November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
sunscreen/sunblock questions
Display Avatars Sort By:
jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
sunscreen/sunblock questions on 05/26/2012 21:50:00 MDT Print View

I thought that I had this subject wired but now have more questions.

--I want titanium or zinc. Badger has a sunblock with 18-20% zinc, but nothing else, sunscreen formula wise.

--rei had a titanium sunscreen that now seems discontinued, that also had octinoxate, octiwhatever and another oxybenzone substance. I can't tell what the percentage of zinc is/was in this formula

--my main point being, in researching broad spectrum sunscreens, I've found some without titanium or zinc, but with the oxybenwhatever formulas; others with zinc or titanium and with some but not all of the non-metal ingredients; and then Badger, with zinc but none of the other brands' broad spectrum formula stuff.

I hope that my way of presenting this isn't confusing. I want a sunblock and don't really care about "whiteface" etc. I did just buy a tube of "new" rei sunblock with 2.6% zinc. It's frustrating because I can't tell if this is the same rei sunblock that I had been using under a different name ("extreme protection sunblock"), or if the formula has changed.

Anyway,is just zinc enough or do I want a blend of zinc/titanium (and what percentage?) with other substances? Or am i just trippin?

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: sunscreen/sunblock questions on 05/26/2012 23:05:25 MDT Print View

Chemically, the white sun blocking compounds are zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.


d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Re: sunscreen/sunblock questions on 05/27/2012 08:04:12 MDT Print View

I think there are some chemical sunblocks, but mostly sold in other countries (the chemical ones here are "sunscreens").

The highest protection I've found in a sunblock is Mexitan Tropical Sands UPF 50 (blend of titanium and zinc oxides). It is very white, but not really noticeably more so than the Badger brand which is lower UPF. There is one made by Devita that is UPF 30 that is zinc oxide; it's completely undetectable (i.e. no whiteness), so the zinc must be very micronized (the label does give a smaller particle size than other brands). Oh, I forgot - there's also a more expensive COTZ at UPF 58 but that's pretty greasy, and tinted (looks like makeup).

I've decided I want to stick with the titanium/zinc rather than the chemical ones because I don't have to worry about them losing effectiveness over time (either time on the shelf or time on my skin).

Edited by dkramalc on 05/27/2012 08:07:02 MDT.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"sunscreen/sunblock questions" on 05/27/2012 10:40:57 MDT Print View

Thanks, guys. Still wondering: better to get a formula with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide PLUS
the other stuff; or is zinc/titanium alone enough (i.e.Badger). Also, is 2.6% zinc along with the other stuff enough zinc--that's rei's new formula--or do I need to go higher on the zinc percentage? Hard to find answers on the internet.

D.K. seems to think that zinc/titanium alone is enough; thanks for the brand recommendations, I'll look into them.

Needless to say I also use a big hat. This is for my face alone; everything else is covered.
I recognize that I may be obsessing; still...

Edited by book on 05/27/2012 10:45:30 MDT.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
sunscreen/sunblock questions on 05/27/2012 14:44:59 MDT Print View

I have to use the zinc/titanium stuff alone; I'm allergic to all those other ingredients. Since there is now considerable questioning as to whether sunscreens really prevent skin cancer, I feel I'm better with something that actually shades the skin.

With any sunscreen, though, the important thing is (1) put it on really thick and (2) reapply frequently. One reason the above-mentioned questioning about skin cancer is in itself questioned is that most people don't do this--they put on a thin coat and go all day without reapplying.

Since I wear long sleeves, long pants and a Sunday Afternoons Adventure hat, the only time I need sunscreen is when I'm close to water or snow or in reflective areas above timberline.

Edited by hikinggranny on 05/27/2012 14:46:30 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: sunscreen/sunblock questions on 05/27/2012 15:58:36 MDT Print View

Zinc oxide or Ti oxide - a secondary consideration. Either will do.

I would worry far more about what other chemicals are also in the tube. Some of them are not good for your health, and some people (as Mary said) are actually allergic or badly affected by many of the chemicals. Why they are put in the mixtures is a good question - the cosmetic industry gone mad.

But you won't see much about this in the press - Big Chem (and Big Pharm) have some very well-oiled PR systems to hush it all up. (Yes - based on comments from several industry insiders who got out.)

A big hat and good sleeves - far safer for your skin. And don't forget - you need the vitamin D anyhow.


Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
I'm in to on 05/27/2012 23:00:05 MDT Print View

follow this thread. I usually wear covering over all of my skin. But you can't really cover the face. So, sunscreen is great for that purpose. My brother uses Neutrogena and swears by it. I used some a few weeks ago on an all day fishing trip with him. It worked great. I'll get back with the Neutorgena product when he gets back to me.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"sunscreen/sunblock questions" on 05/28/2012 10:21:37 MDT Print View

The Neutrogena has good reviews; if I remember right, no titanium/zinc though. It's "broad spectrum" so according to most it's good.

Mary's right about using lots--slather, don't dab! and re-apply. My current set up includes sun-grubbies and a Mountain Hardware sun shirt that I'm real happy with so far. Having always hiked in a capilene base I thought that the shirt would be too hot. Not so; also, it looks to be far better at repelling mosquitoes (looser, nylon) than capilene! Ditto the sun grubbies!

Still looking for answers about effective percentages of zinc/titanium...

Edited by book on 05/28/2012 10:28:16 MDT.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
sunscreen/sunblock questions on 05/28/2012 10:47:44 MDT Print View

Back in the "good old days" when they weren't including zinc oxide or titanium dioxide in sunscreens, I used plain old zinc oxide ointment. If you don't mind a clown face, it's still the cheapest and most effective sunblock around. The main problem is getting it off at night so it won't mess up the sleeping bag--it rubs off on everything. For a while you could get it in colors; I don't know if that's still possible.

I don't blame you for being concerned; my daughter-in-law just had most of her upper lip removed due to skin cancer (she's a landscaper).

Edited by hikinggranny on 05/28/2012 10:54:22 MDT.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"sunscreen/sunblock questions" on 05/28/2012 10:58:19 MDT Print View

Yes I have a nice little scar on my cheek due to removing a cancerous melanoma. Nothing huge but a real wake up call. Now I'm serious. Sorry about your daughter in law.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
sunscreen/sunblock questions on 05/28/2012 12:20:19 MDT Print View

If that's the case, I'd definitely suggest a nice thick layer of zinc oxide ointment! Best wishes to you!

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
It is on 05/28/2012 20:04:59 MDT Print View

Neutrogena - Ultra Sheer Dry Touch SPF 100. My brother says he has to wipe it off at the end of the day. When I used it I had to wash twice with soap to get it off. -Sure didn't look like I got any color after a full day on the water.

Edited by WarrenGreer on 05/28/2012 22:54:52 MDT.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"sunscreen/sunblock questions" on 05/28/2012 22:19:15 MDT Print View

Thanks, Warren. The Neutrogena gets great reviews. It doesn't have titanium/zinc, but is a full spectrum sunblock.

I'm going to try Fallene Total Block, because it has titanium/zinc AND some of the ingredients that Neutrogena and other brands use. Perhaps the best of both worlds. Good reviews. And expensive, so I'll only use it at altitude.


Locale: Western Michigan
***Sunscreen/Sunblock Evaluation*** on 05/29/2012 06:18:44 MDT Print View

The best sunscreen is a hat and a shirt. No chemicals for the skin to absorb, no questions about whether the product works, no bogus claims like “sunblock.” (No conventional product blocks out all rays. That’s why the FDA is trying to ban the term.)

But when you can’t avoid exposing your skin to the sun, use sunscreens with broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection but fewer hazardous chemicals that penetrate the skin. U.S. sunscreen makers are seeking FDA approval for UVA-screening chemicals approved for use in the European market.

Top-rated products contain either zinc or titanium minerals to filter UVA rays. They are the right choices for people who want the best UVA protection without any chemical considered to be a potential hormone disruptor.

For futher information on this subject check out:

Check out Neutrogena rating from this organization at:

Edited by KENLARSON on 05/29/2012 06:19:26 MDT.

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Re: "sunscreen/sunblock questions" on 05/29/2012 11:17:16 MDT Print View

Just to add: I use long sleeves (UPF garments), gloves, and a Sunday Afternoons hat, but still use sunscreen on my face and neck - depending on the angle of the sun, I still can get sun exposure there. I have used the Neutrogena stuff as well; it feels greasier and has (for me) an annoying fragrance, so I've been looking into the physical sunblock. I had a skin cancer a couple of years ago, so I am a little obsessed with the subject.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"sunscreen/sunblock questions" on 05/29/2012 13:22:11 MDT Print View

D.K.---obsessed; me too. Or rather: I want to get it right. I also use the Sunday Afternoon and a sun shirt/pants/hand grubbies. I find myself looking at people in hats to see how much or often the sun is on their faces; baseball caps are the worst: you think that you're shaded but you almost never are. Anyway, I nordic ski and snowshoe as well as backpack at altitude, and lap swim, so I'm always looking to cut down on exposure. Oh yes and driving four to five hours in sun each way to Tuolumne or any other trailhead! So yes I use sunblock AND the hat. Once bitten, twice shy.

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Re: "sunscreen/sunblock questions" on 05/29/2012 15:01:04 MDT Print View

What does your dermatologist say in terms of recommendations?

The Ecamsule/Mexoryl in Europe is supposed to be great, but not stable like physical screens; Neutrogena's avobenzone is also not stable for long periods.

Regarding other chemicals in sunscreen lotions, there's a great site: You can research there for most brands.

There is also a 40% zinc oxide cream that's sold as diaper rash ointment, in the baby section of the drug store - available in Desitin brand or store brand generic forms. It's very stiff to put on, but would probably be very water/sweat resistant (and of course is very white). I've used that on hands, neck.

For normal everyday outings I've been using the Devita on my face with a little of the Mexitan 50 UPF mixed in, which I'm approximating gives me around 35-40 UPF and only looks minimally white. I have also taken some of the Mexitan and mixed a small amount of a colored Revlon Age Defying makeup (UPF 25, uses zinc oxide) so that it looks less white (kind of like the more expensive Cotz). Have used that for a few day hikes recently, it seems to work OK. I use the Mexitan undiluted on my neck for daytime/day hikes. I'm not sure what I will do for backpacking and other longer exposure activities; I'm not entirely certain I won't sweat off the Mexitan, since I haven't worn it in hot weather yet. I'm still in the "testing" phase as far as figuring out what works best.

Sierra Trading Post is a great source for UPF clothing! Have gotten Royal Robbins UPF 50 shirts and pants there for pretty cheap. Coolibar has a nice selection of clothing for active sports as well as everyday stuff (I use their sun gloves). They also have sun bandanas (good for protecting the neck) and scarves (I keep a scarf and gloves in my car for driving).

Funny how having a chunk cut from your face will make you a true believer in all this stuff.


David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: "sunscreen/sunblock questions" on 05/29/2012 16:03:37 MDT Print View

Debbie: "Funny how having a chunk cut from your face will make you a true believer in all this stuff."

Me too. Two out of my face, one on my neck and two on my back. All basal cell which has a FAR better outlook than the melanoma my outdoorsy cousin had on his ear, which spread, and killed him at 41.

A few thoughts, having thought about this a lot, talked to numerous doctors (including my wife and a basal-cell specialist):

The derm guy had a expression that I liked: "roof, hat, shirt, sunscreen". Obviously I like being outdoors, but I have to admit that a roof is a better sunscreen than any clothing or SPF-900. I use that roof trick more in the south, especially in the tropics and even more so from 10 am to 2 pm.

He also pointed out that one should RUN OUT OF sunscreen if you're doing it right. The point is to USE IT UP and then get some more.

Sun exposure is a factor on a population basis (Celts in Australia get more skin cancer than Celts in the UK), but it doesn't explain all skin cancer. People want to know what they can do and shade and sunscreen is something doctors can tell you to do (whereas they can't change your genetics, your past sun exposure, or your chemical exposure).

I'm pretty middle-of-the-road on chemical exposure - for instance, I don't rant and rave about BPA in my Nalgene but I observe that WHO's deep wells in Bangledesh brought up a lot of Arsenic-contianing water and caused a lot of skin and organ cancers before they realized it. All 5 of my skin cancers were 12-24 months after living in a place with high Arsenic in the water. In my 51 years, all 5 landed in the same year?!? And now none for the last decade?!? From that temporal cluster, I conclude that FOR ME, I need to avoid Arsenic expsoure. YMMV.

My wife and I have a running joke about "a N of 1" referring to anecdotal evidence which is considered crap in medical circles. Medicos run their studies on 2,000 or 40,000 patients and have statistical power in that. In my work, I have to tease as much understanding as I can from very little data. Looking at my own face in mirror versus my exposure I note two trends: More veggies, especially the brightly colored and cruciferious ones (reportedly high in flavonoids and anti-oxidants), seems to help clear up the little scaly patches, the bits of weaker skin, the places the derm guy calls "pre-cancerous lesions.

The other, odder, trend is that some spots get worse in the winter only to get better in the summer (dramatic change in exposure in Alaska). My theory is that the exposure puts my skin into repair mode. I stress YMMV, but it is consistent for me.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Neutrogena on 05/31/2012 21:55:16 MDT Print View

Been using Neutrogena sunblock for years and I've found it has THE best protection. And Consumer Reports agrees, I might add.