By Hadassah Agbaps - January 19, 2015

Hi people, what's been on?

It's been a while since I talked about anything skincare.

This is because lately my acne prone sensitive skin has been in a good place until I ran out of sunscreen.

I've been using organic skincare products which I make myself because I noticed less irritation using them and I could actually be sure what exactly went into them.

So why do I need a sunscreen, you may ask?
 Were we not surviving without it and didn't God give us a natural sun barrier by means of our melanin rich dark skin?

Yes to all questions.

....but you see, as a woman, I really don't appreciate my skin looking like patchwork.

Let me explain.

I never really cared about sun protection until I was in university. In Abuja, it seemed like the sun was given free rein to roam and strike. On some months it was so hot, that the popular joke was it cost only N20 to go from Abuja to hell!

I still wasn't fazed until I came back home after a tough day at school, jumping from lecture hall to lecture hall.
I bounced into the shower for a much needed cool bath and then as I was preparing to get dressed, I caught myself in the full length mirror and was shocked at what I saw.

There was a very solid line of demarcation between my head, my arms, my feet (which were usually unprotected by clothing) and the rest of my body.

The operative word : Tan lines!

Being dark skinned already, tanning was not in my beauty list!
 It was obvious the sun had given me what I didn't need.
On closer inspection, I noticed that my exposed throat and chest area were not only dark but red and leathery!
Not only that, I also noticed that the sun also darkened post acne scars. (Acne sufferers will understand this better).

 I quickly sought solutions and came up with five ....

- Stay completely out of the sun ( impossible as a student)

- Get sun protection using wide brimmed hats (ridiculous!), umbrellas ( so silly!) and sunscreen (more realistic!)

- Soothe sunburn using cold compress ( PHCN won't allow me be great) and aloe vera gel (bingo!)

- Lighten darkened areas using hydroquinine ( not likely), arbutin , kojic acid (huh???) and pastes made with lime, milk , turmeric or honey ( can do!)

- Exfoliate dark skin away ( I'm sure Nigerians will win an award for exfoliation...seriously, who doesn't have a rough sponge???)

So, I started with getting a sunscreen. I got Neutrogena moisturiser with sunscreen.

....and promptly reacted to it. I developed painful, itchy rashes and blistersvon my face, neck, chest, and back of my hands.

I told my dad ( a doctor) and he advised me to discontinue immediately. I  gave it to my sister who used it without problems and even repurchased.

I still didn't think much of it considering it just one of the products my skin reacts badly to.
After a while when my skin was much better, I decided to get something more for sensitive skin so I bought Fruit of the Earth Vitamin E daily Defense Moisturiser in Spf 15

........and  the rashes still came!

I gave up my search and decided to go for lightening up my tan lines.....naturally, of course!
 I didn't want to try myself and I observed first hand the development of unsightly stretch marks and dark splotches on a regular user of hydroquinone and steroid lightening products!
Heck, no!!!

 So every evening before bed, I added a tea made up of orange peels and vinegar to my bath water. I noticed slight fading of the tan line but only knew how well it worked when my roomie insisted I made the tea for her bath as I rejoiced in finding a winning formula.

P.S. I use it only in the evening/night because citrus extracts can cause phytophotodermatitis. This is a cutaneous phototoxic reaction resulting from exposure of furanocoumarins found in citrus fruits, and the sun.

I kept on that way until a search for natural sunscreen alternatives lead me to zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
I then recalled that there was this methylated powder in a tin container for heat rashes that had zinc oxide as one of the main ingredients and promptly bought it.

It seemed to do the trick but the problem was it made my face ashy! I had to do my research again.......

Still not knowing exactly what about the sunscreens I used gave me rashes, providence finally gave me a clue!

My mother bought a pack of Chapsticks lipbalms with Spf.

My sisters used it, no problem. I used it and soon enough, the rashes developed around my lips. It was embarrassing because some thought they were cold sores.
Luckily for me, the ingredient list was basic with petroleum jelly, octinoxate and oxybenzone as the active ingredients ( see why it is important for manufacturers to write a full ingredients list?).

I went back to the store and looked at the ingredients lists of the sunscreens I'd purchased before and sure enough, they (oxybenzone and co.) were there!

If you have sensitive skin like mine, it will be beneficial to avoid sunscreen containing chemicals like
- Oxybenzone
- Avobenzone
- Padimate
- Octinoxate

and opt instead for sunscreens ( called sunblocks) containing active ingredients like
- Zinc oxide
- Titanium oxide

The allergy causing sunscreen agents may appear with chemical names other than the ones shown. I learnt this the hard way when I bought an organic sunblock with spf50 which contained titanium and zinc oxides as the active ingredients.

 Down the list, there seemed to be no triggers until I used it and wait for it, developed rashes all over the areas I applied it to. I was shocked!

I looked through the ingredient lists again and gbam....there was oxybenzone under the chemical name benzophenone 3!

For more information about suncreens, uses and their ingredients , please read this article EWG 2014 Sunscreen guide

However, still stubborn about using a sunscreen (because I noticed that it did protect my skin from the sun and reduce the darkening of exposed areas), I discovered SebaMed Suncreen for very sensitive skin and so far so good, no problems.

My issue with this sunscreen is while it does a very good job of preventing unnecessary tanning, it leaves an ashy, greasy film which I have to cover with brown powder and most times, I'd prefer to do without powder.
I also don't like the smell. In a bid to be fragrance free (to reduce allergies) it has an unpleasant sometimes clinical smell.

I've finally embraced the umbrella.
It's cool after all ( I got a pretty animal print one from Mango). It saved me from an unexpected out of season shower ( I was the only one not dodging the rain. It was like I had the superhero power of predicting the future...wait...maybe I do....).
 It also prevents me from squinting in the sun. (Have you noticed the angry scowl of people when it's sunny?).

So I'm still on the lookout for organic all natural sunscreen with a zinc base, that not only smells nice but isn't greasy, oily and will not leave an ashy film on the skin!!!!

Update: I've finally scored in the lipbalm with sunscreen department. I'm currently using Maybelline Baby Lips in Berry and loving it! I got mine for N800 on Konga. Sun protection for my lips!!

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  1. This right here is the story of my life, not the the sunscreen part but in terms of moisturiser I've tried everything that has been said to work for intolerant facial skin and they all failed even shea butter, I'm currently using one hypoallergenic
    cream which seems to be working until recently I want to believe it's the weather sha.
    I guess I'll have to try out this sebamed sunscreen.

  2. Try porscelene. My sis got a tube for like 4k and this is the first sunscreen that hasnt given her issues with her acne prone skin. its light, and very non greasy and it works.

  3. Hey I know this is years later and I hope you're not still searching for the right sunscreen, hopefully you've scored one. I saw a dermatologist most of last year and the treatment plan she put me on included sunscreen. So far, the one she prescribed has lightened my acne scars and feels really good and I don't end up with a tan. It's also very good for sensitive skin (trust me, I would know). Anyway, it's Depiwhite.S (from ACM laboratories) Spf50. Anyway, in case you haven't come across it, it might work if you try.

    1. Please where can I buy the original ACM DEPIWHITE.S SUNSCREEN in Lagos. The doctor the attended to me for the treatment of melasma/hyperpigmentation on my face recommended it for me. Also I would like to know the one that's more effective and very good between the one in fuschia pink bottle and the one in white bottle. Thanks

    2. Hi there. So sorry I live in Abuja so I can't say for Lagos. Though even in Abuja it seems to be out of stuck. I've only used the one in the pink tube. I don't really know the difference between it and the one in the white tube. If you've got it please share where you got it from.


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