Monday, January 08, 2007

Anthelios, Why Did You Betray Me?

I've mentioned before about my near-obsessive use of sunscreen. I apply sunscreen (or at the very least, a moisturizer with SPF) every single day, rain or shine, whether I'm stuck in bed all day or lounging on the beach. There are a few reasons behind this: first, I have very pale skin and spent the first 18 summers of my life almost entirely outside, rebelling against my mother by refusing to wear sunscreen, and I know that I'm going to pay for it later, so I'm trying to undo the damage. Second, I'm using Retin-A Micro to treat mild acne and prevent pre-mature aging, and this makes my already sun-sensitive skin even more prone to burning and skin cancer. Finally, I've conceded that I'll never be able to tan naturally, as my skin's only two color options seem to be "Ivory" and "Tomato". So why even try?

After doing a lot of research on sunscreen effectiveness and comparing various sunscreens to see which worked best for my skin type, I found a product that served me well through manys long, hot, sticky commute during my internship this summer in New York: Shiseido's Ultimate Sun Protection Face Cream with SPF 50. The sunscreen did double duty as a mattifyer and sunscreen, and no matter how much I sweated (and sweat I did), it never came off. As an added bonus, it helped my makeup stick to my face far better than any other product I'd tried, preventing the dreaded makeup meltdown that often occurs in hot weather.

I loved my Shiseido, but as the weather cooled off and my skin adjusted, the Shiseido began drying me out. I needed a new sunscreen. It was then that I heard about L'Oreal acquisition of the patent for Mexoryl, a chemical that had previously been unavailable in the U.S. due to FDA restrictions. Mexoryl is the most effective sunblocking agent in the world, and it lasts almost all day long, whereas most sunscreens lose effectiveness after 2 hours (you can read more about that here). Finally, in November 2006, L'Oreal came out with Anthelios SX, under their La Roche Posay brand. Although the name reminded me of one of Paris Hilton's Greek shipping heir boyfriends, I wasnt discouraged, and I added it to the top of my Christmas list (yes, I asked for sunscreen for Christmas, I am a big dork).

I waited for a little over a week to try it, because I wanted to wait for a day when I'd be in the sun for a long time, just to see how it worked. Last week while I was still in Michigan visiting my family for break, I had a job interview in Cincinnati, and I figured that the 5 hour drive would be a good time to try it out. If you didn't already know this, your skin is exposed to UVA rays (the cancer causing kind) even when you're near windows during the day. I applied the Anthelios that morning and liked what I saw; it was a nice consistency, unscented, and didn't sting my dry skin when I applied it. I had high hopes for my little chemical-laden friend.

But when I reached my hotel that evening and finally looked in the mirror, I was shocked. My skin was blotchy and covered with dry, red patches. Anthelios!

Of course, I had forgotten my allergy medications, my good makeup remover, my many sensitive skin moisturizers... everything except for Cetaphil cream, which (for some unknown reason) made my skin even more red and irritated. I normally carry a backpack full of beauty supplies when I go on trips, but I thought that was overdoing it for a quick overnight trip. Moral of the story: always overpack, because the day you don't, you'll need everything you left behind.

The next day I was able to cover up most of the redness with concealer and powder, though I still looked a bit blotchy. And my interview went fine, despite my seriously uncomfortable skin. I wish I could have written a raving review about Anthelios SX, the holy grail of American sunscreens, but our relationship was simply not meant to be. When the weather warms back up and my skin is less sensitive overall, I'll give it another go (on a weekend I'm not leaving the house, of course) and let you know how it fares. Until then, it's back to subpar sun protection for me.

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