The Case for High-End SPF

Because we're talking about your skin, here.

When you buy high-end, you expect quality. In skincare, it's seen in a product’s ingredients list—unique oils, extracts and vitamins. You feel it as you apply each eye serum or night cream and it is later reflected in the glow of your complexion.

But what about less advanced skincare? Not serums or toners or body oils, but SPF. It’s something you should apply to your face every day, in every season, and to the rest of your body when you’re spending hours out in the sun. There’s a justifiable reason to buy a $55 single-ounce bottle from a luxury retailer like Chanel, even when you can grab a 10-ounce bottle of generic sunscreen at the drugstore for eight bucks.

Most of those generic sunblocks contain two chemicals (oxybenzone and avobenzone) that are absorbed by the body says Heather Rogers, M.D., a Seattle-based dermatologist. Besides causing a chemical buildup in your body, your skin may be sensitive to avobenzone, whereas oxybenzone contributes to the death of coral reefs as it enters the ecosystem.

Instead, Rogers suggests using SPF products with zinc oxide—a key ingredient of many high-end facial SPFs—which “provides the best, broadest UVA and UVB sun protection.” Some zinc oxide products will leave you with a stubborn layer of chalky white residue, but better quality SPFs also contain iron oxide nanoparticles, which allow you to blend in the product fully. “It’s taken time and money for researchers to include zinc in high enough percentages that protect from the sun without making you chalky,” Rogers says. 

It’s also important to look for products that offer broad-spectrum UV protection. These protect you from both kinds of UV rays—UVA rays that can lead to wrinkles and dark spots and UVB rays that cause sunburn and damage your skin’s DNA. If it’s not broad spectrum SPF, it probably only blocks UVB rays; the same can be said of titanium oxide, which doesn’t provide broad-spectrum coverage like zinc oxide.

Here are five to try: