The Evolution of Sunscreen

Written by Bella Schneider, P.M.E

Coco Chanel popularized tanning by visiting the south of France, only to return with a darker complexion. Before that, milky skin was the fashion. As aestheticians, our focus must be on the aging effects that the sun has on our clients’ skin. Today, we are using more aggressive products to exfoliate clients’ skin while working actively to help our clients with their anti-aging regimens. These regimens require extra sun protection measures. Our results-oriented focus provides great results, assuming we properly train our clients to protect their vulnerable skin from the sun.

Clients and Color
I often inquire about my clients’ sun habits and ask them how they manage their sun exposure. If they desire a tan, I advise against it. I also warn clients that ultraviolet (UV) tanning lamps in beds and booths are just as dangerous; according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), tanning lamps are as dangerous, if not more, than the natural sun because of the frequency with which people expose themselves.
I encourage clients who want that golden look to go for tinted moisturizers, products with sun protection factors (SPF) and BB creams, or sunless tanners for the face and body. Many spas and salons now offer spray tans that last up to two weeks with proper care.

What Sunscreen?
There are two types of sun protection: those that reflect sunlight and those that absorb sunlight. Sunscreen is a reflector, whereas sunblock absorbs UV light. Sunblock is the preferred form of protection, as it provides a physical block for the skin. It comes in several forms: lotion, gel, emulsion and spray.

Effective Ingredients
Look at the product’s ingredients to verify that a sunscreen protects against ultraviolet A and B rays. There are two general categories of FDA-approved ingredients: organic/chemical and inorganic/physical. Most UV filters are organic, creating a protective layer on the skin that absorbs UV radiation before it penetrates skin. To protect against UVA, look for one of the following ingredients: ecamsule, avobenzone, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, sulisobenzone, or zinc oxide.
Products that include titanium and zinc oxide are the most effective physical blocks. Search for a percentage of at least 10 percent of the two minerals combined. This combination of ingredients is used in the most renowned medical spas. Be sure to test sunscreens on your skin before purchasing them. Try to find one that does not make you look too pale or white.
Americans have fewer UVA protection options than Europeans, because of the FDA’s delay in approving certain ingredients. European sunscreens typically include an UVA protection component that is at least one third as potent as the sun protection factor UVB protection. American sunscreens are only now catching up to this trend. Chemicals used in European sunscreens, not yet approved for the American market, include tinosorb S, tinosorb M, and mexoryl SX.
Certain ingredients in sunscreen are currently being evaluated for their safety as they can sometimes enter the bloodstream with repeated use. Be particularly wary of cosmetics that contain parabens or benzophenone. They are irritating and, compared with other sunscreen agents, can easily be absorbed into the skin.
Recently, there has been a trend toward more natural ingredients in sunscreen. Natural oils like coconut, almond, shea butter, and essential oils are being combined with zinc oxide, and pure organic aloe vera is used to soothe skin and fight the aging process post-exposure.

"Sunscreen needs to be applied correctly. Not using enough, not reapplying frequently, and using the wrong kind are common consumer mistakes."

Sun Protection Factor
The first factor to look at when choosing a sunscreen is the product’s SPF number. Sun protection factor measures how much UV radiation is necessary to produce sunburn on skin protected with sunscreen versus unprotected skin. The higher the protection, the higher the SPF. Sun protection factor only protects your skin from UVB rays. Broad or multi-
spectrum sunscreens are the way to go, because they protect from both UVA and UVB rays. New regulations by the FDA will require that sunscreens labeled Broad Spectrum SPF (Value) will have demonstrated that they provide UVA protection that is proportional to their UVB protection. To pass the test, the sunscreens with higher SPFs will need to provide higher levels of UVA protection as well. I recommend choosing SPF 30. Higher than SPF 30 gives you very little additional sunscreen, yet contains more chemicals that can be absorbed into the bloodstream. People with fair skin, a family history of skin cancer, or medical conditions that make them more sensitive to the sun may want to consider a higher SPF; however, keep in mind that a higher SPF does not indicate a dramatically increased benefit. For instance, SPF 30 is not twice as strong as SPF 15. There is only a slight increase in protection the higher you go. When promoting a sunblock to your clients, make sure that it is FDA approved. Ask your vendor to supply you with a copy of FDA certification.
Those who have delicate skin, problem skin, or rosacea should avoid sunscreens with alcohol, fragrances or preservatives. Also, avoid chemicals like para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), dioxybenzone, oxybenzone, or sulisobenzone. Instead, choose sunscreens with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
Popular dermatological brands that are considered the pinnacle of sun-protective products usually contain a combination of zinc oxide, titanium, octisalate, octinoxate and oxybenzone. The most popular SPF today for women are tinted SPF 30s or BB creams because they provide anti-aging, coverage, tint and protection in a single cream. Be sure to offer an ultralight, moisturizing, antioxidizing sunblock to your clients.

Additional Guidelines for Sun Exposure
Sunscreen alone is not enough to maintain an effective sun protection program. Advise clients of the following sun management guidelines as part of any anti-aging skin
care program:

  • Sit in the shade whenever possible.
  • Limit exposure during the hottest time of the day.
  • Wear clothing that covers skin.
  • Use broad spectrum SPF 30 sunblock that protects from both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to going in sun.
  • Use sunscreen daily, even if you will be primarily indoors. Reapply sunscreen every two hours when outdoors.
  • Avoid tanning beds.

Healthy Lifestyle
Minimizing the harsh effects of prolonged sun exposure is not solely the result of using a proper sunscreen. Many elements affect the skin’s health, including hormone balance, diet, lifestyle and stress levels. A high-quality sunscreen must be used in conjunction with a balanced lifestyle to truly have the desired effect of a youthful and healthy skin.


Bella-Schneider 2014BSB founder and clinical skin care pioneer, Bella Schneider, P.M.E. leads a team of more than 200 aesthetic professionals at three premier spas. For over 35 years, Schneider has traveled the world to bring service providers the best in aesthetic science. As a groundbreaking formulator, retailer and educator, her mission is to help professionals enhance their practice and grow their business. Winner of the Nouvelles Esthetiques lifetime achievement Crystal Award for contributions to beauty science, Schneider hosts beginning to advance training in clinical and spa skin care as well as ethnic skin care, peels and other new techniques at BSB’s Palo Alto, California-based training center.

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