What to Look for When Buying a Product with SPF

Published in: Beauty Tips, Skin Care

summer goddess

What to look for when buying a product with SPF

Most experts recommend checking the list of ingredients for two things: the first is to see if the product provides broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) coverage; the second is to see if the broad-spectrum sunscreen contains avobenzone, titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. All provide excellent UVA protection.


What’s the deal with UVA and UVB?

Both are types of sun radiation. UVB damages the outer layer of the skin and causes sunburns, boo!

An SPF number refers to the UVB burning protection a product offers (one with an SPF of 15 allows the wearer to stay in the sun 15 times longer than she would otherwise be able to).

But now we know that UVA rays, while they don’t cause sunburns, do damage the skin’s deeper layers. They work insidiously, wrinkling and spotting skin from within, destroying its elasticity. Like UVB rays, UVA rays are also believed to be a potential cause of skin cancer (melanoma).

Use it or lose it…

Don’t be chintzy with your sunscreen! The American Academy of Dermatology suggests using at least one ounce (about a shot glass full) of sunscreen on exposed skin every day. And don’t be shy about reapplying throughout the day. Experts say frequent application is key to maintaining good sun protection.

The American Academy of Dermatology Seal of Recognition

aad-seal-of-recognition-homeIt can be overwhelming to choose a sunscreen because of all the choices available. To help consumers choose products that provide the sun protection recommended by dermatologists, the American Academy of Dermatology has started a program called the “AAD Seal of Recognition.”

But the program has attracted a certain amount of controversy. When applying for the seal, manufacturers are obliged to pay $5,000 for the application, $10,000 on approval of the application and a further $10,000 a year later. Your best bet remains knowing (because knowledge is power!) which ingredients to look for (the most effective ones being avobenzone/Parsol 1789, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) when shopping for a product with sunscreen.

6 Summery Beauty Stunners with SPF

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock SPF 30, 55 and 70
Price: $9 for 3 oz.
Use: A waterproof sunscreen with awesome protection
Makeup and Beauty Blog Rating: A

I can’t stand feeling sticky, so I use this sunblock on my neck, shoulders and arms. It has a light scent, absorbs well and provides great sun protection. I went through two bottles of the SPF 30 version of this a week before before my wedding day and didn’t get too dark, even after days of surfing and swimming. I also wear it when I run, bike or hike outside because it doesn’t burn if it runs into my eyes.

Too bad it isn’t very moisturizing and can leave a slightly greasy (yet not sticky) film on my skin.

Clinique Long Last Glosswear SPF 15
Price: $14
Use: As a stand alone gloss or to layer over lipstick
Makeup and Beauty Blog Rating: A+
With a $14 price tag, Glosswear SPF really impressed the heck out of me. These are top quality glosses for the money, and, with added sun protection, these deserve an A+. I can’t wait to rock every one of the new colors at the beach this year!

Aveeno Continuous Protection Sunblock SPF 30
Price: About $9 for a 3 oz. tube
Use: A face and body sunblock
Makeup and Beauty Blog: A

This sunscreen has several great things going for it, despite that fact that it’s just water resistant (as opposed to waterproof). The first is the scent! The smell of a product is a big thing for me, and when I lifted up the top and took a whiff I fell instantly in love. It smells fresh and lemony — very summery — and doesn’t leave a grey cast to my skin like a lot of sunscreens do.

Oil of Olay Complete for Sensitive Skin SPF 15
Price: $9 for 6 oz.
Use: As a multi-purpose, daily sunscreen that works well with makeup
Makeup and Beauty Blog Rating: A-

A dermatologist recommended this sunscreen to me, and I’ve been using it for over 10 years. It has subtle, light scent and sinks into my skin easily (but you’ll still want to let it sit for about 10 minutes before putting on your makeup). This stuff provides great, daily skin protection. Unfortunately, it doesn’t like the water and runs when it gets wet.

MAC Mineralize SPF 15 Loose Foundation
Price: $29
Use: As a foundation with SPF
Makeup and Beauty Blog Rating: B+

I really dig this stuff. It’s easier to apply than liquid foundations yet still provides doable medium-to-heavy coverage with the protecting power of SPF 15.

And MAC has given us seven shades to choose from:


Alba Botanica Sea Moss Moisturizer SPF 15
Price: $15 for 2 oz.
Use: A highly moisturizing sunscreen with a strong scent
Makeup and Beauty Blog Rating: B
Packed with aloe vera and green tea, this sunscreen has a strong smell -– you’ll either love it or hate it. I like it. With SPF 15, it provides ample sun protection. I wouldn’t say it’s as effective as Oil of Olay and Neutrogena sunscreens, but it holds its own.

So what did you end up doing last night? El Hub came home pretty tired after work, so we just stayed home and watched TV. We rented a horror movie called The Mist, which he liked, but I thought it was a little boring. Remind me never to get stuck in a crowded supermarket the next time an evil fog settles on Marin County, LOL.

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,


For more sweet, sweet makeup lovin’, sign up to receive my updates by email. 🙂


Like this post? Tell your friends!

So far, 32 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Sylvie says:

    Hi Karen, thanks for highlighting what ingredients to look for in a good sunscreen. I personally use Avène sunscreen cream which is a French brand but based in the US (I think). I don’t know if they have any of those ingredients that you’ve talked about, but they are very good for people even with hypersensitive skin because the products contain thermal spring water. The SPF is 50 but I’m not so sure that it makes any difference when the factor exceeds 30. It disappears pretty quickly and serves as a makeup base. At least my skin looks pretty matte even at the end of the day if I use it as a makeup base.

  2. Megan says:

    I still haven’t found anything i like as much as Shiseido…I’ve never tried Aveeno…but I do like Neutrogena. My stila illuminating moisturizer has SPF 15….and I like it too 🙂

  3. Glosslizard says:

    I’m currently using Shiseido’s spf 55 on my face and neck (I really like both the cream and the lotion formulations) and Neutrogena spf 55 or Kiehl’s spf 30 on my bod. I’m also thinking of trying out the P.T. Roth Instant Mineral spf powder for reapplications on cheeks and nose thru the day. I always look for the Skin Cancer Foundation seal or check my sunscreens on their list. I figure that’s a pretty good indicator that the stuff will provide the protection it claims!

    I’m so grabbing one (or two) of those Clinique glosses today! 🙂

    Hmm, if you can’t go to the supermarket when there’s a fog in Marin, I think you may starve! 😉

  4. Karen says:

    Hi Sylvie,

    I saw the Avene brand at a drugstore last week (Long’s). I’ll check to see if that SPF is there! Thanks for the rec.

  5. Karen says:

    Hi Megan,

    I loooooove my Shiseido sunblock, too. I like Aveeno more for my body, but in a pinch it’ll suffice for my face.

    What you got going on this weekend?

  6. Karen says:

    Hi Glosslizard,

    Ha! We live beyond the fog bank, LOL. It’s rare (and kind of creepy-cool) when the fog comes into our neighborhood.

    That mineral powder stuff looks interesting. I’ve been wanting to try this similar product from Colorscience.

  7. Megan says:

    LOL well… I’m cleaning today…can’t you tell? LOL Ummm yeah I’ve got to finish cleaning up here and finish some laundry. Not sure what’s up tonight. Tomorrow afternoon I’m going with my realtor to look at houses. Monday I am going to visit my mom. I didn’t make a whole lot of plans.

    What about you?

  8. Glosslizard says:

    Oh good, you’re safe then! 😉

    The Colorscience looks good too! I’m going by a Sephora today, though, so I can just try on the PTR one!

  9. Bridget says:

    Ah this was very helpful. I like the Neutrogena dry touch spray. It’s nice and cooling when you spray it on.

    I was in search of a good lotion for my face that has SPF in it and bought Garnier Nutritionist anti-sun-damage daily moisture lotion. Boy that’s a long name. It’s SPF 28, feels nice and smells nice. I just checked and it has 3.0% of Avobenzone. So yay.haha My BE is SPF 15 but I need more than that. So I hope this Garnier stuff holds up when the sun really starts to come out!

    I’m going to a jewelry party tonight. It’s my first one and I’m already jonesing for a new ring.haha This could be bad. 😛

    Bridgets last blog post..I’m sorry for the rain!

  10. Indian Girl says:

    Hey Girl!
    Awesome post. I’ve gotto try the Aveeno sunscreen…I’ve been using Neutrogena dry touch but somehow its not “dry” anymore and is giving me the dreaded sticky sticky feeling 🙁
    I just thought I would tell you something I read in Glamour magazine or the O magazine last week. Apparently foundation with a good SPF alone is not enough to protect our skin. I was bummed when I heard this…coz I have depended on my foundations quite often to provide me sun protection. The amount of foundation we generally apply is very less compared what needs to be applied to provide adequate foundation. So it is advised to best use a sunscreen under your foundation for any protection at all…
    Sorry about the loooong comment.
    Hope it was useful 🙂

  11. Karen says:

    Hi Megan,

    I need to clean too. House shopping… FUN! I’ve been looking online and while it’s entertaining it’s not the same as seeing the houses in person, I’m sure.

    Have fun with your mom on Monday. Will you be bearing any beauty products for her? I just spoke with my mom the other day and I swear… I give her Estee Lauder, Clinique, all sorts of really cool makeup and she never uses it. Sigh.

    Today I’m working on a story that’s due on Monday. I probably shouldn’t have taken it on because I already have a ton on my plate, but I can’t say no to freelance assignments. I’ve already decided that this story is funding this purse, LOL.

  12. Karen says:

    Hi Glosslizard,

    Have fun! Can’t wait to hear what you think about it…

  13. Karen says:

    Hi Bridget,

    I have the Dry Touch Spray sitting on my shelf. I am going to use it when I go to Hawaii next month.

    Garnier stuff smells REALLY GOOD! I really hope they release a body care line here. They have a body lotion called “Body Cocoon” that I can’t buy here in the US… it’s the most awesome drugstore lotion, ever. 🙂

    Have fun at the jewelry party tonight. What kind of ring do you think you might get? I am an accessories kinda girl, ya know, so I must vicariously live through you.

  14. Karen says:

    Hi Indian Girl,

    I read that awhile back.Yeah, I put on sunscreen underneath makeup products with SPF; I’ve always been paranoid about sun protection and so I slather that stuff on like it’s no tomorrow. Thank you so much for adding this info though! It will help a lot of people.

    What are you plans for the weekend? Doing anything fun?

  15. Megan says:

    LOL no… but I’ll check her progress with what she got for mother’s day. I did pick up EA mediterranean breeze though.

    GIRL… that bag is CUTE!!! I’d do some freelancing for that too! 🙂

  16. Karen says:

    Nice. I love that one. Maybe I’ll wear it today because it’s rainy and I need to pretend it’s warm.

    I KNOW! I’ve been hemming and hawing over it for the last two weeks. I like the pleats and the shape. 🙂

    Are you done cleaning?

  17. Bridget says:

    They absolutely should make a body care line! I bet it would be great. The Body Cocoon sounds very intriguing.haha I wonder if they have it online?

    I don’t know what kind of ring I’ll get. I really don’t know what kind of jewelry there will be. But! hopefully something bold and pretty. I have a pretty cool collection of big bold rings, they are my weakness. 🙂 I’ll let you know if I come up with anything! 🙂

    Have a nice Saturday!

    Bridgets last blog post..I’m sorry for the rain!

  18. Megan says:

    You should soooo get that…It’s a great shape and would be pretty versatile!

    No…LOL… I keep letting myself get sidetracked and taking breaks. I’ll finish soon though… I just finished cleaning out my fish tank …now I need to clean the bathroom. 🙂

  19. Marisol says:

    Thanks for looking out for us Karen!

    Something that I never thought about and read recently is using SPF chapstick before applying gloss. Most of the time during the summer I wear a shiny gloss and what it does is attracts the sun to them. Without protection, my lips are constantly chapped. Never thought of that before but now I use it all the time since I found out about it.

    Marisols last blog post..omg… I totally pumped my fist in the air.

  20. Glosslizard says:

    Hi Karen!

    Ooh, I had fun today! 🙂 I picked up the Clinique long-lasting lipgloss in Bamboo Pink (found it!) and the Prescriptives eye kohl in Purple Rain! I also got to help my friend shop for foundation and pick out a glossimer for her (she got Sarong… so gorgeous)! The only downside was some attitude from a Sephora employee, she seemed to get all bent out of shape because I was recommending stuff to my friend! Hello! Bringing business to the store!

    I tried out the PT Roth mineral sunscreen powder, and it seems to have passed the line test, e.g. sitting on my face without drying it enough to exacerbate fine lines! I was a little worried about the packaging as it seemed a little difficult to get to work properly, and a little worse for wear after being a tester. Overall, though, I think I like it and I’d buy it for a sunscreen boost in the middle of the day, especially on vacation!

    Hope your Saturday was super-fun too! 😀

  21. Karen says:

    Hi Bridget,

    I’ve tried to find it but it’s hard to get a hold of it. When I go back to the UK I’m going to buy just bottles and bottles of it and ship it back to myself. I’m telling you, the day that I ran out of that lotion I wanted to cry.

    Oh! Bold rings are so fab. I hope you come home with something pretty. 🙂

  22. Karen says:

    Hi Megan,

    I KNOW! I keep “visiting” it online every few days. My birthday is coming up so it would be the perfect excuse.

    Have fun looking at houses tomorrow!

  23. Karen says:

    Hi Marisol,

    Thanks for the tip. That’s a good idea. The only thing I worry about, though, is getting addicted to the Chapstick. That happened for a few months while I was in college and kicking the habit was not easy. Sounds crazy, but it’s true.

    How do you feel about Clinique? I know their makeup tends to divide people, but the new Glosswears are awesome (and I don’t use that term lightly.) They stay on for hours, they’re non-sticky, come in lots of colors, don’t dry out the lips and last but not least they have SPF. Ahhhh… I love ’em.

  24. Karen says:

    Hi Glosslizard,

    How fun! I *lurve* Bamboo Pink Glosswear and am so glad you found it. And isn’t that eye kohl like buttah?

    The sunscreen powder sounds neat (I am liking the whole “doesn’t settle into fine lines thing”). Although the word “mineral” always makes me nervous, I will check it out. WOOT!

    I just got back from the movies and I’m ready to go to sleep. Ah, I remember Saturday nights when 11:30pm meant my evening was just getting started, LOL. G’night!

  25. Glosslizard says:

    Good morning, Sunshine! 🙂

    Bamboo Pink really is beautiful! The eye kohl looks fab, I’m looking forward to playing with it this morning!

    Honestly, I’m leery of “mineral” stuff too! Most often I don’t really care for mineral products, but I’ll break my rule (*Johnny Depp voice* it’s more of a guideline really…) for sunscreen!

    What movie did you see? Was it good?

  26. xtina says:

    You should try Hawaiian Island Creations Sunscreen. Uhhh… Heaven in a bottle 😀

  27. Happy says:

    Hi Karen,

    Congratulations on your wedding! You must have been such a beautiful bride! Would love to see some pictures on your blog. I was wondering, I’m getting married in October and have to do my own makeup, what products would you suggest?

  28. Karen says:

    Hi Glosslizard!

    G’morning! I hope you are enjoying a cup of coffee and relaxing this today.

    Bamboo Pink is SOOOO pretty. I like that it seems to be one of the universal tones that both warm and cool ladies can wear.

    El Hub and I went to watch the new Indiana Jones. It was just “Eh.” I felt like I was watching a chase scene for half the movie. I’ve been really into romantic comedies lately so I just wasn’t feeling it. Did you and the fam watch Iron Man yet?

  29. Karen says:

    Hi Happy,

    Congrats on your upcoming wedding! How’s the planning going? Are you all set?

    Hmm, regarding makeup for weddings… I recommend finding a way to fit a makeup artist into your budget. No matter how prepared you are, the day of the ceremony will be hectic. I’ve talked to a lot of brides and they usually don’t regret spending the money on an MUA. One thing I didn’t anticipate was how emotional and stressed I felt on the day of the wedding (I didn’t have a wedding planner), and that kinda threw a monkey wrench into things. I was pretty frugal when it came to most of the wedding planning, but I don’t regret hiring a makeup artist at all. Even though I know I could’ve done my own makeup, it was nice to know that was one less thing I had to worry about, ya know?

    I found my makeup artist on theknot.com, from recommendations of other brides-to-be. Another way to find one is to go to your favorite makeup counter and ask the artists there if they know anyone that does freelance work.:) Sometimes you can even find somebody who is even willing to do work at a discounted rate if they are new and just want to build their portfolio or client base.

    I have a feeling you wanted specific product recommendations, but I really feel like this is something a bride should do for herself on the big day. If you still would like me to list a few waterproof/long-wearing products, then I’d be happy too. Just let me know! Hope this helps, and congrats again!

  30. Happy says:

    Hi Karen,

    Thanks for your reply and the well wishing. The planning is actually coming along pretty well. We don’t have a wedding planner either. We had everything decided as soon as we set a date so that we won’t have to talk nonstop about the wedding and it’ll make it more exciting as the wedding date draws closer.

    The problem is, I live in Canada and we are having our wedding in my fiance’s home town and it’s out in the country so having a MUA is not really an option. No one wants to drive out to the country just to do my makeup. We live in the city but will have to go out to the country the day before the wedding to set everything up and will be getting dressed in the country. I really want to have a MUA too as it’s a little stressful to have to do my makeup and make sure I do a good job and hope the pictures will turn out good but I don’t really have that option.

    It’ll be great if you can give me some specific product recommendations. I’ve been going for makeovers to try out different looks but have yet found one that makes me go “Holy cow, do I look good!”

  31. Betsy says:

    Hey Karen, thanks for all the great product recommendations!
    So you would only use the Neutrogena Dry-Touch on your body? What would you recommend for the face then? The Shiseido? I have a moisturizer with SPF 15, but would like something stronger for the summer.

    And oooh, Clinique Glosswear! I defintively need to pass by my local Clinique counter and grab some goodies!

    Betsys last blog post..Oh gelato!

  32. Bailey says:

    I always love Neutrogena sunscreen- they have such high SPF, and it has really potent ingredients in it. I just wish sunscreen wasn’t so expensive!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge