I am feeling tentatively excited that we might be finally getting closer to something ideal as far as an Acne.org SPF goes.

I worked with one of our formulators to take our new, improved non-SPF moisturizer (which should be out in a few months) and add in some Avobenzone and Octocrylene. I’ve been using this sample generously on half of my face each morning for over a week now and it’s not breaking me out. In fact, the half of my face where I’m using it looks better than the other side of my face where I’m using another sample SPF I’m testing.

This is surprising because all five of the Avobenzone based SPF moisturizers I’ve tried from drugstores over the years seemed to break me out. Because of this personal experience, I had no confidence in Avobenzone moisturizers. Also, because Zinc is a welcome ingredient to acne prone skin, I’ve been formulating only with Zinc or Titanium Dioxide (a similar physical blocker) up to this point. But as you know if you’ve been following this saga, I found that Zinc and Titanium Dioxide are such severe flake promoters that there’s really no way to make an SPF with those ingredients that works with a benzoyl peroxide regimen.

At my wits end, I decided to take another look at Avobenzone. Aside from Zinc and Titanium Dioxide, Avobenzone is the only other reliable broad spectrum active ingredient available in the United States, where I manufacture products. I will only make an SPF which is protecting people from both UVB and UVA rays. It was time to take a second look at Avobenzone.

So, why is this sample not breaking me out? It’s hard to say. Since there are so many variables involved in acne, possible reasons abound. Were other ingredients in the other Avobenzone based moisturizers to blame? Was it other variables in my own life at the time when I tried each of them? Or have I simply not used this Avobenzone/Octocrylene SPF I am currently using long enough to experience a breakout?

I’ve got my fingers crossed that we’re on the right track here. I’ll keep you posted on how it progresses.

I’ve learned to refrain from announcing when new products will be available. There are always a hundred and one things that can delay a launch. Perhaps Olay would be wise to do the same :) As many of you know, Olay let us know they would have the Complete Classic Gentle Formula with zinc oxide back on store shelves in April. When that didn’t happen, they told me May. Well, I had a few people check their local drugstores and so far no one has found it. One of our members contacted Olay again and got this response:

“Olay will re-launch the original version of Olay Complete All Day Sensitive SPF 15 Sensitive Cream and Lotion. Unfortunately, this formula change was pushed back and will begin to ship late May/June 2010. This will be a soft conversion which means the Skin Shield Version and Classic Gentle Formula may both be on store shelves for a period of time. The Classic Gentle Formula will have a green oval in the upper left corner that will say ‘Classic Gentle Formula’.”

At this point, I guess we’re just waiting. Honestly, I feel for Olay and I understand the stress they must be under trying to meet their deadlines in such a complex industry with complicated manufacturing and distribution channels. If any of you do see it on shelves, let me know and I’ll let everyone know. Until then, look for a zinc oxide based sunscreen, and be sure to add a few drops of jojoba oil in there to reduce flakiness. I am also working on several SPF formulas myself, and will keep you posted on that.

We originally heard that Olay was switching back to zinc oxide (from avobenzone) for their Olay Complete for Sensitive Skin product with SPF15 as of April, 2010. However, I’ve been looking on shelves and haven’t seen it yet, so I just gave them a call to see where the heck it is. I spoke to a very nice woman named Brandy over at Olay and she read from the official statement she had there in front of her. It said that they are actually going to be switching back to the original formula as of May, 2010. I asked if that meant the product would be available on store shelves in May and she said “yes”. So, hopefully we’ll be able to get our hands on some of the original zinc oxide based stuff in May. It will have a slight name change she said. It will now be called:

Olay Complete Classic Gentle Formula

Kinda reminds me of Classic Coke :) Don’t change a good thing.

Bear in mind that while I think the Olay Complete Classic Gentle Formula should be good enough when combined with a few drops of jojoba oil, it is not ideal. So, I am still at it…working away at a good SPF for us. I’m testing lots of combinations of safe and effective ingredients to see if we can get one that doesn’t clog pores while at the same time eliminating flakiness and providing broad spectrum protection–an extremely tall order, and perhaps impossible, but I won’t stop trying.

A member of Acne.org wrote us to let us know that she wrote to Olay complaining that they took away our beloved Olay Complete for Sensitive Skin with zinc oxide. She received the following response from Olay:

“I’m sorry to hear that you were not happy with the formula change made to the Complete SPF 15 products. Our goal is to produce high quality products that consistently delight our consumers and I’m sorry this wasn’t your experience. Please be assured I’m sharing your comments with the rest of our team.

It may be helpful to know there was a formula change in May 2009 for all Complete SPF 15 products with the exception of Complete Defense SPF 30 and Complete Plus. The changes include improved UVA protection with Skin Shield which is a combination of moisture, vitamins, and enhanced UV protection. Skin Shield is an Avobenzone and Octocrylene based sunscreen system with significant levels of both glycerin for moisture and active levels of niacinimide, a B3 complex.

However, although our newest formula with Skin Shield technology is safe and has strong UV protection, we realize the original sensitive version with its gentle formula better meets the needs of our Complete Sensitive users. Therefore, Olay will re-launch the original version of Olay Complete All Day Sensitive SPF 15 Sensitive Cream and Lotion! This will be widely available in April May 2010 and will say Classic Gentle Formula.”

New and improved moistuizer: I’ve been in and out of the lab a few times and we’re making some fantastic progress. I’ll hopefully be sending out samples to moderators and product testers soon to see if they prefer it to the current moisturizer. I prefer it quite a bit myself. The samples I’ve been developing have no tack, take care of flakiness, and feel amazing.

Spot treatment: I’m on the second round of spot treatment now and I’ve sent it out to some moderators and testers to see what they think. I’ll let you know when I get a response from them. I’m not settled on this sample, but wanted to get some feedback before taking it back for improvements.

SPF: I’m waiting to nail down the new and improved non-spf moisturizer first in the hopes of using that base for the SPF. The SPF is still a ways away.

Picture me with my hands up by my shoulders, palms upward, with a silly frown on my face. That’s where I feel like I am with the whole SPF issue. I just don’t know where to go from here. I’ve tried tons of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide SPFs at this point, probably around 70 samples from our formulators and 10 over-the-counter products. Yeah, that’s pretty ridiculous. But it took me trying that many to realize zinc and titanium probably aren’t going to work for us. It turns out they are flake promoting ingredients, and I can’t seem to formulate the flakiness away.

So, what do we do? Well, one option would be moisturizing with a regular moisturizer first, and then applying a zinc or titanium SPF on top of it. That seems kind of annoying to me though. There are already three parts to the regimen and I’d rather not make it four. Plus, my gut says it will still cause flakes. But, it’s always something I could try, so I will try that out and let you know how that works. If you’d like to try with me, I’d love to hear your feedback.

So let’s theoretically say zinc and titanium are out. That would leave us with avobenzone as the only other broad spectrum SPF option. Any other SPF ingredients are not going to give us the UVA protection we want. But, avobenzone-based sunscreens tend to break me out. So, it’s time to look into this issue more deeply. Is it the avobenzone that’s breaking me out or other ingredients in avobenzone products I’ve tried? I’m going to delve into this and see what I can come up with. If we can make avobenzone work without breaking people out, it may be our best option.

In the meantime, I wear hats. I just wear a hat every day. It’s become part of my wardrobe. I put some zinc or titanium SPF on the back of my neck, throw on a hat, and I’m out the door.

Salicylic Acid: I’m plodding along with this. Our manufacturer is back from vacation mid-month, so I hope to have something out in the month or two following.

SPF15 Moisturizer: I found a great formula, which is saying a lot. I’ve tried well over 50 samples–I’m pretty sure it’s actually over 60 but I lost count. At any rate, I am loving the latest formula and am just swapping out preservatives right now to get it nice and stable. Once it’s nailed down it takes a few months in FDA required stability tests, after which point I can fill.

I think I found an adequate solution for SPF for summer. In the meantime, I’m getting closer to a good formula myself. My suggestion:

Olay Complete for Sensitive Skin + a few drops of jojoba oil

I know this sounds off the cuff, but believe me, I’ve tried just about everything and this is the best solution I’ve come across in the past several years. Try it and I think you’ll agree. If you do try it, let me know what you think.