sunscreen review: Vanicream SPF 50

vanicream 50The best sunscreen I have ever used. The one I return to. Even when I’ve been using other sunscreens and they’ve worked, I’ve still always made sure to have a tube of this just in case. This is what I use if skin goes into irritated intolerant eczematic disasters.

It is very basic (ingredients listed below), and designed and intended for sensitive skin like the rest of the Vanicream and Free & Clear ranges (available from dermatologists and online). Uses microfine coated sheer ZnO (Z-Cote) and TiO2 (Ti-Silc), hence low percentage of actives (7% & 5% respectively) but high SPF. PPD will be somewhere in the area of 8-10 maximum, as is usual for the better sort of all-physical sunscreens like this one. No cyclopentasiloxane (good as it usually breaks me out), does contain other silicones though many of them are in the Z-Cote and Ti-Silc coatings.  Continue reading

BurnOut sunscreens: updates

green eggs and ham

See this post from a few days ago for earlier news on The Great Reformulations (which started last year, actually), especially the changes in ingredient-lists. I had ordered the Eco-Sensitive and the Ocean Tested. They arrived. I have now tried them.

My predictions and expectations before testing: that the Eco-Sensitive would be perfectly fine and probably not that different from the previous version; and that the Ocean Tested would be nicer.

First (UPDATE 2014-03-17: and second) impressions after testing:

Continue reading

sunscreen: BurnOut reformulations


With thanks to the good “J” for the Public Service Announcement!

My current sunscreen is BurnOut’s Eco-Sensitive. I’ve been using it off an on—usually “on,” straying occasionally to try out other things—since summer 2010:

This sunscreen has been tweaked at least four times in the last four years; I have used three different versions (let’s call them 1.0, 1.1, and 1.2), and the most recent “update” is in the mail (as it’s a full redesign, let’s call it 2.0). Remains to be seen if the “update” is an “upgrade.” It includes an interesting new sunscreen-boosting ingredient, but it also includes stuff that might or might not be a bunch of junk included so as to be fashionable. The Viagra Paradigm strikes again.

The rest of BurnOut’s main sunscreen range has also been reformulated: that is, the Ocean Tested (also in the mail, now on version ≥3 and formulation 2.0 since I first used it; “E” reports that this reformulation dates back to August 2013) and the Kids (tried a previous version, didn’t like, don’t care enough to test it out again too. There are limits to this human guinea-pig. Interested in the stuff? Got kids? Over to you…).

Prices remain the same, $17.99 for a tube; 3 oz for Eco-Sensitive, 3.4 oz for the others.

Quick comment, for the company: it’s definitely time for a change in design on the packaging. I mean, I’ve seen better by small children and other non-professionals. See the image above: naff, naff, naff. The font, the form, the format of that front of the tube. To crown it all, you should be aware, O dear and best-beloved people at Sun Research LLC, of the fact that “BurnOut,” especially in that dread handwriting font, looks really like you’re telling people to “bum out.” Whether it’s an instruction to sally forth and moon people, or to throw away jobs and money and become beach bums, it could lead to embarrassment all round and lawsuits. You’ve used the imperative for eff’s sake. Continue reading

skin updates: moisturiser

shikai borage lotion


  • sweet almond oil: for more on it, see more on that multi-purpose oil
  • ShiKai borage dry skin remedy original unscented lotion: previously mentioned in ersatz (3): moisturiser
  • plus balm for lips and eyes (Dr Bronner unscented) and sunscreen (BurnOut Eco-Sensitive SPF 30; Elemental Herbs SPF 30 sunstick for lips & eyes).


1. Wash self.

2. Apply oil all over, face and body, to damp skin while in shower. On the face, be gentle: pat and press in rather than rubbing (more vigorous massage may be fine on others, but on me it can hurt skin). Some will rinse off; let the rest sink in while enjoying end of shower. Wash hair etc.

3. Ablutions completed, remove self from shower, wrap in towel. Oil by now will have mostly sunk in (doesn’t need to have sunk in completely, and heck, this is early in the morning and time is of the essence). Skin will still be damp, this is good.

4. Next step: apply moisturiser. Using hands. This may involve dabbing dots evenly over the skin, or just moving the stuff around, or some combination. It’s early morning, and no-one’s looking. Apply to head, neck, throat, shoulders, all the way to the nipple-line. Eye area too.

5. Then apply balm to lips and eye area.

6. Do some other stuff while all that sinks in: hair, deodorant, clip toenails, dance around if body is still a bit damp. Once most of the dampness and oiliness on face has sunk in, apply sunscreen.

7. Done.

I’ve also done this skipping the step of oil, or using just oil, or oil on top. Oil on top: good, but takes longer to sink in, and sunscreen doesn’t apply as well. Oil underneath is faster, as it can be done while in the shower while I’m oiling the rest of myself up anyway.

UPDATE: 2014-02-20: Other comparison: plain oil alone. My face is I think as moist, and stays that way for as long. Method: as above, but skip moisturiser and apply oil to slightly dried (but still damp) skin.


The lotion is also decent on hands, when washing them after going to the toilet, doing the washing-up, and whenever else you’d wash your hands in everyday life. So is the hand cream version of this: it is denser, with less water in the formula (just in the aloe vera as I recall; whereas in the lotion, as is usual in lotions, water is the first and most plentiful ingredient).


  • usually skipping the step of serum
  • faster and simpler morning sequence: compared to showering, drying myself, serum, oil
  • the moisturiser at hand has some antioxidants (not much, but I’m not fussy and am fussier about getting plenty in food)
  • and all the good, right, virtuous omega fatty acids; I’ve used borage seed (starflower) oil previously, alone and in products like the Allergenics range. That was one reason I tried this stuff out in the first place, as Allergenics isn’t sold in North America and has to be shipped or hand-imported. My last lot got impounded by customs and had gone rancid by the time it got here (also, unlike Allergenics, this stuff has decent preservatives).
  • currently, unlike when I last used it, moisturises without breaking me out. Hurray. UPDATE: FAMOUS LAST WORDS. Yay zits (2014-02-20).
  • readily available in shops including some supermarkets here, and online for non-expensive
    CAD10.00-16.00 / 238 ml (8 oz)
  • cruelty-free
  • did I mention: helps my skin to stay stuck to my bones? even the flakiest bits? seems to be doing the job of retaining moisture; building moisture-retaining qualities, we’ll see. UPDATE (2014-02-20): but no better than plain oil alone.

I have a historically crappy skin barrier: thin fragile skin, a ginger classic. Hence why people think we’re thin-skinned in other ways: easy to upset and enrage, hot-tempered, fly off the handle at the drop of a hat, go bright red and fight people, that sort of nonsense. I for one am a lazy placid peace-loving type. Especially when that involves gentle walks in nice places like where I live, sitting down for cups of tea and glasses of wine, and generally lounging around in a civilised manner. All of which are assisted by my skin staying on me and not causing a fuss and disturbing my glass of wine, etc.


Purified water, aloe vera gel*, safflower seed oil, glyceryl stearate, glycerine, jojoba seed oil, borage seed oil, cetyl alcohol (vegetable wax), vitamin E acetate, dimethicone, shea butter, sodium ascorbyl phosphate (vitamin C), phenoxyethanol, L-ergothioneine, ethylhexyl glycerin.

*Certified organic


These OMEGA-6 products are specifically formulated to relieve dry cracked skin in just days AND promote the growth of healthy new skin cells for long-term benefits. They bring relief to those who suffer from chronic dry skin.

These borage products have been clinically tested and proven to work.


Many people have dry skin that just won’t go away and isn’t relieved with traditional moisturizers. This is why we’ve created ShiKai Borage Therapy. These products have an ingredient so effective, it’s been proven in medical journals again and again. In other words, it really works.

Borage oil, extracted from the seeds of the borage plant, is a natural source of gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA), an important OMEGA-6 fatty acid which is required for healthy skin cell membranes. Without sufficient GLA, cells can’t retain enough moisture. This can result in dry skin and other chronic skin problems.

Borage oil penetrates deep, delivering GLA and its benefits directly to the cells. As a result, skin retains more moisture and is healthier.


Learn about this very valuable plant . . .

A clinical study using borage oil on infants with “cradle cap” showed significant results . . .  (read more)

BORAGE – A Little Known Secret for Maintaining Healthy Skin
It is a natural oil that not only restores moisture and smoothness to dry and damaged skin, but can also provide relief to people who suffer from chronic skin disorders such as eczema and atopic dermatitis. . . (read more)

DIABETES AND DRY SKIN – Exploring the Link
In order to create and maintain moist, resilient and healthy skin, our cells require an important essential fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is not available in our diet. Instead our body must make it via a complex metabolic process . . . (read more)

SHIKAI BORAGE PRESENTATION, facts science, studies  (PDF)


  • ShiKai Borage therapy facial moisturiser

This used to be their 24-hour facial thingummy, and I stopped using it and the matching eye cream with irritation issues (minor, but still) with their old preservative. The current preservative is one that my skin is usually cool with, so: worth a test-drive.

But: more expensive than the lotion, more than twice the price.

Differences: not yet tested therefore not yet known in feel, finish, and functionality. On paper and ingredient-lists, the differences are, compared to the original lotion:

+ more borage seed and jojoba oils
+ avocado oil
+ batyl alcohol (emollient)

- no aloe vera
- no safflower seed oil
- no dimethicone
- no vitamin C (SAP)
- absence of the interesting antioxidant l-ergothioneine

INGREDIENTS (FACE): Purified water, borage seed oil, avocado oil, jojoba seed oil, glycerine, glyceryl stearate SE, shea butter, vitamin E acetate, cetyl alcohol, batyl alcohol, phenoxyethanol, ethylhexyl glycerin.

INGREDIENTS (ORIGINAL): Purified water, aloe vera gel*, safflower seed oil, glyceryl stearate SE, glycerine, jojoba seed oil, borage seed oil, cetyl alcohol, vitamin E acetate, dimethicone, shea butter, sodium ascorbyl phosphate (vitamin C), phenoxyethanol, L-ergothioneine, ethylhexyl glycerin.


Current wine of choice, for sipping in the bath after work and suchlike:

stump jump


Recommended for similar purposes.

It’s interesting as it’s not a million miles from a decent lower-key Châteauneuf-du-Pape drunk a little on the young side; or vineyards just outside the appélation and thus “just” ordinary Côtes du Rhône; the sort of thing that’s usually obtained locally or only slightly further afield in France or Belgium.  

In this case, from Australia, in our local liquor stores even at the usual grotesquely inflated BC prices, and while it’s not cheap as chips, c’est à un prix bien démocratique

Nice smooth stuff, too. Slips down a treat.

skin & hair etc. updates: moisture

The weather is colder, my skin is drier. Meadowfoam seed oil is no longer up to the task. Current solution: sweet almond oil. For all the usual multi-purpose uses: pre-cleaning, makeup removal, moisturising face and body, shaving.

Next experiment: camelina oil.


Why: because it has a chemical composition and properties, when applied to skin, that are similar to hemp seed oil. Similar fatty acid profile, very high in omega-3 (linolenic acid). High in plant sterols. Goes into that groups of well-omega-ed oils: hemp seed, flax / linseed, chia seed.

Hemp oil is good on my skin, bu the stuff is outrageously damn fragile. Even if I keep it in the fridge, even the little time it spends in warm bathroom and especially in a warm shower, that’s enough to help it go rancid very fast. Sure, not as fast as keeping it out in the open (days); even with some “stabilising” oils like meadowfoam (adds maybe a few days to life).

Camelina oil is much more stable, doesn’t need refrigeration, has a long-ish shelf life. Sounds ideal.

Like some other oils I’ve liked, its main use and historical development have been as a more sustainable substitute for other oils. Its main uses recently have been for cattle feed (though the cattle industry isn’t exactly sustainable) and for biofuel. Camelina plants tolerant of cold and need little water to grow: eco-friendly compared to other plants. It’s a substitute for crude oil and derivatives, which was in turn a substitute for whale oil. It was also used in Europe as lamp oil before the 19th-century whale-oil era. Good cooking oil too.

So that’s like canola / rapeseed oil and meadowfoam seed oil. It’s somewhat related to rapeseed, they’re both members of the mustard family. No, that does not mean it’s like smearing hot stingy mustard on your skin. That’s foolish thinking.

One of the main areas for development, scientific study, and production of camelina seed is in central Canada, so I’m also supporting national and local agriculture. There have of course, as you might imagine, been forays into bioengineering the stuff; with, as you might imagine, pros and cons both ways. Corporate nasties trying to control seed supplies, ensure sterility of hybrids and thus a captive farmer market, and rule the world. And bio-engineering as a long laudable human occupation, one of the earliest human activities in technology and in scientific method / methodical science, from back around the Neolithic agricultural revolution somewhere around -10,000.

Not yet tested. Will report back once preliminary testing has been completed (so: if there are immediate reactions, and then how things go after 6 weeks or so).

UPDATE (2014-02-14): it arrived, I tested it out, and it’s a NO.