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.

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

Brief history: In 1985, the FDA originally classified benzoyl peroxide as Category I, or GRASE (Generally Recognized As Safe and Effective). Then in 1991, they reclassified benzoyl peroxide as Category III, which means “more data needed,” based on safety concerns that arose at that time. However, as of last month, the FDA decided to return benzoyl peroxide to its original Category I generally recognized as safe and effective classification because, “After reviewing the data, we now conclude that benzoyl peroxide can be adequately labeled to minimize the risks associated with benzoyl peroxide while delivering effective acne treatment.”

The official Final Rule states: “We, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are issuing this final rule to include benzoyl peroxide as a generally recognized as safe and effective (GRASE) active ingredient in over-the-counter (OTC) topical acne drug products.”

Summary: In short, some questions arose around benzoyl peroxide’s safety in the early 90s with animal (mice) studies. These studies were inadequate to draw any conclusions, so the FDA decided they needed more data. In the meantime, they reclassified benzoyl peroxide as Category III so until they could see more data. Several studies on benzoyl peroxide’s tumor promotion potential, mutogenicity (can it cause genetic mutations?), carcinogenicity (does it cause cancer?), and photocarcinogenicity (does it cause cancer when exposed to the sun?) were since performed. The data was in. After reviewing the findings from these studies, the FDA decided that benzoyl peroxide should again be considered GRASE (Generally Recognized As Safe and Effective).

Sunburn: Interestingly, they also found that benzoyl peroxide can decrease the skin’s tolerance to UV radiation (i.e., increase sunburn) after repeated applications, and so they are now also requiring an added warning on benzoyl peroxide labels which states, “If going outside, apply sunscreen after using this product.” Manufacturers have a year to add this warning. I will add this to our labels at our next printing.

The Federal Register reclassification of benzoyl peroxide, where the above information is taken, is actually an interesting read. I am particularly struck by both how thorough the FDA research process seems to be, and how concerned the FDA is to the health and financial concerns of both big and small business. Feel free to check it out and add your comments.

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.

Spot treatment: We’re on sample 5 at this point. I’m liking how it’s working, but we’re having a tough time getting it to not ball up once applied. Hopefully I’ll have sample 6 sometime soon. Pluggin’ away…


New, improved non-SPF moisturizer: I’m in love. And so were the first 30 people who trialed it, well, except for perhaps one of them. But that’s a pretty good success rate. So, I am currently doing a second round of testing to really be certain this is going to be our new moisturizer. So far, zero people have said it stings at all, and no one has said it turns them red either, so both problems with the current moisturizer seem to be fixed. I also love the way it feels. So it’s looking good.


SPF: Now that the new moisturizer is underway, I’m going to start adding in SPF and seeing what I can come up with. There’s no way this will be ready for the summer, so Oil of Olay Complete for Sensitive Skin (once they change back to their original formula in April May) looks like our summer friend again this year. I also wear hats, which is my preference. Hats are a physical sunblock with no extra ingredients going on the skin.


A member of 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.