Buro. Beauty Day: Holly Thaggard, Supergoop!'s founder, answers all our readers' sunscreen questions
Burning questions, literally
Stuck in a sunscreen-is-too-greasy or too-thick mindset? Or maybe you're feeling like sunscreen is just plain messy to slap on prior to makeup. We've all been there and founder of Supergoop!, Holly Thaggard, has heard it all.
Heartwrenched by a friend's encounter with skin cancer, Thaggard created Supergoop!, a sunscreen brand with breakthrough sunscreen products that anyone can easily integrate into their daily skincare routines — we're talking about sunscreens that are completely undetectable under your makeup, that moisturise your skin simultaneously, and mattify your complexion.
Kicking off Buro. Beauty Day –– an ultimate beauty junkie's playground where we saw a full day of online beauty workshops –– last weekend, Thaggard, served us the dos and don'ts of sunscreen, sun damage and blue light protection. She also debunked some of commoon SPF myths –– including the effectiveness of SPF 50 versus 100, and SPF oral supplements (Spoiler alert? Both are pretty much useless). All in a nutshell: you need proper SPF and you have to reapply it throughout the day. Yup, turns out mum's incessant nagging about reapplying sunscreen is now (sadly) justified.
Below, your guide to all-things sunscreen. P.S. if you didn't find an answer to your sunscreen question here, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Tap or rub your sunscreen in?
Question 1 from Stella Tan: "Hello! What is the best way to apply sunscreen, by tapping in or rubbing in?"
Holly Thaggard: The most important thing to remember is to apply it generously. So, I think where people don't get enough of the SPF for the claim, is when they apply it very sparingly and you might rub it in and think that you are getting more coverage than you are, so often I use a beauty blender even. I taught my daughter when she was like 3, 4, 5, [and] she would sit at her little dressing table with a beauty blender and tap in our Everyday Play formula.
I think that's the method: it's more so about how generously you apply it than it is whether you enjoy tapping it on or rubbing it in. But one of the other secrets that I love to share is: when you feel like you've applied it and you've applied it perfectly, do it again. It's that little bit of -- you didn't get it on quite generously enough for the protection you feel that you may have... just do it twice and then you know that you have that protection that's needed. But I use a beauty blender and my daughter does too, so we love that.
Different indoor versus outdoor sunscreens?
Question 2 from Marco Loureiro: "Holly for yourself, do you use a specific type of sunscreen for indoors vs when you go outdoors?
Holly Thaggard: You know, I make sure every morning that I have two –– at minimum –– two layers on. One, a moisturising formula which I love, Superscreen. But for anybody with more acne-prone or sensitive skin, Zincscreen is right there as a counterpart to that.
And then, I think the most important second step is to make sure you have something for blue light protection and infrared radiation –– which is simply the heat rays that come from your blow dryer or anything that causes warmth. So, Mattescreen or Unseen or Glowscreen, those are three options that you can choose your favourite based on how you want the finish of your skin to look. Unseen is completely undetectable, Glowscreen gives you a dewy, glowy sort of beautiful never greasy finish. And then Mattescreen gives you more of a matte finish.
And then you know, always make sure it's in your bag to reapply because I can't not stress the importance of reapplying your SPF, it's just a total non-negotiable. That's when the sun damage happens. It's like four hours later, you're running outside and think you are safe because you applied in the morning but unfortunately all SPF degrades when it's exposed to sunlight. Either Defense Refresh or Powder –– have something in your bag that you can dust on or mist right over your makeup.
SPF 50 or 100?
Question 3 from Brenda Lim: I've read that the maximum protection you can get is SPF50 –– any higher numbers are negligible. Is that true and what's the difference between e.g. SPF50 and SPF100?
Holly Thaggard: Yes, there's no need to go above 50, absolutely no need to go above 50. The thing about this is that every SPF has to be reapplied every 3-4 hours when it's exposed to direct sunlight. Whether it's a 50, a 70 or a 100. And the ingredients that are necessary to increase it over to 100 are often irritating to the skin and damaging and just not necessary. So our sweet spot is an SPF 30 to a 50.
And what's way more important is applying it generously to begin with and then just reapplying throughout the day, you know whenever you are outside and exposed to the sun. You know, the sun is a carcinogen and we have to respect it. I love the sun, I am like a true... I love the warmth, I love the feel of it but I also respect the sun and realise the importance of protecting my skin and that just means reapplication throughout the day.
Applying SPF on wounds?
Question 4 from Amy Leong: Hi there beautiful people! I have a skin infection and a visible wound that is still healing on the side of my face, will SPF be good to mitigate radiation due to the sunny weather here.
Holly Thaggard: Yeah absolutely, even more so than skin that is not wounded because of the scarring potential. So, what I would suggest is a 100% mineral formula, a physical product. Zincscreen, Bright-Eyed around your eye area. I would suggest that you reach for the powder to reapply. And literally if you have a wound, you cannot apply too frequently –– I mean, keep the sun protection, you do not want that wound at all exposed to the sun.
It's not just from a scarring but from a healing perspective, it's super, super important to ––you know, my son he's 12 and he just keeps getting stitches in different places like his leg (he jumps a bike around).
It's just like non-stop drama here: we are going to the ER and getting stitches. Thankfully, I have two physicians in my family that we can now just take him down the street and he can get stitched up. And the number one most important thing you do –– he knows that anytime there is any sort of wound that we are going to be putting zinc right over that and it is regularly going to be reapplied. Despite the fact that he tells me it's kinda cool for a boy to have like scars and I'm like, "No". You know? I'm like "No".
Effects of blue, sun light and heat?
Question 5 from Renee Ong: Hi Holly! Is there a difference between the effects of blue light, sun light and the heat from let's say our hair dryer, on our skin?
Holly Thaggard: So blue light: what we found in our research is that it causes inflammation in the skin and that causes everything that we don't like about our skin from uneven skin tone, to redness, to irritation. Unseen Sunscreen is our number one SPF in the United States. And what we have found and relied on is the red algae ingredient, which is an ingredient found in the oceans that helps to prevent that.
Infrared radiation is more about the heat rays and the warmth that we feel from exposure to the sun, and we often rely on a complex of antioxidants that protect from the infrared radiation and the heat rays that come from your dryer or the sun or whatnot.
So, when we think about formulas, we go into like, "What do we want to protect from?" Because it's just not just UV rays, aging rays and UVB burning rays, it's also the infrared radiation, heat rays, and the blue lights that we are exposed to from our screens. And so we kind of try to wrap all of that up into a package that delivers the most protection. Pollution is another one –– because pollution is real and it causes inflammation and causes what we don't like about our skin. And in the case of Superscreen and Zincscreen, which are our two hydration products, pollution is at the top of mind in both of those.
How to reapply sunscreen over makeup?
Question 6 from Ong Shi Ting: Hi Holly, I understand that reapplying your sunscreen is super important. But I'm sure that people do see it as a hassle + it is uncomfortable on the skin due to the humidity in Singapore. Is there a product from Supergoop! that can help mitigate the concerns above?
Holly Thaggard: Absolutely! And this is the number one question I am most asked in my life: "How do I reapply in the day when I have makeup on and I don't want to mess up my makeup?" I think Defense Refresh, which is our mist and it was the first mist ever in this world –– I was going to say country –– but we are the first makeup setting mist to ever deliver a way to reapply your SPF 50 right over your face, and also matifying it and controlling the shine that you might be having mid-day (because that's the other problem that we were having in the afternoons).
I think the alternative to that is our 100% Mineral Resetting Powder, so that's more of a mattifying powder that you brush on. It's kind of, again, pick your preference but those are two very good ways of reapplying your SPF in the afternoon. And it's so necessary if you've applied correctly in the morning, come after 12 o'clock, reach in your bag and find a way to reapply.
Oral sunscreen pills, whatchu think?
Question 7 from Qistina Tajuddin: How effective are SPF supplements that claim to replace sunscreen?
Holly Thaggard: No [laughs]. They're not. I think it's super important to take your vitamin D, I don't think vitamin D has to come from the sun but I think also important to note that it really only takes 5 or 10 minutes of exposure to the sun to get the maximum amount of vitamin D in your body. And actually, it degrades after that point in time. So, you know, if you stay out 30 minutes, when you get the maximum amount at 10 or 15 minutes, it starts to actually degrade. So, from a vitamin D perspective, it doesn't take that much. And we certainly don't need to get that vitamin D from our face because that's the most aging part of our body and something that we care about. If you really want to feel like you are getting those 10 minutes of vitamin D naturally from the sun, walk outside and expose your arms for 10 minutes.
And then, your question more specifically, talked about edible sunscreen, I mean, it's just not happening. There's nothing that any journal will tell you that an edible sunscreen will protect your skin from UVA or UVB burning rays.
Do tinted sunscreens clog pores?
Question 8 from Nicole Valeria Choo Jia Yi: Will sunscreen clog up more pores? Moreover when they are tinted?
Holly Thaggard: That's a great question, so I think again it goes back to what is your skin type. I think oftentimes –– and this is going to sound really controversial –– but mineral formulas because they sit on the top of your skin can cause more clogging of your pores than the chemical formulas.
Ours are clean chemicals that are not controversial, that absorb into the skin but when you think about it –– when you have a mineral formula that sits on the top of your skin, it traps the heat to your body it prohibits your pores from sweating naturally. Again, it depends on what your activities are that day but if you are out running and you put a mineral formula on, you're trapping the heat inside you body and you are prohibiting your pores from sweating naturally (which is what's supposed to happen when you run or bike or play tennis), then you can actually cause more of clogging pores.
There's not a one size fits all answer here. It's very custom and figuring out the secret of what is right for your skin and your body and the activities that you are engaging in every day. There are so many formulas.
Like my son, you cannot slow him down. He's so active and he wears Superscreen and Unseen Sunscreen, which are both clean chemical formulas, every single day. And his skin is beautiful, and fair and while our daughter who has a little bit more sensitive skin wears Zincscreen everyday and, you know, she's not even quite that active. In fact, I have to push her out the door to take that walk.
So, I think it's really more about finding what's right for your life. And there's not a super easy answer for that. But, you should be mindful of the fact that mineral formulas sit on the top of the skin, they don't absorb in. And they can trap heat and they're not great for outdoor activities because they can make your body temperature warmer and they can also prohibit you from sweating oxidants naturally which is what we're meant to do in sports.
Wear sunscreen while working from home?
Question 9 from S: Is sunscreen indoors always non-negotiable? Even if your work desk is facing away from the window?
Holly Thaggard: Yeah, I mean if you're looking at a screen. If you're in bed with all your windows closed, it's not necessary [unless] you can see light and light is coming through the windows.
The interesting thing about UVA rays is that they come through the window in equal intensity. They will never tan your skin, they will never change the colour of your skin, and they are penetrating deeper than the UVB burning rays. They're present 12 months out of the year. And you guys, in your climate in Southeast Asia, don't necessarily need to think so much about the climate because it's warm year round. I've been to Singapore and Malaysia and I've been in your climate in January and it's still very warm but it's definitely something that you have to think about 12 months out of the year.
Sunscreen for the body, too?
Question 10 from Amanda: Hi Holly! Do you apply sunscreen for your body daily as well? How often should we reapply it?
Holly Thaggard: Yeah, right out of the shower. My two-step routine is Body Butter and Glow Oil. I love them both. You know these last few months, I've really been just applying Glow Oil because I can mist it on everywhere and it locks in the hydration. And I do it the second I get out of the shower, after my towel, and I mist it everywhere.
And you know, it depends on how much you want to stop aging. Like, I'm outside now a couple hours a day. I actually think I'm outside more than I was a year ago this time. Because it's my time to get away from the family in the house –– like, I just need my time. But it's super important that, you know, you protect from that incidental 5, 10 minutes of exposure when you get outside. So I think, Glow Oil locks in the hydration, it's not greasy, it feels amazing and it's something that feels great. That's the key to this whole thing about sunscreen –– find those products that you love, that feel amazing, that you wanna apply.
Supergoop! versus other sunscreens?
Question 11 from Isabelle Heinzel: What's Supergoop's unique selling point compared to other typical drugstore sunscreen?
Holly Thaggard: Yeah, you know I think what we have always done a great job of is being mindful of ingredients –– it all goes back to ingredients. And you know, we're not trying to create the most inexpensive SPF product, and we're not trying to get the SPF as high as 100 just so that you might think that your skin is well protected. For us, it's really about protecting our body's largest organ and if we can do that in ways that feel great on the skin, that are healthy, that are hydrating and nourishing and always protecting –– and in cool ways too.
I'd say like Glow Oil and Glow Stick and Unseen Sunscreen, these are things that you don't find at the drugstore. These are literally... because I dream about SPF and so these are ways that are crazy cool and unique. And that's always what I felt like is our unique point of difference.
And it's funny, I was on a podcast this week and we were talking about how in the early days, I spent so many days dreaming and creating our business profile, all of the pillars that I felt were really right for me. Sitting at Starbucks –– and it wasn't because I actually even drank coffee, in my 20s I didn't actually drink coffee –– I was so inspired by the way Starbucks had changed the way the world thought about coffee. They created lattes and Frappuccinos and now I love iced coffee. They created all these cool ways to have coffee. That's how much I think about SPF, like: "How do we create cool ways to put on SPF?" Like, a Glow Stick, Glow Oil, Unseen Sunscreen, or you know, Glowscreen –– all these different ways so you actually want to embrace them. And that's where I think our unique point of difference is.
And you know, people always ask me, "Does it freak you out that everyone is copying your formulas?" and I'm like "No, because I'm already on to the next one. I'm already thinking about what we need next." As long as they are focused on what we have already done, they're not focused on what could come out next.
How often should I reapply?
Question 12 from Kay: I apply SPF50 sunblock every morning no matter if I'm going outdoors or indoors. How often should I reapply after that –– for both indoors and outdoors scenarios? Do they differ?
Holly Thaggard: The general rule of thumb is to re-apply every two hours. For indoor or everyday use: perhaps you're running an errand, walking the dog, I would recommend either our Defense Refresh Setting Mist SPF 50 or our 100% Mineral Invincible Setting Powder SPF 45, which helps set makeup and refresh your SPF throughout the day.
If you're outdoors or swimming or sweating, I'd recommend a water-resistant and sweat-resistant such as Everyday Sunscreen SPF 50, which is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
Sunscreen on acne?
Question 13 from Qistina Tajuddin: Can you apply sunscreen on active acne breakouts?
Holly Thaggard: For acne-prone or oily skin, I usually recommend one of our mineral products, such as Zincscreen SPF 40 or our 100% Mineral Mattescreen SPF 40. 100% Mineral formulas are really great if you're having a breakout –– they're anti-inflammatory so they're going to reduce redness. Plus, wearing SPF when you have acnes is essential to protecting your skin from acne scars!
Sunscreen over makeup?
Question 14 from Christina Tang: I typically apply makeup (with SPF protection) over my sunscreen. do you have any recommendations for sunscreen reapplication products [or] methods which are kind to makeup?
Holly Thaggard: This is one of the most common questions!
We have developed two products for super easy SPF reapplication over makeup: Defense Refresh (Re)setting Mist SPF 40, and 100% Mineral Invincible Setting Powder (available in 4 shades). Both of these can be applied right over your makeup and will help set it in place, control shine and protect throughout the day!
Which sunscreen for my skin type?
Question 15 from Li Yen: Is there a ‘right' sunscreen for different skin types, i.e combination, dry, normal, etc.?
Holly Thaggard: There is no "one-size-fits-all" formula and we pride ourselves in having a product for everyone (that's every skin type, skin tone, skin concern, and lifestyle). This means we formulate with both chemical and mineral sunscreen actives depending on the usage scenario. Mineral-based formulas are perfect for kiddos and people with sensitive, acne-prone or reactive skin. Chemical formulas are great for people looking for completely invisible SPF, next-level textures, hydration + moisture, and SPF for high intensity/ high sweat activities.
No matter which type of product you choose, you can be assured that every product is thoughtfully formulated to meet the highest quality, efficacy and safety standards, because we're all about that perfect balance. Our list of ingredients to avoid is constantly evolving and we always avoid any controversial, potentially harmful, or toxic ingredients whether they're from natural OR synthetic sources.
Physical sunscreens for sensitive skin?
Question 16 From Alison: Are physical sunscreens better for sensitive skin as compared to chemical sunscreens?
Holly Thaggard: The short answer is yes. Zinc Oxide is a natural anti-inflammatory and is super gentle on the skin. Mineral sunscreens work as a physical defence from the sun, where the sunscreen stays on top of the skin to protect it –– imagine putting on a jacket. These are great for those with acne-prone or sensitive skin, or for children, who tend to have sensitive skin. Our Zincscreen SPF 40 was formulated for those with super-sensitive skin in mind, and can be a great option if you find your skin is easily irritated.
All this being said, all of our formulas (mineral and clean chemical) are created without parabens, synthetic fragrances, Oxybenzones, Phthalates and hundreds of other controversial and irritating ingredients. Many people come to us and share that our chemical formulas were the first chemical formulas that didn't irritate or upset their skin!
Active ingredients in sunscreens?
Question 17 From J G: Hi Holly! Thanks so much for your sharing! I noticed that Supergoop! sunscreens don't have the usual key sunscreen ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Can you share more about the active ingredients in Supergoop!?
Holly Thaggard: There are two families of sunscreens: chemical and mineral SPF. We create both clean chemical formulas, which contain actives such as homosalate, avobenzone, and octisalate. We also formulate 100% mineral formulas, which include titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. We pair the most efficacious ingredients and actives to make sure each product feels great on the skin and protects you.
Sunscreens suitable for Singapore's climate?
Question 18 From Li Yen : What is your recommended top 3 products for Singapore's climate?
Holly Thaggard: I'll recommend Unseen Sunscreen which is lightweight and totally invisible with SPF 40 that leaves a velvety finish, Everyday Sunscreen which is oil-free, fast-absorbing and lightweight suitable for both face and body. For easy reapplication and keeping refresh throughout the day, Defense Refresh Setting Mist SPF 50 will be ideal. If you like a mineral formula, our Zincscreen SPF 40 is great for oily, acne-prone skin, followed up by 100% Mineral Invincible Setting Powder to lock in makeup and reapply throughout the day.
Editor's Note: Three of you have won yourself an Unseen Sunscreen each! Do check your email inbox for our team has dropped in with a winning email.