Sampling on the new SPF15 is going well and people are liking it a lot. I am still in love with it myself. In the meantime, I’ve been doing more research on Avobenzone and Octocrylene, the SPF ingredients. It’s a mixed bag.

Avobenzone: I am pretty comfortable with Avobenzone. It’s been around since 1981 and I haven’t seen many negative reports on it. It’s a great broad spectrum protectant, and the only chemical sunscreen that really does the job when it comes to UVA rays (the ones that cause cancer). Plus, in the formula that I’ve mocked up, it really doesn’t seem to break anyone out at all. Quite the contrary, people really like how their skin is looking, myself included. So, Avobenzone is a thumbs up. But here’s the kicker–it’s unstable. Once exposed to the sun, it can break down almost completely within 30 minutes. That gives very little protection, especially to people who are out in the sun for a while. That’s where Octocrylene comes in.

Octocrylene: Octocrylene is a relatively weak sunscreen, and works mainly to block only UVB spectrum sunlight (the rays that burn the skin). But, it’s extremely stable, and when combined with Avobenzone, it helps Avobenzone remain stable, thus providing hours of support. The other day, I wore the sunscreen at a pool for hours and I achieved only a light pink hue. However, Octocrylene, much like other popular UVB blockers like Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, tend to produce free radicals when exposed to the sun. This is what has been fueling the long running debate over which is better, sun exposure or sunscreen exposure. I’m using Octocrylene at the lowest percentage I can, but it’s still in there at 7%.

Bottom line: There are only three options when it comes to broad spectrum support: Avobenzone, Zinc Oxide, and Titanium Dioxide. None are an ideal option. Avobenzone must be stabilized and may come with some free radicals. Zinc and Titanium are severe flake promoters and simply do not work well with benzoyl peroxide. Plus, to achieve “vanishing” formulas which do not go on completely opaque like Zinc and Titanium will normally, manufacturers micronize the Zinc and Titanium, which causes an entirely new controversy over whether these micro-particles are safe when absorbed into the body.

So what do we do?: The best bet is to limit sun exposure in the first place, thus eliminating burns and reducing skin damage. I say “limit” because I have a hunch that the sun is very important to our overall health and well being and some exposure may be beneficial. I personally try to get some sun on my body any day that I can, perhaps 15 minutes on each side (keep in mind I am pretty fair and the darker your skin the more you may need). You may also choose to wear a hat instead of sunscreen on the face. In the event that you feel that you do want sunscreen protection, if you are going with Avobenzone-based product, try to find one with antioxidants in the formula. Our formula will have a healthy dose of vitamin E to help combat the free radicals. Also, in the future, look for encapsulated Avobenzone to hit the market. This will be a new product but one that may be interesting for its ability to stay stable on its own.

Here are some answers to some recent questions. I am not able to get to all open questions on the blog, but here’s a start:

Would you please be so kind as to list the five (Avobenzone) products you’ve tried in the past? Thank you.

I don’t remember most of them. Sorry. The only one I remember is Neutrogena Ultra Sheer.

What about the bare minerals new SPF powders. May be kind of girly but have you tried it?

I have tried it, in the name of science! I even went out on the town one day with it on, hoping no one would notice. The first thing my friend said when I saw him was, “Are you wearing makeup?” LOL. Anyway, I hated it. It felt cakey and my skin got dry and flaky. Do people really like that stuff? I can’t imagine. As a side note, makeup is an area that I want to study more. I know it is important. If anyone wants to help with research in this area, please contact me.

…isn’t mineral oil one of those things to avoid?

No. Mineral oil is non-comedogenic. In the old days they had multiple grades of mineral oil on the market and the lower grades were comedogenic, but these days only the highest grade is used in products, and it is non-comedogenic.

Is SPF 15 really enough for good protection than SPF30 during summer heat?

As you go up in SPF you get diminishing returns. SPF15 is over 90% as effective as SPF30. And anything over SPF30 is likely to not give any better protection than SPF30. I personally feel more than comfortable with SPF15. The higher SPF formulas I have tried seem too greasy and heavy.

I think too much BP (for me) causes too much irritation. Is this possible?

Yes, this is absolutely possible in two circumstances. (1) At the onset of a benzoyl peroxide regimen, and (2) if you are not using adequate moisturizer. At the start of the Regimen, you want to use a small amount of BP to reduce overly irritating side effects. And once you are on the Regimen it is vital to moisturize twice a day, every day, to maintain a balance in your skin. Benzoyl peroxide, when used correctly, is incredible for clearing acne, but it must be used within a regimen that includes adequate moisture to reduce overdrying the skin.

How close are you to releasing the new moisturizer?

We are hoping for 3 months from now or so.

Are you going to use (in the spot treatment) a betta-isomer of Salicylic Acid?

Yes, we use beta hydroxy acid, the active form of salicylic acid.

(Will the spot treatment have) BP in it??

No. Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid cannot be in the same formula. Plus, benzoyl peroxide doesn’t do well in strongly acidic formulations. I am keeping the spot treatment at the legal limit for acidity, 3.5pH, so we can get as much activity from the glycolic acid as we can.

Is it okay to use (the spot treatment) on the whole face instead of the AHA treatment?

I wouldn’t recommend it. First of all, I am leaning toward bottling it in very small tubes. Secondly, it is extremely strong. The spot treatment is made to be used in a tiny pin size amount.

How do I know if I’m being gentle enough (on the Regimen)?

Check out the videos and when in doubt, be more gentle. Also, remember that staying gentle not only applies to during application of the Regimen, but also throughout your day. Try to keep your skin relatively untouched.

Since I’ve been using the 10% AHA every morning, my skin is much more sensitive to the sun, necessitating a good SPF during the day. I was using a zinc oxide based SPF for the first few weeks with great results. My skin was 100% clear. Then, against my better judgement, I decided to try an avobenzone based sunscreen. Avobenzone based sunscreens have always caused breakouts for me in the past, but I like how they go on less white than zinc oxide based sunscreens. Thanks to the AHA I managed to use the avobenzone for a few days with no problems, but finally did end up with a few small comedones. Me no like. I immediately went off avobenzone and back on a zinc oxide SPF and the breakout is fading. This is probably the fourth time an avobenzone based sunscreen has caused me problems. I guess I’m ready to declare that avobenzone is comedogenic at least on my skin.