Sunscreen update: May 2017


  • Badger Sport SPF 35
  • using up old supplies of CoTZ Sensitive SPF 40 for hands and other incidental exposure of body parts
  • The Man is using up has now used up old Replenix Sheer Spray SPF 50.

Shiny happy discovery: Badger Unscented SPF 30 

What it is: a simple thick pasty zinc oxide-only sunscreen, broad spectrum (UVA & UVB).

Why: I need to use a decent sunscreen on all exposed skin every day. I’m a flammable redhead who has already had A Thing removed, has photosensitive skin, reddens (and gets hot and hivey, blistering if lucky) within seconds of exposure to direct sunlight if not protected, and is irritated by most sunscreen actives. Zinc oxide works. My skin being drier, it’s happier with a moister sunscreen; most all-physicals are very siliconey, with a matte dry feel, often with a higher alcohol content, and drying on my skin. Most of my sun protection isn’t actually sunscreen at all but avoiding peak hours of intense sun, covering up / clothes, a hat, sunglasses, and seeking shade.

Why choose that sunscreen: well, despite having skin that reacts to everything, I still try stuff out on it and have moments of “**** it, why the **** not?” and plain old human curiosity just like anyone else. Gingers are people too. I’d also read this on

I’ve ordered the Alba Botanica Very Emollient Mineral SPF 30. It’s not available here in Vancouver: bizarrely, shops stock only those Alba Botanica sunscreens that are worst reviewed online. We’ll see how this Very Emollient Mineral works once it’s arrived. I will report back.

Most of the Badger range are readily available here, though, and at reasonable prices.

It looked, from comparing the ingredient lists, like that Badger lavender one was basically the unscented one + lavender. It’s just zinc oxide in a base of sunflower oil, beeswax, some extra tocopherol (from sunflower too), and has extra antioxidant (seabuckthorn) that’s supposed to be all good and helpful, including possibly helping to protect skin against UV (and for a properly scientific and sceptical quick piece on the paucity of seabuckthorn data, see for example The Beauty Brains). The Unscented 30 looked like it would be more emollient and easier to use than the 35. Which I like. But heaven help me I’m not a morning person and I’m lazy; even though we’re not talking a major big deal just seconds. And the unscented one happened to be in not one but two shops—our main local hippiedippy yummymummy granolemporium and a big drugstore chain—on special offer. I tested it out, and it was more spreadable than the 35 and my skin didn’t react. So I bought a tube.


  • application: the 30 is a lot easier than the 35. It’s still thick, but warmed between finger-tips before application, it melts more and is more spreadable
  • general application notes: It’s white on application but that rubs in. Being thicker, it’s easier to control and monitor even application (compared to a thinner sunscreen that runs off your face): you can dot the stuff on in even dabs and spread out from each dab in circles of the same radius and area (or squares or hexagons, if you’re feeling even more methodical), then pat it in.
  • finish: it take a couple of minutes to sink in, after which I have another quick rub-around to ensure there are no white patches. It’s not whitening on me but I am very pale: and even on me, with both Badger sunscreens, I have to smoothe bits of zinc out of my eyebrows (a clean old toothbrush or mascara brush does the job). End result just looks like skin. Not slick, shiny, matte, or anything else.
  • feel after a couple of minutes, once sunk in: as though I’m not wearing anything, just comfortable
  • as with any sunscreen, I usually apply a second layer before leaving home
  • it’s moist and skin stays moist, but not greasy. Within 25 minutes (the time it takes me to walk to work), if I touch my face I can’t feel anything on it. While I’ve adapted to and been happy with silicone-based sunscreens like Replenix, switching back to an oil-and-wax one makes a difference. On me, the siliconey ones either dry out my skin and it hurts soon (and goes chalky and flaky and wrinkly), or leave a greasy finish which rubs off (inc on clothes). The Badger and other non-siliconey ones just sit, nicely.
  • no zits, clogginess, breakouts, outbreaks, irritation, etc. on cheeks or chin or any of the usual areas where that would happen were it going to do so
  • it dows the job as a sunscreen, used alone every day for the last few weeks
  • included the big test of being at the seaside today from 1-2 and 3:30-5:30 p.m. Note: on me, this was two layers of Badger and one top-up of CoTZ on one arm and side of neck that were hiveing (zinc oxide—any old zinc oxide—usually calms that down straight away and the CoTZ Sensitive happens to be what’s in the small portable travel tube of sunscreen that was in my bag). I have no redness, burning, or indeed extra colour apart from a bit on my cheeks from wind.

While I was out searching for the Alba Botanica and Badger above, I tested out some other sunscreens in shops here in Vancouver. I didn’t buy any of the sunscreens that follow further down, though I would consider buying one (a stick), but reporting back might be useful to others with different skins from mine. If you’re less dry and/or looking for a sunscreen with a tint because you tend to find regular mineral / physical sunscreens whitening, the following might be worth trying out.

It’s only a small selection. All are physical- / mineral-only, as that is all that I can use on my skin. There are plenty other sunscreens out there (and, in Canada and Europe, other filters ex. Tinosorb and Mexoryl) that may be better choices for other skins and their attached persons.

On the other hand, there are larger ethical reasons for preferring certain—biodegradable—sunscreen actives and avoiding others (oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene) as well as certain other ingredients (some silicones and fragrant / essential oils): pollution and damage vs. protecting reefs, oceans, entire water systems, our shared environment, a whole planet. See for example Marine Safe and the International Chemical Secretariat’s Substitute It Now list, a more progressive  (and, in the current political climate, more scientific) standard than, for example, the US government, NGO, consumer organisation, and lobby-group parallels with which readers of this blog might be more familiar.


  • Andalou Naturals untinted BB cream SPF 40 (not-unscented 20% ZnO): the company has a number of tinted BB, CC, etc. things that feel very nice; this seems to be the only untinted one (the tinted ones are too dark on me, therefore a great idea for most other people to try) and a decent SPF. Felt lovely tested on wrist, no reactions, but fruity smell.
  • Bioderma Photoderm mineral spray SPF 50 (unscented, 19.95% ZnO +8.82% TiO2): yes, it contains coated nano physical sunscreen and yes, I’m cool with that and have been for many years (some of the why and wherefore and so on is covered in earlier posts on this present blog; note that coated nano is different from plain nano; I remain open to changing my mind, buying practices, and habits if persuaded by new research findings). And no, it’s not the most ethical company or group in the world. I wanted to see what it was like, as supposedly one of the best and most elegant available all-physical generally-available mainstream-market European sunscreens, to provide a better standard of comparison than just testing a small pool of more ethical ones. I wanted to test and compare Badger and others as sunscreens.
    —No reactions but unwearable and unusable. Spray into palm of hand and apply from there; it’s too runny to apply via finger-tips. Comes off even slightly moist skin including skin that’s been moisturised, which is an issue if you have dry skin and therefore moisturise it (because if you don’t it hurts, cracks, can open and bleed, etc.). It does stay on bone-dry skin. I’d be more comfortable with this stuff if I could apply a second layer later (even if that makes this stuff less user-friendly than thicker less superficially-elegant sunscreens) but … that’s tricky. (Applying multiple very thin layers might work with practice. Just saying.). On me, I found no way around this sunscreen leaving a slippy greasy finish that does not go away, comes off when you touch your skin and comes off on clothes (ends of sleeves next to hands and wrists and scarf against neck, when patch-testing), and leaves some grainy grittiness on skin. (Powder on top is not an option on dry skin.)
    —Main conclusions: The runniness is a concern, as it’s hard to control even application, and, combined with skiding around and off, leaves one worried that this sunscreen’s coverage is unreliable and it therefore risks being insufficiently protective.
    —Also tested previously: an older cream version in a tube, that was thicker but more drying.
  • Green Beaver SPF 40 (unscented, 8% ZnO + 8% TiO2): itchy irritation, reacted to something in it, but otherwise unscented and moist and spreadable, worth a try. Decent price and widely available in Canada. The company also has a lotion and a spray in SPF 27.
  • Juice Beauty SPF 30 (not-unscented 20% ZnO): lovely feel on skin, no reactions, but too scented (citrus fruit, mainly, some of which may photosensitize) and scent faded down very slowly. Other concern: lack of preservatives in a product whose USP is fresh fruit juice, i.e. containing water and sugars; costs twice as much as anything else I tested (bar one). Company also offers tinted versions, CC balm things, again scented.
  • MyChelle: still too low an SPF (28) in the untinted version (unscented, 11.6% ZnO + 0.67% TiO2), the tinted versions are more protective. Useless on me but that information may help others. There’s also
    an SPF 30 that I haven’t seen or therefore tried here (and while I’m happy to order some stuff, like Alba Botanica, as gambles: not this stuff as it is pricier, isn’t unscented, and contains some of my known irritants)
    —and an SPF 50 (way better ingredient list & 16.1% ZnO) in two tints; not tested due to tint, which is useless on me, but FAO others. More on these from the company.
    SPF 50 clear(ish) stick (unscented, 17% ZnO): tested and would recommend.
  • Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion Wetforce for sensitive & children SPF 50 (unscented, 19.3% ZnO + 9.1% TiO2): yes, they’re not cruelty-free. I tested this anyway simply to see what it was like and for similar reasons to the Bioderma above: to provide standards of comparison (at the global scale) for testing other (ethical, smaller brand, non-mainstream-market) sunscreens as sunscreens. Feels pleasant, light. Sinks in well. Skin felt less moist than with the others tested (and using). Dry, actually, and that was just testing on inside of wrist, back of hand, and behind ear; would be more drying on face and neck, over a full day of normal wear. Expensive.

Back to the Badger… after cross-testing including against big names, expensive brands, and higher-tech more sophisticated kinds of sunscreen (Bioderma, Shiseido): Badger unscented SPF 30 joins the group of sunscreens that I would (and do) happily use and repurchase.


Active Sunscreen Ingredient:
Non-Nano, Uncoated Zinc Oxide 18.75%
Base Ingredients:
Helianthus Annus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Cera Alba (Beeswax), Tocopherol (Sunflower Vitamin E), Hippophae Rhamnoides (Seabuckthorn) Fruit Extract.

Costs around CAD18.00-25.00, MRRP USD15.99
More info: see Badger product page

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