Here in Australia we (well the natural side of the market) have an obsession with zinc-only sunscreens and as such I have spent much of the last three years working on various ways to marry a  high SPF with a great skin feel.  While it is possible to tick both boxes it isn’t easy and that’s why I occasionally resort to showing my clients some Asian magic.


When it comes to sunscreen elegance I’ve never failed to be impressed by what comes out of Asia and more specifically Japan.   In Japan sunscreens are quasi drugs and as such are regulated much more closely than general cosmetics.  Laws in Japan mean that you can claim whatever SPF you can validate (Australia currently has a limit of SPF 30 plus but is close to changing that to SPF 50 plus) and so it is common to find products offering SPF 50, 60 and even 100 which, in reality  is  more than most of us would ever need but very reassuring.  On top of that Japan uses the PA method to communicate UVA protection  and is derived by measuring the delayed  pigmentation changes occurring after sun exposure.  PA levels range from +, ++ and +++ with +++ offering the best protection.

One of the best zinc dominant sunscreens that I’ve found from this region is from the Kao Corp (another is from Shiseido)  as it is light weight, ghosting-free and has an SPF of 50 plus.  So what has it got that my zinc sunscreens havent?

Plenty!

Japan has to be the home of skin tactic silicone technology and while My Australian customers are after ‘natural’ the  Japanese are more interested in the feel and there is nothing quite like silicone for that light, oil-free touch.

On top of that the top Japanese brands know the value of blending actives and while the lead UV filter is zinc it is supported the synthetic workhorse ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate – a commonly used UVB filter and a little bit of titanium dioxide to boot!

Protection is also increased monumentally by the help of a few choice film forming technologies of while none are natural!   This one contains functional silicones and acrylamide polymers.

Further the emollients used (the feel enhansers) include the synthetic-but-silky-feeling PEG-12 Dimethicone and dry feeling hydrogenated polyisobutene.

Of course this product does contain some natural ingredients including a chamomile extract to help whiten the skin (whitening sunscreens are not something that Australian regulators encourage)  not the bits that make this product feel so amazing which leaves me with a dilemma!

So far I can report that it has been possible to get an all natural zinc sunscreen with a lighter touch but getting beyond SPF 30 without resorting to some kind of synthetic polymer has proved a challenge too far for me at least!

So, my question is does it really matter?

Is SPF 30, all natural but not-quite-so-elegant enough or do we want the whole Japanese experience?  Only you can answer that and when you do, I’ll be waiting with my homogeniser and spatula!

Whatever you do play safe!

Ingredients: water, cyclopentasiloxane, zinc oxide, alcohol, dimethicone, ethyl hexyl methoxycinnamate,  PEG-12 Dimethicone, hydrogenated polyisobutene, glycerine, poly silicone-9, lauryl methacrylate/ sodium methacrylate cross polymer, magnesium sulfate, methyl gluceth-20, methicine, dimethicone/vinyl dimethicone cross polymer, dextrin palmitate, squalene, tocopherol, tocopherol, cetyl dimethicone, fragrance, aluminium hydroxide, silica, chamomile flower extract,  sodium hyaluronate, orange fruit extract, lemon fruit extract, CI 77891. 

PS: It is interesting to note (maybe) that in the EU Titanium Dioxide is the preferred mineral sunscreen filter of choice rather than zinc.  From my perspective that would have been a whole lot easier to work with but somewhere somebody told us all it had to be zinc.  Dam that idiot!!!!