5 Alternative Ways to Get Your SPF On (Besides Just Rubbing Greasy, Goopy Lotion On Your Face)

This is my magnum opus. And it's about sunscreen.
Publish date:
January 15, 2015
skin care, sunscreen, spf, Supergoop!, sunburn, dermalogica, Mustela

Hey all you soon-to-be-wrinkled hags and hag-ettes, I've got news to share: Any anti-aging advice you've heard that's not some combo of "Have great genes to begin with," "Drink lots of water," or "Always wear sunscreen" is likely bunk.

Mind you, I'm not talking about the various cash money-baller things you can pay a fancy dermatologist to do to your face — I'm referring to the minefield of lotions and potions available for purchase at your local crack cocaine dealer, and, when he or she is not available, at drug dens like Sephora.

You're on your own as far as the genes go, and while water is still pretty much free (I drink mine straight out of the hose while gardening), wearing sunscreen is not a joke if you want to avoid looking like a Fruit Roll-Up.

This sunscreen will likely cost you a little bit of money (and if you've blossomed into a product snob as you've aged, as I have, it's going to cost you a medium-to-large-ish amount of money), but will be well worth it — if only, as my new favorite Twitter-er Kate Henning puts it, to feel "smug as hell" after you apply it every single morning.


You're likely reading this in the dead of winter, thinking that at least you don't need to be worried about sunscreen in such dreadful weather, but you are wrong daddy wrong, because it's just as easy for your skin to suffer sun damage in the winter as it is the summer.

Sadly, I haven't been able to locate a facial moisturizer that works for my skin type (sensitive, dry yet oily, prone to breakouts) AND has a high enough sun protection factor to actually be of any use. As I was pondering why recently, our lovely beauty expert Courtney Brunson swooped in and gave me a pretty solid hypothesis in her usual hilarious way:

"SPF definitely adds to the grease factor and causes flashback in photos, but whatevs."

She's right — using regular old sunscreen meant for the beach is horrible and goopy, causing an incredible oil slick on my face without really adding enough moisture. It also means I can't use up all the fancy face creams I've diligently hoarded over the years! So I've learned to get my SPF on in alternative ways.

Dermalogica Solar Defense Booster, SPF 50

This product bills itself as an SPF booster, a squirt of which is meant to be added to whatever moisturizer you like. Which is fine, brilliant, revolutionary, even; but what nobody stops to consider is that diluting an SPF 50 product with a no-SPF moisturizer effectively cuts the SPF in half — if not more.

For that reason, it's best to apply this non-chalky, ultra-light cream to clean skin, wait one minute for it to sink in, then apply your regular moisturizer on top. (I'm using Dermalogica's Smoothing Cream as an everyday moisturizer after my facialist turned me on to it and I AM IN HEAVEN.)

I wasn't all that sure the Dermalogica SPF Booster junk was even working until I was summoned to a last-minute production meeting that took place on a reflective rooftop in the blazing late summer California sun. Two hours and a hundred dumb questions from the prop guy later, I didn't even have a hint of a sunburn. Dermalogica, you forever have my heart.

Supergoop! City Sunscreen Serum, SPF 30

While Dermalogica's SPF booster is akin to an ultra-light, buildable moisturizer, Supergoop's SPF 30 serum goes on more like a makeup primer and absorbs instantly. You can apply your favorite moisturizer (like maybe a little dumpster Crème de La Mer?) immediately after using it. This serum is light as a feather and doesn't interfere with anything you put on over it. Supergoop is the undisputed leader in modern sunscreen technology, and it shows when you use its products.

Coola Face Rose Essence Tint, SPF 20

If you don't wear foundation every day, this tinted cream by Coola is a nice way to even out skin tone AND get another dose of SPF in there. Not only is it made with 97 percent organic ingredients in small batches by a lifetime surfer in San Diego, California, it smells like roses!

While the Dermalogica Solar Defense Booster and Supergoop Serum are both considered chemical sunscreens, which work by absorbing the sun's rays, the Coola tint is a physical sunscreen — as it contains titanium dioxide, which provides an actual physical barrier to block the sun's rays.

Peter Thomas Roth Oily Problem Skin Instant Mineral, SPF 30

This brush-on SPF product from Peter Thomas Roth is also a physical sunscreen (containing both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) — just in translucent mineral powder form. It's also one of my holy-grail products, as it provides an easy, portable way to fight midday shine with a bonus dose of SPF.

But it's worth noting here that the FDA is currently ruminating on adding the following warning to powder and spray sunscreens:

“When using this product, keep away from face to avoid breathing it.”

Errr, okay, except this product was designed...for my face? Here's what the Environmental Working Group has to say about spray and powder sunscreens:

"EWG is especially concerned about inhalation of nano-sized and micronized zinc and titanium in powdered sunscreens and makeups. Inhalation is a much more direct route of exposure to these compounds than skin penetration, which appears to be low in healthy skin."

I just hold my breath as I apply it, which I'm sure is totes saving my life and lungs.

Mustela Broad-Spectrum Mineral sunscreen stick, SPF 50

Mustela is a luxe French beauty line for babies, and this 50 SPF mineral sunscreen stick (containing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) the star of their product lineup. It's perfect to use on your neck, chest, and décolletage. My skin-care game got stepped up 100 percent when I started using it on those areas after my facialist pointed out that I needed to be taking the same care of my throat and chest as I was my face. The Mustela stick is not greasy, but you'll need to rub it in well and wait a few minutes before dressing.

One last SPF note: Immediately kick to the curb any hippie-love no-toxins mommy blogger trying to sell you a recipe for homemade, "natural" sunscreen. Every single one of them call for zinc oxide, which is a notorious pig of an ingredient to work with, as it must be blasted into tiny nano-particles in order to stay adhered to a cream base and do its job — something you could never accomplish with a spoon or even a retro mortar and pestle. In short: They don't really work.

Plus, any homemade sunscreen recipe that calls for adding in every blogger's favorite ingredient — coconut oil — is asking for trouble, as (duh!) all oils absorb light, allowing UV rays penetrate your skin. SICK BURN, MOMMY BLOGGERS! Now go get your alt-SPF on.

I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison

I also wrote a book: 'How to Get Dressed: A Costume Designer's Secrets for Making Your Clothes Look, Fit, and Feel Amazing', available now for pre-order!