Style

A Secret to Sunscreen

Lexi Mainland

Last summer, when I went to my dermatologist, he did something shocking.

He took an ultraviolet picture of my face that showed dozens and dozens of sun spots hiding underneath the surface of my skin. They might eventually become visible, he warned me, if I’m not more careful about staying in the shade.

It’s not just the spots I’m worried about. My dad had skin cancer, which he luckily overcame. I’ve promised myself to try harder to use sunscreen.

My main problem — or excuse — with sunscreen has always been the fact that you need to reapply it at least every couple of hours. Maybe this is feasible on the beach, but who can bear to slather a new coat of white lotion all over their face multiple times a day, at work and otherwise? Especially when you’re wearing makeup, it’s just a mess.

Then, I discovered… powder sunscreen. To me, it’s miraculous. My favorite is the Colorscience Sunforgettable Mineral Powder Brush. It has everything you need in a sunscreen — high SPF (50!), water-resistant, no scary chemicals, broad spectrum, tons of ingredients that make your skin look better — and yet it takes two seconds to apply and blends in invisibly. You just pick a powder shade that matches your skin tone and then you can put it on right over your makeup all day long and look great.

Another brand, Peter Thomas Roth, makes a colorless version, with options for different skin types — oily, etc. — that I’ve also tried and liked.

My dermatologist gave powder sunscreen a thumbs up, not only because it works, but because I’m able (so far) to stick with it.

What do you think? Would you try powder SPF?

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 4.48.36 PM

P.S. Another summer essential.

(Photo of Lexi on vacation in Miami.)

  1. I lovelovelove shiseido’s sun protection compact foundation (in the blue compact). The colour actually turns out much lighter than it looks, but it’s pure velvet and lasts a good few hours ;)

    • despi says...

      Seconded by another Despina :) It’s the best…

  2. Ella says...

    It is so easy to apply, you just need to sweep the brush over entire face and neck.. I love the idea of this product.. Another sunscreen which I recently bought is Dermaxsol from Solvaderm brand. It provides an excellent makeup base that is non greasy..

  3. Janice says...

    What a great photo, Lexi! I started using the Peter Thomas Roth sunscreen a month or so ago. I love it.

  4. Jessi says...

    I really wish that these products were affordable! Sunscreen these days are like liquid gold and costs as much.

  5. I love powdered sunscreen for everyday! I’ve been using this one for a couple of years now and love it! https://stax.myrandf.com/Shop/Product/ENP004
    So easy to touch up over makeup. It doesn’t offer as much color as a powder foundation, but it does give just a bit of color, about what I’d get from a tinted moisturizer. It’s also a lower price point than some of the other options.

  6. kate says...

    I have been using this for years it is my favourite, I am a shockingly pale red head who lives in Australia, I actually use sunscreen and then apply this and it works a treat. I am no longer afraid of the sun :)

    • Olivia says...

      Hi Kate,
      can you buy this in Australia? I am moving back there in a few months and I don’t want to try it in case I love it and then can’t buy it again!
      Thanks,
      Olivia

  7. The idea of this sounded so great, I went to Amazon to put the colorless in my Wishlist. Realized the packaging looked familiar – I have it! Now to use it! Thanks :-)

  8. Good to know!! Definitely adding this to my summer beauty products!

  9. Jessi says...

    I love the idea of powder sunscreen for my arms and legs. I also like the misty ones. As for my face, I use Kiehl’s BB cream. I don’t wear foundation anymore as I find it too heavy, but Kiehl’s BB cream has vitamin C and is SPF 50. I love the light feel and just enough color tint. I wear it every day.

  10. I ordered the PTR one last year, only to realize it contained Retinyl Palmitate, which is a horrible ingredient when your skin is under the sun. The SPF 45 one also had a disgusting orange color that made it impossible to use on the face. Just beware of this, I’m not sure if they’ve changed the formula since.

  11. Holly says...

    Asian brands’ powder foundation/ loose powder very often come in high SPF, I’ve been using the colourless powder as sunscreen for a long time. It helps to absorb the excess oil which is good for humid Hong Kong weather.

  12. edda says...

    Sending this comment from Switzerland, there are two great products that are available here.
    1. Daylong: All their products are dermatologically tested, have a great protection AND THE BEST, the skin immiadiately absorbs the cream. No milky-left overs. They don’t seem to sell the products in the US, but they do in Europe, Mexico, Australia etc.
    http://www.daylong.com/?global=1
    2. Louis Widmer: Again a swiss company. Great products, where you pay for the quality and not then name or the advertisement. I love – and personally use – their sun protection for the face:
    http://www.louis-widmer.ch/en_CH/our-products/sun-products/sun-protection-face-30/

  13. I don’t think that I could deal with 4 hour reapplication as well and this really is a fab idea (if it’s effective) :)

  14. Lindsay says...

    The Colorscience is expensive up front but the refills for it run around $28 bucks (that is still expensive, I get it). Really what you are paying for is the brush. The brush on this is just as good as my high-end mineral brush from Sephora that was $30. The reason why I mention this is that the brush on the PTR is really really rough, so if you have sensitive skin, for sure go to Sephora and try it out.

    I’ve used both the Colorscience and the PTR and I probably won’t be able to tell the difference if you asked me to, except for the brush.

  15. I use mineral make up which naturally has sun protection in the zinc oxide…one of the 3-5 ingredients total. Since I’m wearing that any time I go out, I only have to worry about using a (mineral) sunscreen on other parts of my body, where I don’t mind using a cream.
    The translucent powder idea is great for those who are already wearing other make up though!

  16. Linds says...

    As a fair skinned redhead, I LOVE this idea. But $64 for powder sunscreen is jut outrageous! Any suggestions for those of us who have to budget?

    • Hayley says...

      I use Supergoop’s Makeup Setting Spray in SPF 50 – I think $30 something? I’m not a powder fan when it comes to makeup so I opted for a spray.

  17. Kate says...

    Any recs on what color to order? My coloring is pretty close to Caroline’s, dark hair, dark eyes, light olive skin. Maybe a product comparison is in order? Thanks, as ever!

  18. Mary says...

    Ive been using colorscience for the last 10 years. I love it, its so easy to put on and throw in my bag. Plus i use it to set my makeup when I wear some, or just use the powder.. the tinted ones can even out my skin tone enough that I dont need anything else! I love never having to worry about forgetting sunscreen.

  19. Hi Ladies-

    Sorry to be a downer here, but I remembered reading about the health risks (when inhaled) of powder sunscreen, which is why I never tried it. A quick search and I found this from the American Cancer Society…”Titanium dioxide is an excellent UV-blocker, but there has been some concern about its safety because in dry powder form, titanium dioxide is highly toxic when inhaled.” http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/expertvoices/post/2013/07/22/can-your-sunscreen-pose-a-health-risk.aspx#

    Thought this was information worth sharing!

    • Madie says...

      Thanks, this was exactly my concern when reading the post.

    • Ann Marie says...

      Me, too — thanks for sharing.

    • this is exactly what I was wondering about… oh well! we’ll keep using the sticks and creams on the little one! thanks for sharing this even though it’s a bummer.

      https://www.etsy.com/people/myscoots

  20. Ooo la la! Thank you for the great tip. Can’t wait to try this.

  21. Keira says...

    Glad to hear your dermatologist approves! I had read somewhere (ages ago) something about the FDA claiming spray and powder sunscreens were not very effective, but I need to give SOMETHING a go — it’s so disheartening to leave the house with a perfectly made-up face, only to have to slather greasey sunblock all over it an hour and a half later!

  22. Ann says...

    Mind blown. This tip is AWESOME. Thank you SO much.

  23. Mineral Fusion makes a powder sunscreen that is less than $20. It’s only SPF 30, but studies have shown that any SPF above 30 only makes a small, marginal difference, so we get fooled into paying more for SPF 50+ thinking we’re getting nearly twice the protection of 30. Not the case.
    From the New York Times:
    “Studies over the years have shown that sunscreen with an SPF, or sun protection factor, of 30 blocks about 97 percent of ultraviolet rays. A rating of 15 means 93 percent of UV rays are blocked, and anything higher than 30 remains in the 97 or 98 percent range. “

  24. Mel W says...

    Hey! I’ve loved this site for years, but I noticed something changed with your jumps in Feedly after the new blog design. I thought all your posts had gotten super short, until I finally realized it’s missing a link to “read more” like it had in the past. Just something I hope you’ll check on for the sake of people reading your great content on RSS feeds!

  25. CATHERINE says...

    Just wanted to say that on that picture, Lexi reminds me of Sharon from NYC taught me!

  26. oooh– does anyone have any experience using this on a wiggly toddler (is it “safe”)? I struggle to get sunblock on her (I’ve tried sticks of sunblock and creams) but she mostly winds up with it in her hair… and all over her clothes… always.

    https://www.etsy.com/shop/myscoots

    • This stuff is akin to the loose powder you’d apply to yourself after your foundation, so I can’t imagine ever using it on a toddler (plus it’s really for your face only). So I’d say it’s not for kids.

  27. May says...

    Yes! Thank you for the information

    I need a new sunscreen. Sadly I learn, the one I have is not a spray on like cologne. Before going out, I sprayed my arms while wearing a white knit top. Where the sunscreen is on the fabric, it turns yellow with just a bit of bleach in the water (hand wash).

    A powder sunscreen will be better to use when out and about.

  28. Thank you so much for this tip! I have a lily-white complexion and have always used the same excuse about reapplying. Ordering right now!

  29. Maureen says...

    Thank you for this post! I was literally just saying yesterday that I wish there was a better solution to sunscreen for when I am at work, and basically anytime when I’m not at the beach. My dad also has had bouts with skin cancer – and I have very similar skin…and need to constantly be covered. I will certainly be trying the powder sunscreen – hope to have some good results! Thanks again.

  30. Erin says...

    if anyone has heard or does hear about any of these powdered sunscreen passing the cruelty free level any info would be appreciated:)

    • Jaclyn says...

      ColoreScience states on their website that they do not test their products on animals. However, they are not listed as Leaping Bunny approved so their ingredients are probably tested on animals at the manufacturer of each ingredient.
      The other brand had no statements available so I’d assume they do animal testing.

  31. jody marie says...

    I was the WORST at wearing sunscreen until I discovered powders–genius! I bought one for everyone that summer and it’s changed all my girlfriends lives for the better. Thanks for sharing!!

  32. Cindy says...

    Thanks for the info! Both my parents have had skin cancer (they’re ok now) and they were never beach people. My dad got it on the drivers side of his face and my mom got it on the rim of her eye, from not wearing sunglasses. Sunscreen is so important for your every day and I highly, highly recommend good quality sunglasses. :)

  33. Jeanette says...

    I’ve used the colorscience powder for 2 years and I LOVE it!! It works well, easy to reapply-especially when travelling-and I’ve never had a burn while using it. Great product.

  34. I’d never heard of powder sunscreen before! What an amazing idea. I totally agree with you; trying to apply sunscreen over makeup, yuck. But this definitely fills a gap in the marketplace. Thanks for introducing us to this product!

  35. Juliette says...

    GENIUS!!! Buying now!

  36. Amy says...

    Joanna what color do use it in, and does it look natural? We have the same fair skin but sometimes these types of products end up looking so orange or yellow on me! But I love the idea! Thanks so much! Xo

    • Amy says...

      I mean Lexi sorry!! :)

  37. Selina says...

    That sounds amazing but the price is far too expensive for my wallet. I mix sunscreen in with my moisturiser and use it every morning but I do need a top up. I’ll be hoping this will be more mainstream so I can afford it

    • Emily Blake says...

      I agree Selina! Such a bummer that something so necessary is so out of reach financially :(

  38. THANK YOU for this info! Totally trying it.

  39. I can’t bear the thought of re-applying sunscreen lotion on my face when I’m out and about with sticky makeup. I have been meaning to try powder sunscreens but was always concerned about its efficacy. Seeing that your dermatologist approved of it, I’m definitely going to jump on this bandwagon!

    xx Jia, honeyandgazelle.wordpress.com

  40. Alissa says...

    Both of my parents have had skin cancer. I have had many biopsies and one pre-cancerous spot on my scalp that had to come off when I was 19. I was always been good at applying sunscreen on my face, but never wanted to apply it to my part (I didn’t want greasy hair!) Of course, my part always got burned. I have been using Colorscience powder on my part ever since I got the pre-cancer removed (I am now 27). It protects my part from burning and absorbs escess oil. I swear by it.

    • My biggest problem is that I constantly get burned on my part, no matter how much I flip my hair back and forth to try and make sure no spots are exposed. I only put sunscreen there when my hair’s already dirty (i.e. at the beach) but I hate doing it when walking around the city, etc. Also, I am just not a hat person. This is a great idea, thank you–I think I’m going to buy it just for my part!

  41. Never knew this product existed! I’ll have to look into it…perfect for the summer when you’re out all day shopping or whatever and not poolside.

    xx

  42. Sharon says...

    And oh, yes, it is expensive. There’s no arguing that. But it lasts FOREVER. How many sunscreen sticks do you go through in a summer at about $10/each? One Colorscience powder brush will last me the entire summer easily.

  43. Sharon says...

    I don’t usually comment on product recommendations, but I LOVE Colorscience! It does actually come in a ‘clear’ formulation. I discovered it about 4 years ago. My 9.5 year-old daughter has unbelievably sensitive skin, plus she wears glasses, which means she can get a bad burn under her eyes from the reflection of the sun if she doesn’t wear sunglasses (we try but…). I can actually put the color science right under her eyes with no stinging. It’s perfect for the part of her hair, too, when she’s wearing a ponytail (she won’t always keep her hat on). I keep one in my car for reapplications during the day and use it even on the back of my hands. I sound like an ad, but I love this stuff!

    • Nicole says...

      You really shouldn’t keep sunscreen of any kind in the car. It can greatly decrease its efficiency.

  44. This is a really cool find! I would totally try it. I put sunscreen on every morning before my drive in to work but rarely reapply for my drive home. I think it’s just the smell that I hate, so much so that I would rather just wear a long sweater to cover my arms than reapply it. But this I would definitely consider trying. Thanks for sharing!

  45. Dinh says...

    I don’t think this is a very practical solution price-wise for most people. $50+ is crazy!

  46. Alia says...

    Good idea in theory and I would love to try it except that it got a high rating (not good) on Environmental Working Group’s website for including potential harmful ingredients including carcinogens. So it’s a no go for me.

  47. I have started to see people using sun umbrellas, and I love the idea. Hats and shades are great for extended exposure. I wear sunscreen, but only when I am planning on spending plenty of time outside. Recent research is indicating that it’s pretty terrible for the environment, and I am not convinced that it is great for our health. Still, one does need it sometimes. I

  48. Prudence Yeo says...

    This is the first time I heard of a powder sunscreen and it sounds fabulous! Love the idea that it will not mess up a make-up face and contains healthy ingredients for the skin! Thanks for sharing!

    Prudence
    http://www.prudencepetitestyle.com

  49. Kim says...

    I’ve never heard of powder sunscreen, but it sounds amazing! I would definitely use it! I used to use a tanning bed every day as a teenager, and now that I’m more conscious I use sunscreen every morning and foundation with spf but I would love to have this product too!

    Kim
    http://trendkeeper.me

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i went to tanning salons in college, and now it seems so insane! i can’t believe i used to do it. now i also use SPF every day, as well as wearing hats, walking on the shady side of the street, etc…..

  50. Shawn says...

    As others have mentioned, Bare Minerals powder includes SPF. For extra coverage, I use a tinted moisturizer and always wear sunnies. I know it’s easy to avoid sunscreen, but never mind aging – it can cause cancer. Even skin cancer can be deadly. Great reminder!

  51. Jessica says...

    Thanks for writing about sun protection–I’ll definitely try this out! I’m a melanoma survivor in my late 20s and I’ve now realized that using sunscreen is more than a beauty issue!

  52. Janna says...

    Mine was just delivered today! I’m hoping it helps me build wearing sunscreen into my routine consistently.

  53. Bobby says...

    Lush makes a powdered sunscreen they call Powdered Sunshine that is pretty wonderful, too, though it is not water proof and is only about 15 or 20 SPF. I find that it is absolutely perfect for my kids for just every day play in the yard or at the park, and it goes into their hair to protect their scalp perfectly. :)

  54. This is brilliant. I am BAD about sunscreen, but I could just incorporate this into my makeup routine.

  55. Chloe says...

    Has anyone else tried thisworks’ new energy bank line? They have a tint called “sun bank”, which is basically a liquid bronzer & moisturizer combo. I looove the feel of my Badger Skin Care sunscreen, but the zinc makes it hard to apply and go. I mix both products together (literally requires minuscule amounts — I doubt I’ll be buying it more than once a year), and voila! Problem solved! Eco-friendly sunscreen & customizable tint that I can adapt as summer progresses. Now I just do that blend & eyeliner and boom! Ready for the day. : )

  56. Chloe says...

    My dermatologist recommends Colorscience as well. My issue is if I’m out in the sun all day (say, hiking, or something) that my face is kinda sweaty and it feels gross to be wiping the powder brush across my face sweat. In fact, my boyfriend used my power brush on his face to apply the sunscreen and I was skeeved out that his sweat had gotten all up in the brush. Yuck!!

  57. Kate says...

    OMG I love this! Thanks for the tip, gal!

  58. Bj says...

    Yes, I would try powder sunscreens. I would check the ingredients
    first. Also hats. In japan it is very common to use a sun umbrella when walking around in the summer. I wonder why these haven’t caught on in the US? Also, we often wear uv arm covers or uv gloves.

  59. J. says...

    I’ve always used the jane iredale powder me spf, comes with a handy mirror as well, and I love it. It’s easy to stick in your bag and it really does the job. These options look good great too.

  60. rebecca says...

    I’ve tried the Peter Thomas Roth version but found it gritty and irritating.

    I do wear SPF under makeup and also skip makeup on days I’ll be outside for longer than a half hour so I can reapply SPF often. However, I’ve found physical barriers the most effective sun protection: hats, sleeves/pants, staying the shade whenever possible.

  61. Jane says...

    YES! Love Colorescience. It was the only foundation or sunscreen that didn’t make my skin break out and I wore it every day for years and loved it. For some reason, I forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder!

  62. Mallory says...

    After seeing it pop up online, I picked up Coola’s Make-up setting spray in SPF 30 http://www.sephora.com/makeup-setting-spray-spf30-P396623. The idea is that you can spray it onto already applied makeup to refresh your SPF without messing with your face. I apply my regular sunscreen under my makeup in the morning before heading out, but when I leave for lunch or from work I just spray this on my face to get protected. Probably wouldn’t use it for a full day at the beach, but for an hour or so outside it seems to work well! Would definitely be interested in trying out the powder spf though.

    • Maggie says...

      I have been using the Supergoop version of the SPF makeup setting spray for about a week now and I love it! As someone who has had skin cancer throughout my 20’s even after being careful in the sun this is perfect for re-applying throughout the day. It obviously doesn’t replace sunscreen when you are out in the sun for extended periods of time but it is great for limited exposure to the sun during the week. The small bottle is the perfect size to carry in my purse so I always have it with me.

  63. I’m a big fan of COOLA products these days, though I don’t reapply unless I’m swimming or out for a long time.

    Bare Minerals Mineral Veil with SPF might be a good alternative for those looking to spend a little less.

  64. k says...

    The product sounds like a practical option for when needing to wear some makeup while out in the sun but I am sceptical about most sunscreen products on the market being more harm than good these days.

    Last summer I did some research and found that there is lots of information about natural home made sunscreen recipes online if you are looking to go the non chemical route, using ingredients like Shea Butter SPF 4-6, Carrot Seed Oil SPF 35-40, Red Raspberry Seed Oil SPF 25-50, etc But i guess these options are more inclined for all over body coverage and don’t solve the wearing makeup and sunscreen issue :-/

    All the best

  65. Jessica says...

    It sounds great, I’d like to try it. Just a note, to make sure that no-one mis-applies sunscreen, an SPF of 50 doesn’t really hold any benefit over an SPF of say 30 except for length of use. I’ve had a few people come into work (pharmacy) and ask if they need to apply a low SPF more thickly than a high SPF. It has more to do with length of protection than strength of protection. An SPF of 50 confers protection for a longer period of time, but not at a greater “rate” than SPF of 30.

  66. Katherine says...

    I hate reapplying sunscreen. Not because of make up (which I don’t wear), but just because it’s one more thing to do. I apply an SPF 50 in the morning on my face, chest and arms. If I am going to spend more than 30 minutes outside during the work day (I usually walk at lunch), then I’ll wear a hat (https://www.jcrew.com/womens_category/ingoodcompany/Panamahat/PRDOVR~23793/23793.jsp) and walk on the shadier side of the street. I’m not going to stress over it more than that, or spend a ton of money. At some point you just gotta live your life and accept the risks.

  67. Lora says...

    I love the one by Peter Thomas Roth. In the mornings I use Tarteguard under my makeup, so that protects during my commute to work. Then on days where I walk to lunch, it is soooo easy to pull out the powder sunscreen beforehand. I tried creams and sticks, but ugh, applying those on top of my makeup was a miserable feeling. Then, at the end of the day, I sweep on a little more before I head home. It lasts me forever and being so convenient, I actually use it.

  68. Huh I had never even heard of this before! I’m curious but also a little cautious. I’m SUPER pale and am always worried about sun exposure. I could see myself using this for touchups throughout the day but not as the main source of sunscreen.

    Her Heartland Soul
    http://herheartlandsoul.com

  69. Heather says...

    I tried this a few years back and found I didn’t use it bc I was just too sticky after a few hours at the pool or beach to put powder on my face. I guess it would work better for afternoon reapplication before leaving an air conditioned office, but do you even need to reapply if you haven’t been swimming or sweating?

  70. Nicole Brant says...

    I would be worried the powder wouldn’t give enough coverage, but then I’m a bit OCD about using sunscreen.
    Welcome, Lexi! I hope to read a “Beauty Uniform” post from you soon. I love those :-)

  71. Liz says...

    I’m thinking about getting this to use on my scalp. I’m always getting my part burned and this would be easy to carry with me all the time in case I end up on a patio for happy hour! Also wouldn’t make my hair greasy. Any other tips for sunscreen on my part?

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Interesting! Worth a try. I’ve heard good things about a Sachajuan hair SPF but haven’t used it.

    • Sarah D. says...

      Yes! I use powdered sunscreen on the part in my hair all the time. It works great. It used to get burned frequently.

  72. Genius. P.S. I love the bathing suit!

  73. marifer flores says...

    It’s kind of expensive, but I’ve been using it since my dermatologist recommended it to me, and it’s pretty good, worth the price! I prefer the translucent one rather than a colored one (I’m a redhead and my skin tone it’s difficult), and if you suffer of oily skin, this is just perfect ;)

  74. Charlotte says...

    Unfortunately neither product scores very well on “the good guide” (which ranks the product’s impact on health, environment and society). So in theory, yes a powder sunscreen sounds great, but I wouldn’t try either of these products.

  75. Kelsey says...

    This is such a nice idea! I just wish it wasn’t so pricey. I like the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer – it’s a lotion, but it really does dry sheer, fast, and works well under makeup.

  76. Mindy says...

    Ever since I moved from UK to California I’ve been worried about the sun exposure my face is getting on a daily basis that it’s not used to. I’ve been using a moisteriser and foundation with SPF in but this would be great for a top up! or during sunny lunch breaks and cycling home. Thank you!

  77. Lauren says...

    Oof, I don’t know. The thing about sunscreen is that you need to apply a LOT of it for it to work well. Most makeup (and this really looks like makeup, even though they’re marketing it as sunscreen) doesn’t offer enough sun protection even if it has SPF because you just wouldn’ta apply as much as is needed to get the full level of protection. And does the powder really stay on your face?

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Lauren, I hear you. When I’m going to be outside for a long time, I still wear regular sunscreen underneath or in my makeup. But normally I never reapply it during the day, which is bad. My dermatologist told me the best sunscreen is any sunscreen you actually use every day and reapply. This makes touch-ups possible for me and does provide both a physical and chemical barrier to the sun. If you try it, let us know what you think!

  78. Amy Lauree says...

    I was excited about the idea, and then freaked out at the price. $50-60 is a lot for sunscreen in any form.

  79. Trish O says...

    Did not know this was a thing. Crazy good idea.