Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Memories, a bit of history & sunscreen

Sorry for the long absence! Life got in the way and so, I was less inclined to research, less inclined to write. I will try to be more diligent, and dare I say, more disciplined....

You may be noticing some changes. More will come for I am still trying to figure out how blog stuff works. I haven't really taken the time yet to organise the presentation properly. Hopefully I'll be able to create something that will seem slightly more pleasant to readers. For now, here's what I've been working on, thinking about...


As a child and early teen, my mom used to take me to Miami Beach every winter. We would spend the month of January there and stay right across from Bal Harbour Shops. I can still remember buying my first Chanel nail polish at Neiman Marcus. Now in those days, January was a quiet month and so it would be dreamy to take long walks on the beach. This was at the start of the South Beach revival. I would walk from our little Art-Deco hotel to the star of Miami Beach in those days, the magnificent Fontainebleau and back. I can't remember how long it took but it was what I liked to do. I was always a bit of a loner, probably due to the fact that I was an only child. In the morning I would do my school work and spend my afternoons walking. I was never one to lie in the sun. I had to “do” something.

Beside the gorgeous Art-Deco Architecture of the little hotels on the beach there wasn’t much to see except admire the ocean, the pelicans, the palm trees and...

The leathery dark skinned elderly people on the beach.


Let's just say that none of them looked like this!

Some where so dark and burned that you could swear
that this is what they where doing. 
Lying in a frying pan!

Today I'm wondering if they where really “elderly”, realising now that some of them where probably in their 40's and 50's. The overdose of sun tanning was, most likely, what made them look older, like worn leather. Seems like I can still smell that Hawaiian Tropic Coconut oil that in all likelihood, had an spf of -2!

A little bit of sunscreen and sun worship history

Until the early 20th century, ladies would shy from the outdoors. It was a sign of wealth to have pale, delicate, porcelain skin. A milky skin was seen as, aristocratic. Large elaborate hats and sun umbrellas where fashion statements. A woman who had a darker, “tanned” complexion was showing the signs of manual labour, most likely working outside, in some field, as a street vendor or other. In other words, it showed the signs of a lower social status. An unfortunate soul who had to work for a living.

The Coco Chanel effect 

During WWI, due to a shortage in fabrics, Coco Chanel started to raise the hemlines of her creations and innovated by using jersey produced by Rodier for man’s underwear. She started to create new sporty dresses for women. Her designs where a hit in Dauville and Biarritz, popular vacation resort of the day. They gave women the opportunity to gain a new sens of freedom. Now remember, just a few years before, they had to wear corsets under long dresses with petticoats. To go along with these new, more practical creations, hair was cut short and hats diminished in size. Women where outdoors more, enjoying almost all the same activities as men. 

How times change, especially when one stops an thinks that just a few decades earlier, it was a sign of wealth to have pale skin. The opposite, the sun tanned face, was now a symbol denoting a life of privilege and leisure.

In the 1920s, the famous, trend-setting Coco Chanel, sporting deeply sun-bronzed skin, turned tanning into a fashion statement. In 1925, capitalizing on this fashion trend, Monsieur Antonine of Paris developed an Orange Gelée dark tanning formula called "Antoine de Paris". The Orange Gelée formula continued to thrive in Europe into the 1940's when Lanvin, a New York based company introduced the silky sensuous gel in the United States as Antoine's Bain de Soleil...translated as Antoine's bath of the sun.
                                                                                                                       Bain de Soleil website

Bain de Soleil Orange Gelée would lightly color the skin. If I remember correctly, it had an spf of 4 but hey, it was still better than using foil trays to tan the face and the neck with only baby or olive oil for “protection”. By the time Coppertone got a hold of Orange Gelée, they, of course, modified it to include that fabulous spf protection.

The 60's and 70's where probably the pinnacle of the popularity of sun worshiping. It was now possible to visit exotic destinations at affordable prices. Almost anyone could go to Florida, Mexico or the Caribbeans. Showing a deep dark tan meant you had been somewhere.  For others, it was the backyard pool that was the source of the tan on which they would "work" every weekend when the weather permitted. Having a pool in the 70's was quite a big deal. Again, whether it was the vacation or the dreamy backyard, we are back to the notion of social status.

During the Second World War, Benjamen Green developed Red Vet Pet (for red petrolatum). It worked as a physical blocker of UV rays. Red, sticky and uncomfortable, it was developed for soldier posted in the Pacific. Coppertone acquired the patent and this was the first marketed “suntan lotion”. During the early 1950's it became Coppertone girl and Bain de Soleil. Leaving behind the original Indian head logo that had originally appeared in 1944, it was replaced in 1953 with the famous ad created by Joyce Ballantyne Brand.

The original 1953 Joyce Ballantyne ad

In Europe, in 1938, Franz Greiter, a young chemistry student, created Gletscher Crème (Glacier Cream) which was the basis for Piz Buin, the name of the company he founded. In 1962, Greiter was credited for introducing the concept of sun protection factor (SPF). It has become since then, one of the standards for measuring the effectiveness of sunscreen. 

The decent into stupidity!

The infamous tanning beds where brought to North America by Friedrich Wolff in 1979.  Yay! Thanks Franky, good thinking! 

Wow! It was now possible the get sun "in a can" providing you felt like becoming the sardine!

Guilty! I did buy a series of seances when I was 21. It was common belief in the 80's that going to a tanning salon before going on vacation gave one a starting tan, to prevent sunburns. I can''t remember the price or how many seances where included in the package but I do remember going only 2 or 3 times. I felt sick and claustrophobic. It made me feel so sweaty and hot that I wanted to vomit. Did I get my money back for the unused cessions, heck no! I never went back and honestly didn't care about the unused tanning time.

No! I will not be posting any pictures of the infamous "tanning mom". You can easily google those. This case is just too sad since it's more than obviou that this person is addicted to tanning. Yes, unfortunately, you can get addicted to it. Google "tanorexia" and you'll see. 

To think that some people still believe that tanning beds are "safe" just makes me want to scream. They typically generate 97% UVA rays and no, those are not the "healthy" rays like it was once thought, they are in fact the most damaging ones. UVB ray are the rays that burn our skin on the surface, making it pinkish or red. They are the ones who warn us that we are burning.  UVA rays are the ones mostly responsible for skin aging, for skin cancer. Read more about what Canada is doing about tanning salons at the end of this post.


Warning: the following information is mainly for neophytes, those who rarely wear sunscreen and/or know very little about them. If this can help, convince one person to start wearing sunscreen, I'll be very happy! If you are well versed on the subject, you may want to move on or you may leave informative comments. Those will be more than welcome. I am totally aware of the fact that this can be a hot topic so this is one of the reasons I'm keeping it relatively simple.

Everyone knows, at least I hope everyone does, that we should be wearing sunscreen everyday on our exposed parts. Yes, even in winter! Many of us don't bother because we figure it's so darn cold, why? Well, UV rays are always present and should not be underestimated. Ever noticed skiers with their tan lines from goggles? UV rays are, the number one culprits for skin aging. If you want to keep those wrinkles from forming for as long as possible, sunscreen is the number one weapon. Starting young is the key but then again, it's never to late to do something good for yourself.

The task of finding the right sunscreen, for the right conditions and for your skin type can be, well, daunting. 

SPF 15 is very tempting! 

In all seriousness, yes a good sunscreen is the number one weapon against wrinkles but skin cancer is way more important. Appearance is one thing but health is another.

Dark tanned skin is not “in” in my opinion but yet, recently, I saw a TV commercial for a popular clothing store chain, showing a super dark tanned model in a bikini on a beach rolling in the water! What the heck??? No health hazard warning!!! This is 2012 people, lets get real!!! The model was most likely slathered with fake tan yet she looked burned! Not very elegant if you ask me. This was like a look back at the 70's and 80's when all we would see where dark tanned models on the covers of some of the more popular magazines. The ads in them where full of perfectly tanned bodies and the makeup collections where practically all developed to enhance that “glorious sun glow”. 

*goes back to look at the frying pan picture*

I've learned a lot about sunscreen in the past year. Stable, unstable, physical, chemical.... Terms relating to sunscreen that I will not elaborate at this time because it would make this entry quite long. What I want to do here is simply give you basic information, to get out there and purchase a good sun protection. Google is you friend when time comes to get extra data. Still, be cautious about sources. Regularly on Makeup Alley there are articles posted by members. I will try to add them so that you may be able to read more on the subject. For now, I'll refer your to Wikipedia for a basic article with a few informative links.

Simply put, there's a lot of mediocre stuff out on the market. Try not to rely solely on cosmetic companies websites since they want to sell you their products. They will tell you what you want to hear (in a matter of speaking) and keep in mind that finding a good sunscreen has nothing to do with the price you pay since certain high end cosmetics lines sell some formulas that should not even be called sunscreen.

In Canada we are especially lucky to have access to great lines of sunscreen. Our American neighbors have to order most of theirs online while we can get them at the corner drugstore.

The best sunscreen are the ones available in Europe. Most formulas seem to have been slightly modified to meet Health Canada requirements. Still, in my opinion, the brands mentioned below, remain superior to anything else on the market.

SPF (sun protection factor) measures UVB rays & PPD (persistent pigment darkening) measures UVA rays. Many sunscreen will show a high spf but will have a mediocre ppd. In other words, you will not get a good protection. What makes this even more confusing it that the ppd is not mentioned on, tubes or bottles yet. Still, the following companies mentioned have good offerings for superior protection.

From the drugstores:

Ombrelle, developed by Canadians
La Roche Posay
Avène offers a convenient compact of tinted sunscreen in 2 shades, honey & beige
Banana Boat
L'Oréal is coming out with interesting formulas (if you can find them)
Bioderma (starting to be available nationwide)

From the department stores: 

Shiseido is, I believe, the only company really worth mention. It has good waterproof options and some worth looking at for face especially if you have oily skin.

If you get serious about protection, especially on your face, it will not be easy to find your HG (Holy Grail). Some can be clogging or irritating. Others may be too shiny or even drying. There will be lots or trials and errors but once you do find the one for you, you'll be set. What to do with those that aren't performing to your standards on your face? Simply use on décolleté, arms and back of hands. I always keep a tube in my purse for that purpose. 

I was very lucky myself. I didn't have to try too many. Ombrelle spf45 Visage does a very good job. I apply the required amount on face, 1/4 tsp and another 1/4 tsp for neck and décolleté (actually a little more since I often have my hair up, to protect the back of my neck & ears). Once it has sunk in I use some loose powder to neutralize the shine. It makes it disappear completely. Still, I must confess that I don't use it every day. I do on days when I know I'll be outside more than usual. For regular days I like Avène's Redness Relief spf 25 (being replaced by Antirougeurs spf20). It does fine for me for incidental exposure.

My daughter who just turned 13, recently had a reality check! She went to a friends house and spent the day outside, playing in the pool. A major sunburn was the result of this day of fun. Not so fun that evening, nor the next day! She had her sunscreen with her but didn't bother to use it. Lesson learned! After a few days of aloe gel, ibuprophen and CeraVe cream, she managed to survive. Now, she will not leave the house without at least applying sunscreen on her face. She too uses Ombrelle. For body, she had a Banana Boat spray but didn't like the greasy feel so I got her La Roche Posay Melt-in-Cream spf60. She likes it enough to apply generously. Fewwww! Hopefully she'll keep the habit. Now I don't go nuts about it in the sens that by the end of summer she will likely have a buttery glow. She does need her natural vitamin D. She is pale skin like me, but, does tan easily.

For the eye area, I usually go for a bit of either Ombrelle or my spf moisturizer depending on what I'm applying that day. I mainly rely on my sunglasses. I have this pair of Gucci from ages ago that I just can't let go of. They are a bit like the Man In Black sunglasses and don't seem to go out of style. I treat them with the utmost respect and care. They are like my signature. I still use the original case but it looks so horrible and worn that I usually do a bit of gymnastic to take out my glasses while leaving the case in my bag. Seems like I don't want to let go of the case either. *sigh* It's not even a frugal thing. Maybe I should see a therapist about this...

If you know you'll be outside more or lets say you're on a beach vacation, this trick is the bomb! This comes from my friend Laura. She uses an spf lip balm on her eye area. She often mentions Neutrogena spf 15. She also likes Jane Iredale but this is harder to find. Another option is Clarins spf 30 specifically made for the eye area. Shiseido also makes one with spf 32.

For exposed body parts, I like La Roche Posay spf45 spray for sensitive skin. I spray in the palm of my hand and apply to arms, legs and feet if I'm wearing flip flops. It's a bit sticky on application but once it sets, about 20 minutes or so, it's just fine. Now Bioderma makes an almost identical formula. Even the smell is similar and it's also spf45 in spray form.

Warning: do not use a chemical exfoliant in the morning. AHA's are to be used at night because they make skin more sensitive to UV rays since they help slough the skin on surface.

Keep in mind that even if you use a spf moisturizer under a foundation with spf, this doesn't mean that you are well protected. It doesn't mean that you have "double" protection either. To get the full protection from a foundation, you would have to apply 1/4 tsp on your face. I don't know anyone who uses that much!

The best option is really to try to find the right formulation of sunscreen for you, apply the required amount, wait about 20 minutes or so and proceed with your usual makeup routine.

From the American Academy of Dermatology here are the basic guidelines:

How much sunscreen should I use, and how often should I apply it?
  • Use enough sunscreen to generously coat all skin that will be not be covered by clothing. Ask yourself, “Will my face, ears, arms, or hands be covered by clothing?” If not, apply sunscreen.
  • To be sure you use enough, follow this guideline:
    • One ounce, enough to fill a shot glass, is considered the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body. Adjust the amount of sunscreen applied depending on your body size.
    • Most people only apply 25-50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen.3
  • Apply the sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes BEFORE going outdoors.
  • Skin cancer also can form on the lips. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Re-apply sunscreen approximately every two hours or after swimming or sweating heavily according to the directions on the bottle. 

One more product worth mentioning. Lise Watier Sun Smart spf30. This is for me, the best makeup base ever. It's light and lets the foundation glide on your skin like a charm. I just couldn't believe it when I first tried it!. At $39 it's not cheap but, it's worth every penny in my opinion. This for me is for winter, when I have to wear foundation. At the moment I use Bourjois Healthy Mix and the combination of the 2 give me a perfect finish. 

I do hope you'll start getting serious about sunscreen and that you'll consider some the outstanding brands I've mentioned, who all offer a wide range of protection and finishes. Do remember that spf foundations and moisturizers are not enough if you are outdoor for extended periods of time. For those occasions you not only need a more reliable protection but you'll have to reapply to make sure that you don't burn. 

I know I'm repeating myself but I just want to make sure that this point is well understood.

With all the great option available to us, no need to wear one of these! 

What Canada is doing about tanning beds (Wiki)

The Province of Ontario re-introduced the Skin Cancer Prevention Act (Bill 74) on April 26, 2012, with the goal of protecting youth under the age of 18 from the dangers associated with indoor tanning by restricting youth access and requiring that all indoor tanning facilities post health warnings in clear view of customers.

On December 9, 2010, the Province of Nova Scotia passed Bill 102 - this bill effectively bans minors under 19 from indoor tanning.

On January 12, 2011, the Capital Regional District (CRD) of Victoria British Columbia passed Bylaw No.3711. The bylaw regulates the indoor tanning industry, and includes provisions to ban teens under 18 from using tanning beds in thirteen municipalities and two regional districts on lower Vancouver Island. The CRD staff reported that Vancouver, Toronto and ten other Canadian cities have expressed interest.

As of July 2012, the provinces of British Columbia, Quebec and Newfoundland have also announced plans to ban minors from indoor tanning.

In the fall of 2012, Canadians MP's will be voting on Private Member's Bill C-386 tabled by conservative MP James Bezan in an attempt to ban tanning beds for those under 18 years of age, and strengthen warning labels on tanning beds for Canadians of all ages.


  1. This was such a great read - thank you! I even bookmarked it to come back to later. I too was shocked when I saw those H&M ads (if those are what you're talking about). It was way beyond tan, it was almost like they were aliens! I'm very yellow-toned and look sickly and terrible when I'm ghostly pale (which I am because of daily sunscreen use), so I use a "glow lotion" daily. I really do think that tones of some people's skin (like us of Greek descent!) make them look better with some color, but I cannot for the life of me understand why people still acquire this color in the most dangerous way possible. There are so many affordable, sophisticated fake-tanners out there...there is absolutely no need to burn yourself to a crisp, I have no idea why it still appeals!

    1. I'm so glad you liked it! I was a little intimidated at first by this subject. Even if it has been approached so many times before, there is still much more to say about it. It will most likely be revisited. I was referring to another store chain and had completely forgotten about the H&M ads. To see sun worship promoted in such a big way is quite disturbing. I myself can't really tan. Even when I was a lifeguard at a local pool, I was just lightly colored by the end of summer. I don't tan easily so why force it? When I did try it, I ended up physically sick every time. You're so right about the new formulations of fake-tan, bronzers and lotions. I wouldn't want to see myself as dark as in those ads but for a touch of color, those are perfect and the result is, in my opinion, more elegant. :D

    2. See, I told you I'd be back to read it again! I really think there can't be enough information on the subject....after all, seeing 10 articles about a subject really does make more of an impression than one article, no matter how good. It shows that sun protection is becoming more normal and mainstream, which is awesome!
      I'm of Greek descent so I tan very easily, but am also genetically screwed when it comes to cancer - all of my grandparents and both of my parents had it; my mom had skin cancer removed from her leg at age 16! So ever since I learned that, I'm very careful in the sun.

    3. just noticed that I keep banging on about being Greek...sorry! people are always surprised that I'm so warm-toned even though I'm white, so I'm used to explaining the Greek thing.

  2. Oh my! It must be so tempting for someone who tans easily to just let go. I'm of French descent, that would be the North and not the South since I'm so pale. As a teen, my nickname was "Aspirine" wich is the other name of Bayer's for headaches. Those are "white" pills.... Looking at my legs today reminded me of that name. So glad you're taking the right measures to protect your skin. Fortunately, light skinned people don't stand out as much these days and let's hope we totally take over one day! :D

    1. Hehe, before I discovered self-tanners I was known as "vampire". Yay for the pale revolution :)


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