The Sunscreen Company
Finally, we are starting to see some sun and enjoy some warmer weather! I was even able to go to the beach a few days ago! Despite it being a bit chilly and windy, that did not stop hoards of excited New Yorkers from running to the beach! Summer is my favorite season, in general, but also in New York City! People are lively, the streets are filled with fairs and events, and while our beaches are far from the tropics, I still love the sand under my toes and the water lapping at my feet. But all that being said, we are finally not covered in a million layers, for better or worse, if you are taking our skin care into account. While I would encourage people to wear sunscreen all year round, you are more likely to be outside with less on in the summer. The problem is that most sunscreens are made of who knows what, or leave your skin feeling terrible! That was until I found The Sunscreen Company. They make natural sunscreens that wont leave you looking like a mime! I instantly had to learn more. Please read our exclusive interview with The Sunscreen Company to learn how you can protect your skin, without injuring your body, and look and feel wonderful!
Where are you based?
We are based in Ottawa, Canada.
When were you founded?
Our company was originally founded in 1995, but existed for years as a purely research and development based company. We did not become fully operational until 2008, where we selected 3 formulas and started our original clinical line CyberDERM to sell in our co-founder, Dr. Sharyn Laughlin’s, dermatology practice.
What made you decide to start The Sunscreen Company?
The original reason for creating the company back in 1995 was to create a sunscreen that would be safe enough for even a pregnant woman to use. Our co-founder, Dr. Denis Dudley, was asked in his practice, as a high risk OB-GYN, whether a specific sunscreen was safe to use during pregnancy by a patient. When he later found sunscreen actives like oxybenzone in fetal/ maternal blood samples, he realized that they could have an impact on the health and safety of an unborn child. Together with his wife, Dr. Sharyn Laughlin, and Tom Heinar, a veteran cosmetic chemist, they founded CyberDERM, and began formulating mineral sunscreens for the next 13 years.
CyberDERM is your main line. How is CyberDERM different from other sunscreens?
Mineral sunscreens are notoriously more challenging to formulate, and a lot of companies respond to the challenge by simply using less zinc oxide or creating formulas with poor aesthetics. For us, we know that we have to equally nail the aesthetics of the formula without sacrificing its protectiveness and safety. All of our formulas use anywhere between 15-25% zinc oxide, while being transparent and offering amazing textures. We want people to use our sunscreens every single day as part of their skincare regimen, and a formula can not protect you if it stays in the bottle. We also have a patent-pending Ecocert certified innovation that makes the zinc oxide we use much more efficient at protecting. Our formulas, therefore, have unparalleled UVA protection, which is so key in a daily sunscreen.
What made you decide to bring in Ava Isa and Natreceutique?
We wanted our products to resonate with a broader demographic. For Ava Isa, our intent was to make sure that even young men and women start off using a high quality sunscreen. There is the troubling statistic that skin cancer is the #1 cancer killer for women aged 25-30. We want people to use an excellent quality sunscreen while still getting the aesthetics they are looking for in something like a primer or tinted moisturizer. Our first two formulas are intentionally ultra matte, which is great for people who have oily/combination skin, or just hate the feel of conventional sunscreen. Once blended on the skin, you can not feel the formula at all. It becomes completely weightless and goes under make up beautifully.
We created Natrèceutique to be 99% green and all natural while still keeping to our ideas of how to formulate skincare. In essence, if a dermatologist were to create a natural skincare line — this is what it would look like. We use a minimal amount of ingredients so everything is really curated and intentional. We do not use any known allergens like essential oils, fragrances of any kind, etc, so everything is approved from a dermatologist point of view. We use high concentrations of our active ingredients instead of a dash-of-this, dash-of-that type of formulation philosophy. They’re also intensely hydrating — I personally love them because they give you that dewy complexion that has become really popular. I make sure to use them on my orbital bones for a natural highlighter.
Do you recommend wearing sunscreen everyday? All year round?
Absolutely! People need to remember that UVA rays are the same strength all year round, at all latitudes, rain or shine and they penetrate windows. If you are even just doing a daily commute to work, you should be wearing an excellent sunscreen that is protective in the UVA rays especially.
Why is it so important to use natural sunscreens?
In North America, we are really limited in the choice of sunscreen filters that we can formulate with that protect against UVA. They have a broader selection in Europe and elsewhere that are not considered mineral filters, but are excellent from a safety and efficacy point of view. However, until they are approved in the US, the best filter available to us is zinc oxide. The FDA just recently came out in their update, and said unequivocally that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide meet their highest standard of safety called GRASE (Generally Recognized As Safe and Effective). They said all other filters require further study. They then just recently followed up on this with a study showing that some of the most popular conventional filters like avobenzone and oxybenzone penetrate through the skin and do enter into your bloodstream. It’s unfortunately not news to our company. There are numerous studies that have confirmed this for over a decade. It’s a well studied phenomenon that these filters are below a threshold for absorbing into the skin- they are incredibly small in molecular size. To put it into perspective, nano zinc oxide means that it’s smaller than 100 nm. Most of these conventional filters are .5 of a nanometer in size, i.e. infinitely smaller.
We saw the new study that shows that the ingredients from sunscreen are absorbed into the bloodstream. How do you think this will change sunscreens moving forward?
In the beginning, you are going to see some backlash towards the news that people should avoid these conventional filters. We already hear that mineral sunscreens are problematic for people of colour because they are too whitish or pasty. That is a myth — you can absolutely find formulas that are aesthetic for all skin tones. At some point though, consumers are going to vote with their wallets and send a clear message to industry that they do not want to take the risk. That can only be good news, as you’ll start to see more and more mineral offerings at all price points. Formulas will continue to improve as well. People just need to remember that they need to use a formula with a high concentration of zinc oxide. Any formula that contains less than 15% is not providing adequate protection. I’m also hopeful that the FDA will start approving some of the newer European filters, like Tinosorb S and M, so that we have more options to formulate the best and most protective sunscreens in the world.
What four ingredients do you use? Why did you choose them?
Zinc Oxide: our claim to fame is that we can use high concentrations, but make the final formulas really aesthetic, i.e. silky and light weight
Norwegian Spruce Extract: we use this in our Simply Zinc Ultra SPF 50, but also in several of our Natrèceutique formulas (Be Light, Pigment Correction and Calm in the Evening). It’s sourced from the bark of a tree common in Scandinavia that is an incredible anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant. Our co-founder, Dr. Sharyn Laughlin, even uses the pure form as an ingestible, and drops it into her water every morning.
Turmeric: We use turmeric in several different formulas across the product lines (CyberDERM PM Anti-Age, CyberDERM Emblica Light and Bright and Natrèceutique Be Light, Pigment Correction). It’s been one of our favourites for the past 11 years, even before it became a mainstream ingredient. We used to have to explain to people about its characteristic scent and why it was such a superstar ingredient. Now we don’t need to explain anything, and people love how it noticeably brightens their skin in a fairly short period of time.
Inca Inchi Oil/Hibiscus Oil: Two of the Natrèceutique products feature this blend of oils in a concentration of 20% (Calm in the Evening and Be Light, Pigment Correction). Inca Inchi Oil is known for having a perfectly balanced ratio of Omega 3’s, 6’s and 9’s and both products are really nourishing and hydrating. This means that even the ‘base’ of these two formulas are actively good for the skin, in addition to the other targeted ingredients.
The study found that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide were found to be effective and safe. What do you think about these ingredients? Are they enough to make a good sunscreen?
Zinc oxide is enough to make a sunscreen protective, but only if included in a high enough concentration of 15-25%. At lower concentrations, it is not providing adequate UVA protection. The addition of titanium dioxide is a bonus. It helps increase the SPF of the formula, but does not replace the need to have zinc oxide, as it provides little UVA protection.
Can all your sunscreens be used for sensitive skin, or do you recommend a particular one?
All of our sunscreens can be used by people who have sensitive or reactive skin. Our formulas do not contain any fragrances or other known allergens, and zinc oxide in and of itself is an anti-inflammatory. Individuals have to choose their preferred texture and level of protection needed when choosing between our formulas.
A lot of sunscreens cause breakouts. Do you find you have that problem? Please elaborate.
There are a lot of different reasons why someone might break out, so it’s hard to generalize. Our formulas do not contain any specific ingredients that might make a break out worse, but again, people have to trial the product sometimes to see their preferred texture.