereas mineral AKA physical sunscreen does. And guess what yours truly was using exclusively in 2018 and every other year before that? Yep. Chemical sunscreens.
Chemical sunscreens absorb the UVA and UVB rays but then release them as heat through the skin. Mineral sunscreens physically block the UV radiation from entering the skin at all. Both types prevent burns, but one produces what?... Heat.
American Chemistry Council | Sunscreen: Chemical Ingredients and Summertime Safety
American Chemical Society | What's in sunscreen, and how does it protect your skin from the sun's rays?
University of Texas at Austin | Physical v Chemical Sunscreens
Harvard Medical School | The science of sunscreen
> Okay, where were we? What was that tricky trigger of melasma again?
Congrats – you’ve just aced the test! So to my ladies still with me – you need to be using a mineral sunscreen if you are prone to any hormonal hyperpigmentation. You also need to be physically blocking the sun with hats, umbrellas at the beach, UV visors if you are so bold and unbothered by societal peer pressure, and UPF clothing.
If you can’t tell, I’m passionate about this topic because I spent so much time and money on preventative and treatment measures that weren’t working. I have access to all the right products, procedures, and information, and yet I still to this day struggle with melasma. The heat and hormones are always with me… but so are mineral sunscreens and hats!
This was a lot of information to digest, but we are here for you if you have any additional questions. My goal is to equip you with the knowledge this summer to keep your hyperpigmentation at bay as best as possible, so that this Fall we can get you glowing and confident in no time!
Remember, all SPFs protect you from cancer-causing UVA and UVB rays. So any sunscreen is better than none! But if you’re looking to up your skincare and tone game, give one of our mineral sunscreens a try.
Yours in skincare and sun protection,
Disclosure: Julia Miller is a Registered Nurse; however, this blog is not intended to substitute for legitimate medical guidance that should occur with your primary care provider or dermatologist when determining which products to use in conjunction with chronic medical conditions, or in conjunction with any long-term treatments. This blog is intended to be for information only.