The insider guide to sun protection: Supergoop founder, Holly Thaggard, on the best sunscreens, strongest formulas, and more

The insider guide to sun protection: Supergoop founder, Holly Thaggard, on the best sunscreens, strongest formulas, and more

Sunny side up

Text: Emily Heng

Image: Instagram | @supergoop

Crazy as it sounds, sunscreen was once considered optional in many a skincare savant's routine. And not just that — some even opted to forego SPF with the aim of a sun-kissed glow, diving into tanning beds and crisping up under the sun to make it happen, and quick. Thankfully, much like Jennifer Love Hewitt in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, the beauty community eventually wised up to the necessity of SPF.

It is a movement embraced by Holly Thaggard, who took her commitment one step further by developing a prestige skincare brand dedicated 100% to suncare: Supergoop.

"My SPF obsession began after a close friend was diagnosed with skin cancer at age 29," she confesses. "I learned that it was the most common type of cancer in the U.S., and that it was largely preventable if you just did one thing: wear sunscreen daily, which people didn't want to do because it didn't feel good." This led Thaggard's entry into the beauty industry, a journey spanning 12 years and counting that has earned her the title of Sunscreen Queen. It seems only fitting, then, that we ask her all our burning (heh) questions on SPF, from the essential areas of application to the necessity of oral sunscreen. Get ready to be (sun) schooled.

Tell me about your first brush with sunscreen.
I'm sure it wasn't dissimilar to what a lot of people's first encounters with it are like — I thought it was sticky, smelly, and definitely not that enjoyable or luxurious to wear. My own experiences with SPF played a big part in what inspired me to change the way the world thinks about sunscreen!

When did you first start putting on sunscreen?
I wore sunscreen growing up when I was at the beach, but I didn't wear it head-to-toe, every day. In fact, during this time there weren't even really products out there that you could wear every day – or that you'd want to wear every day. I also wasn't properly educated on the importance of SPF during this time. In fact, it wasn't until my friend was diagnosed with skin cancer in our 20s that I started studying up on SPF and how important it was to be wearing it every single day.

Why the name Supergoop? What does it mean?
When I was testing lab samples for our first formula, I referred to the samples as "goop". And once I received the formula that I felt was exactly right, I called it "Supergoop". It ended up having a nice, fun ring to it, and then I added the exclamation mark at the end as a way to complement the more serious side and mission of the brand. Just try not to smile when you say it! Our formulas are clean, feel-good skincare and beauty essentials that make wearing protective ingredients easy, fun, and something you'll love to do. Every. Single. Day.

What are some common misconceptions people have about sunscreen?
I'd say one of the main misconceptions would be that sunscreen is only needed when you're directly under the sun (UVAs and UVBs). But, you're exposed to other harmful rays even if you're indoors such as more UVAs, blue light, and infrared. People also tend to forget about sun-sensitive spots — namely your hands, eyes, lips and ears. That's why we've developed formulas that play nicely with them.

Do people often get confused about the differences between chemical and mineral sunscreens?
Yes! This is how you can differentiate them easily: a mineral sunscreen acts as a shield, bouncing UV rays away from your skin. A chemical sunscreen, on the other hand, absorbs them so your skin doesn't. By nature, chemical formulas are weightless, sometimes clear and they let your skin breathe. Mineral ones can be thicker because they're made up of small white sunscreen actives that sit more on top of the skin; because of this, they're better for more sensitive or acne-prone skin types. I wouldn't say one is better than the other, which is why we make both 100% mineral and clean chemical formulas. it really depends on the type of sunscreen you're looking for.

What do you think of oral sunscreen?
I would never recommend someone use oral sunscreen instead of topical sunscreen, as everything we know still points to the fact that topical sunscreen is the number one thing you can do to keep your skin safe from skin cancer and premature aging.

How about sweat- and water-resistant sunscreens?
Sunscreen can be water-resistant for 40 to 80 minutes — and in order to claim that, it has to be clinically tested. While they definitely work, I always suggest reapplying generously and frequently so as not to take any chances, especially after you've been in the water. Both mineral and chemical sunscreens can be water-resistant, and neither is bad for your skin or pores when you're using SPF with clean ingredients, like Supergoop's.

What would you say is the most challenging part about developing sunscreen?
There are so many challenging nuances when it comes to SPF... stabilising the ingredients, formulating it in packaging that's compatible with it (and the environment), and much more. But here at Supergoop we also vow that every SPF we make is the perfect combination of clean, feel-good, innovative, and effective. And striking that perfect balance is not necessarily easy.

Would you say that makeup with SPF is the future of the beauty industry? Can all makeup be formulated with SPF?
I sure think it should be! But speaking of challenges, developing a formula with both SPF and clean color ingredients presents a big challenge as sunscreen actives naturally compromise the properties of makeup products. So, it takes a special mission-driven team (like us) that's committed to figuring out these nuances and delivering the SPF you need — which is broad spectrum SPF 30 to 50, by the way, in the colour products that you want.

You've done SPF makeup. What is next?
I love that the world is finally catching onto the importance of wellness. Trends seem to be pointing more and more towards proactive prevention and all-things related to self-care, versus thinking about things from a "how do I repair damage?" perspective. That being said, the sky's the limit when it comes to the future of sun protection! Our team at Supergoop is excited to continue developing innovative SPF products that make it easy (and fun) to wear SPF every single day.

What is one Supergoop product you'd recommend Singaporeans?
It would definitely be Zincscreen 100% Mineral Face Lotion. Due to it being lightweight, Zincscreen is perfect for the hot and humid weather in Singapore. The formula is also clean, safe, non-nano, UV-protecting, and nourishing, but also one that would easily blend into a wider range of skin tones and shield your skin from other aggressors aside from the sun, like blue light and pollution.