sunscreen: some myth-busting, inc. limits to the practicality and safety of DIY

The Beauty Brains (2014-08-20):
Some nice mythbusting: yes, you should wear sunscreen and no, it doesn’t make you vitamin D deficient.
(In “sunscreen” one should include all things protecting / screening you from the sun, including clothes, shade, and other avoidance.)

Personal Care Truth: Information based on scientific facts (2014-08-06):
Why you shouldn’t try to make sunscreen yourself (“sunscreen” here = lotion / cream / etc. applied to skin) but should use something that’s been properly formulated (adding: by a properly trained, qualified, and experienced professional cosmetic chemist) and tested.

And from earlier in the summer:

And from even earlier on:

There's no such thing as too much protection, nor too much multi-tasking: here, some chocolate that won't melt in the sun (found online, would love to find IRL)

There’s no such thing as too much protection: here, some chocolate that won’t melt in the sun

palm oil: careful not to throw the baby out with the bath-water

baby bathwater

From Thomas Murner’s satirical work Narrenbeschwörung (Appeal to Fools), c. 1512

Via a certain online discussion forum; identities have as ever been anonymised, and any other editing has been of typos, spelling, etc. so that they don’t detract from the actual content. Some good questions:


1. How hard is it to avoid palm oil?
2. And by any chance is it in mascara?
3. What is a good alternative?

I’ve read that other substitutes are not much better (ex. soy oil) because they also take a lot of land to grow. Help! I do my best to not consume items that have ill effects on the rainforests.

4. Or is it all just hopeless?


baby panda bathing

it’s never hopeless…

Continue reading

another update: serum

I didn’t use serum while I was away, as I forgot to pack it. I often leave it behind anyway, as I prefer to pack light / minimalist and usually in one carry-on bag (except that if I’m going for more than a week in summer or a couple of weeks in winter, I’ll need to pack a checked bag for the sunscreen supplies).

On my return, I used up the last of my older supplies of Silk Naturals Awesome Sauce vitamin C serum. Good stuff. Will be getting that again.

I had also ordered some more of the ASDM Beverly Hills vitamin C serum online while I was away. Yep, epic vacation fail: didn’t entirely manage to escape the interweb and buying stuff. Bad me. My purchases were awaiting me when I returned home. Which is always nice. As previously, the multiple layers of packaging were insane, but the contents had to be fair been well protected from the elements and all possible perils, and probably also every imaginable threat and a few that would be barely conceivable to the imaginative or maybe even unimaginable. All that was missing was an explosive-proof metal box.

The tail end of one bottle of serum overlapped with the start of another. This enabled some side-by-side testing. Approximate, but still. The two serums are quite different in composition: both contain the magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) form of vitamin C, but ASDM BH has more of it; both contain extra antioxidants, but different ones; both also contain humectants (ASDM BH has a fair whack of hyaluronic acid, SN has a small quantity of glycerin); both are unscented; both contain some ingredients that might or might not break some people out in spots or irritate. I’ve talked about them previously in other reviews on here, in the main “vitamin c” post series and under “antioxidant serum.”

ASDM BH VITAMIN C SERUM INGREDIENTS: Distilled water, Hyaluronic Acid (15%), Vitamin C [MAP] 15%, Grape seed Extract, Green Tea Extract, [Bees Wax, HE-Cellulose, Polyglyceryl Oleate], Pure Rice bran Oil, Pure Argan Oil, Vitamin E, Matrixyl 3000, Silk Amino Acids, Honey Extract, EDTA Tetrasodium, Silk Powder, Germall, Potassium, Allantoin, Aloe-vera Leaf Extract

Current price: $30.00 / 2 oz (=$15.00/oz)
+ shipping (USA to Canada): $9.55 for two bottles (I always get two, I use this stuff on body too)
Information source:–Vitamin-C-15-ASDM-Beverly-Hills_p_50.html

SN AWESOME SAUCE VITAMIN C SERUM INGREDIENTS: Distilled Water, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Capric Capryllic Triglycerides and Teprenone, Thermus Thermophilus Ferment (and) Glycerin, Lactobacillus/Wasabia Japonica Root Ferment Extract, Propanediol, Phospholipids, Ubiquinone, Gluconoactone and Sodium Benzoate, Dehydroxanthan Gum, Panthenol, Sea Bukthorn Berry Oil (note: my actual bottles have never had sea buckthorn berry oil in the ingredient-list on the label)

Current price: $18.95 / 1 oz
+ shipping (USA to Canada): $9.41 for one bottle plus a load of other stuff (I usually order a bunch of stuff but not too much, and seem to have got quantities and weights right after years of practice so my shipping is never over $10…)
Information source:

Tested split-face and on hands and arms, one serum on each side.


1. Quantity required: about the same to cover the same surface area.

2. Application: both are gels; ASDM BH is now clear, old version was creamy-coloured. The SN is more forgiving if applied to damped skin. With the ASDM BH, skin was sucked dry in instants.

Applied to dryish skin: felt much the same. I then patted on some water; just a couple of drops from the good old tap.

3. Once the hurdle of (2) above had been surmounted, skin feel within the next minute: the same.

4. After ten minutes: slightly moister and plumped-up-er on the ASDM BH side. A more silken skin-feel.

5. After an hour: ditto.

6. I didn’t keep pinching myself all day, because unfortunately I lost focus and got distracted from the important business of skincare testing. By work. Sorry. I know, I know, what can be more important and interesting than blogs and skincare and diarying and self-examination and obsessive self-reporting and all those things that are The Selfie writ large into one’s whole life, lifestyle, and extended beyond oneself into culture and human existence itself, verily and forsooth? It’s way beyond zeitgeist, man.

7. But I did some pinching and punching of myself in the evening. Punishing myself for my failings of earlier. Making up for the pinching I’d missed out on earlier. And the final results?

SN vs ASDM BH: ASDM BH wins on moisture retention.

8. I also experimented, using the vasty swathes of my largest available skin-expanse (thighs), to draw some further comparisons. In all cases, with a layer of oil on top and then sunscreen, to replicate normal daily skin conditions

(a) either of the two serums vs. nothing:
serum wins

(b) either serum vs. layer of dampness (=water from bathroom tap; our water is quite soft–low mineral content–and slightly acidic) on skin:
serum wins

(c) vs. witch-hazel hydrosol (=water-based, steam-distilled, no alcohol):
serum wins

(d) nothing vs. either dampness or WH:
the latter two win

(e) dampness vs. witchery:
plain water wins

9. I’ve previously used other hyaluronic acid serums (not as good as the ASDM BH) and plain glycerin (irritation and spottiness, except in low concentration, when hydrating results are little different from plain WH or water alone). I have also used rosewater and RW-and-glycerin toners, ages ago, that were good. Not for ages though as I can’t stand the smell anywhere within, well, smelling distance or my nose. Which means not using them on my face.

I’ve used various other serums over the last few years. Mostly just testing them out in small quantities, in limited tests (limited by the quantity provided and, all too often, self-limited by reaction). I’ve found some others that were good on the moisture-retaining side: for example, the oat serums from Garden of Wisdom and Silk Naturals. I found both of these to be better than glycerin solutions or more hyaluronicky concoctions.

I’ve also tested out a lot of vitamin C serums. The ASDM BH one and SN Awesome Sauce are the two moistest I’ve used.

10. So here’s a ranking of these various humectant layers, from weakest to strongest:

—witch-hazel hydrosol
—Silk Naturals Awesome Sauce vitamin C serum
—ASDM Beverly Hills vitamin C serum

11. ASDM BH is cheaper, including when you factor in the postage cost to Canada; the same should be true for other countries outside both companies’ homes in the USA. Though it should be noted that shipping worked out much the same for me, as neither order was just one bottle of serum.

12. But: in a drier climate, it may be better to avoid humectants like hyaluronic acid. Also if you don’t have the time or coordination to faff about with an extra layer of dampness to skin between the serum and moisturiser layers. In such circumstances Silk Naturals Awesome Sauce is recommended instead.

The usual caveats apply, as ever. This is my skin. It is dry and dehydrated, thin, reactive; it can be finicky, foolish, frivolous; whimsical. What works on it and how it responds to or reacts (or over-reacts) to anything will not necessarily be the same as what does or doesn’t on your or anyone else’s skin. Whim and whimsy must be taken into consideration, yet cannot be predicted.

Expect the unexpected. Have no expectations. The only exceptions to these rules are those trivial yet cardinal (and I don’t mean serums or any other skincare) trusty reliables in life: a good cup of tea or coffee, a decent glass of something cool, chillaxing sitting on a beach, enjoying sunshine or looking forward to the next glimpse thereof… that sort of thing.

summer updates

magic oil

I was away. This involved not carrying too much stuff. Unfortunately, until the FAA and suchlike get rid of that absurd 3-1-1 max 3 oz / 100 ml rule, I am obliged to check in one bag when flying, so as to have adequate sunscreen supplies. Until the kind of sunscreen I can use on my skin is available more widely, I am stuck with carrying around my own supplies. (Next time you see someone with a more visible disability than my relatively trivial one, spare them a thought.) Given that I live half-way around the world from the various places I was going, and given that I didn’t have the time to go by slow boat or foot: I was obliged to fly. Yes, I made my carbon-offsetting donations (and percentage-of-ticket-price donation to trees), like a good person.

Here are the lucky beautification products that accompanied me on my jet-setting adventures.

Continue reading

update on sunscreens

A quickie: this post on the 2014 sunscreen crop has been updated.

Main update: I’m still happy, more than six weeks in, with both Babo Botanicals and the Derma E body sunscreens. Both are zinc oxide-only and SPF 30. I’m also using the Babo Botanicals Sunstick (ditto on main active and SPF) on lips and around the eyes.

Next: we will see how they all perform while away in Europe in July.


  • Derma E = fantastic, and easy to use in hotter weather. This became the default sunscreen while away.
  • Babo Botanicals = less fantastic, less spreadable, and becomes less usable with heat. Seems thicker then. Hard to get an even spread on skin, anyway. Gave up on it :(
  • I also brought emergency backup supplies of Vanicream SPF 50, just in case, and used it on more exposed parts (shoulders, feet) especially if doing more active and/or watery stuff.


  • ditched the Derma E, went back to the Vanicream. Reasons:
    1. the Derma E got a bit streaky and sort of crumbly on skin. Tricky to reapply evenly.
    2. on one occasion, I went out wearing only it and forgot my hat. I know, stupid. It was a cloudy day. Then the weather changed. Anyway: forehead and nose started to exhibit some pinkness after about an hour.
    3. after return to the Vanicream, I repeated the experience, deliberately this time. Skin was fine. Conclusion: Vanicream is a better and more protective sunscreen. (Also, no streaking etc.)

I’m also using other things for sun protection: I never depend exclusively on a sunscreen for protection; indeed I would consider sunscreen as a secondary supplementary measure with the primary one being everything else: clothes, sunglasses, a hat, seeking shade, avoiding peak hours, and taking and applying antioxidants. Anyway, I added a few word about them too.

Happy sunning: it’s good for you, and mental health and emotional wellbeing.

WARNING: Apply in moderation and using common sense. Symptoms of sunstroke may include perceptual distortion including hallucinations. May be difficult to distinguish from the side-effects of too many cocktails.

cleansing bars, soaps, & other scum of the earth


Here we go again.

I’ve had a fair few self-cleaning issues over the years. Here’s what a cleanser should do:

  • ONE: clean. You might think this is obvious. Many makers of skincare products seems not to.
  • not contain common irritants, such as most scented ingredients
  • or any of the others on my own lovely personal list
  • TWO: leave my skin in at least a good condition as it was before
  • not over moistened and clogged up
  • or dried out
  • or irritated or otherwise buggered up
  • THREE: not wreck my skin barrier, which is already not of the best, given thin and more acidic (ginger) skin etc. etc.
  • so: with a lower pH (usually around 5.5-6, in the broad range of 4-7)

Continue reading

something amusing for the weekend

Or, more likely, to start the week.

From the good people of I Fucking Love Science:


And some more, via keyword=logic:



Happy reading: stay sane (pro-knowledge a.k.a. pro-science, anti-anti-science and anti-pseudo-science), stay safe, stay sensible. May the forces of reason be with you, as we approach the maximally-illuminating moment or the year that is the summer solstice next week. Keep up the good fight against Lady Folly, vanguard avatar that she is of apocalypse.