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Vanicream Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ (2021 Reformulation)

Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ (2021 Reformulation)

Now reformulated for improved performance with only one active ingredient (zinc oxide). Water resistant (80 minutes). No botanical extracts or essential oils. Non-comedogenic (won't clog pores). Non-greasy, gluten-free and dermatologist tested.
Uploaded by: susiefu on

Vanicream Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ (2021 Reformulation)
Ingredients explained

What-it-does: sunscreen | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

When it comes to sunscreen agents, Zinc Oxide is pretty much in a league of its own. It's a physical (or inorganic) sunscreen that has a lot in common with fellow inorganic sunscreen Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) but a couple of things make it superior even to TiO2.

If physical sunscreens don't tell you anything, go ahead and read about the basics here. Most of what we wrote about Titanium Dioxide is also true for Zinc Oxide so we will focus here on the differences. 

The first main difference is that while TiO2 gives a nice broad spectrum protection, Zinc Oxide has an even nicer and even broader spectrum protection. It protects against UVB, UVA II, and UVA I almost uniformly, and is considered to be the broadest range sunscreen available today

It's also highly stable and non-irritating. So much so that Zinc Oxide also counts as a skin protectant and anti-irritant. It's also often used to treat skin irritations such as diaper rash.

As for the disadvantages, Zinc Oxide is also not cosmetically elegant. It leaves a disturbing whitish tint on the skin, although, according to a 2000 research paper by Dr. Pinnell, it's slightly less white than TiO2. Still, it's white and disturbing enough to use Zinc Oxide nanoparticles more and more often. 

We wrote more about nanoparticles and the concerns around them here, but the gist is that if nanoparticles were absorbed into the skin that would be a reason for legitimate health concerns. But luckily, so far research shows that sunscreen nanoparticles are not absorbed but remain on the surface of the skin or in the uppermost (dead) layer of the skin. This seems to be true even if the skin is damaged, for example, sunburnt. 

All in all, if you've found a Zinc Oxide sunscreen that you are happy to use every single day, that's fantastic and we suggest you stick with it. It's definitely one of the best, or probably even the best option out there for sun protection available worldwide. 

Allantoin - goodie
What-it-does: soothing | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

Super common soothing ingredient. It can be found naturally in the roots & leaves of the comfrey plant, but more often than not what's in the cosmetic products is produced synthetically. 

It's not only soothing but it' also skin-softening and protecting and can promote wound healing.

What-it-does: solvent

A nice, multi-functional helper ingredient that's especially useful in sunscreens. It can solubilize some commonly used UV-filters like Oxybenzone or Avobenzone and it can also help to increase the SPF rating of sunscreens. It's also cosmetically elegant, has excellent spreadability and a pleasant, moisturizing skin feel. Oh, and according to Wikipedia, it even helps to stabilize famously unstable UVA-filter, Avobenzone.

An often used emollient with a light and silky feel. It's very mild to both skin and eyes and spreads nicely and easily. It's often used in sunscreens as it's also an excellent solvent for sunscreen agents. 

It’s a handy multi-tasking ingredient that gives the skin a nice, soft feel. At the same time, it also boosts the effectiveness of other preservatives, such as the nowadays super commonly used phenoxyethanol

The blend of these two (caprylyl glycol + phenoxyethanol) is called Optiphen, which not only helps to keep your cosmetics free from nasty things for a long time but also gives a good feel to the finished product. It's a popular duo.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying

The combination of glycerin + behenic acid that comes either in a fine powder or waxy solid form. Together with the di- and triglyceride of behenic acid, the trio has remarkable gelling properties helping cosmetic chemists to create ultra-soft and non-tacky waterfree gels. They also have great emulsion stabilizing properties, and work as high-performance compacting agents for makeup products that come in the form of pressed powders.

It's also vegetable origin, and Ecocert certified.

What-it-does: emollient

The combination of glycerin + two behenic acid molecules that works as an oil-gelling agent, emulsion stabilizer, and high-performance compacting agent in pressed powders. We wrote a bit more at its little sis, glyceryl behenate.

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1-2

A super common, waxy, white, solid stuff that helps water and oil to mix together, gives body to creams and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth.

Chemically speaking, it is the attachment of a glycerin molecule to the fatty acid called stearic acid. It can be produced from most vegetable oils (in oils three fatty acid molecules are attached to glycerin instead of just one like here) in a pretty simple, "green" process that is similar to soap making. It's readily biodegradable.

It also occurs naturally in our body and is used as a food additive. As cosmetic chemist Colins writes it, "its safety really is beyond any doubt".

What-it-does: emollient

Isodecyl Salicylate is an emollient and plasticizer used in cosmetics. A plasticizer is a material that helps to improve the softening and deformation of the formula giving it a nicer feel. 

What-it-does: emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 4-5

An oily liquid (ester) that makes your skin nice and smooth, aka emollient. It is described as highly emollient or substantive, but with a light and easy spreading and nonoily skin feel. 

Lecithin - goodie
What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying

A very common ingredient that can be found in all cell membranes. In cosmetics it's quite the multi-tasker: it's an emollient and water-binding ingredient but it's also an emulsifier and can be used for stabilization purposes. It's also often used to create liposomes

What-it-does: emollient

A clear, odorless, very light emollient ester that helps to achieve light textures. It has great spreadability, a good slip, and a silky skin feel.  It's ideal to solubilize sunscreen agents and fragrances. It's also touted as a volatile (evaporates from the skin rather than absorbs into it) silicone alternative, especially to replace Cyclomethicone mixes.

What-it-does: solvent

A really multi-functional helper ingredient that can do several things in a skincare product: it can bring a soft and pleasant feel to the formula, it can act as a humectant and emollient, it can be a solvent for some other ingredients (for example it can help to stabilize perfumes in watery products) and it can also help to disperse pigments more evenly in makeup products. And that is still not all: it can also boost the antimicrobial activity of preservatives

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

A plant based ingredient that helps water to mix with oil (aka W/O emulsifier).  It's especially good for soft to low-viscosity water-in-oil emulsions with non-greasy, pleasant skin feel like lip balms or thick body butters.

Also-called: Zemea | What-it-does: solvent, moisturizer/humectant

Propanediol is a natural alternative for the often used and often bad-mouthed propylene glycol. It's produced sustainably from corn sugar and it's Ecocert approved. 

It's quite a multi-tasker: can be used to improve skin moisturization, as a solvent, to boost preservative efficacy or to influence the sensory properties of the end formula. 

A handy white powder that likes to absorb oily things. It has great oil and sebum absorption (aka mattifying) abilities and can also act as a thickening agent in the oil phase of a formula.

Also-called: Salt | What-it-does: viscosity controlling

Sodium chloride is the fancy name of salt. Normal, everyday table salt

If (similar to us) you are in the weird habit of reading the label on your shower gel while taking a shower, you might have noticed that sodium chloride is almost always on the ingredient list. The reason for this is that salt acts as a fantastic thickener in cleansing formulas created with ionic cleansing agents (aka surfactants) such as Sodium Laureth Sulfate. A couple of percents (typically 1-3%) turns a runny surfactant solution into a nice gel texture.

If you are into chemistry (if not, we understand, just skip this paragraph), the reason is that electrolytes (you know, the Na+ and Cl- ions) screen the electrostatic repulsion between the head groups of ionic surfactants and thus support the formation of long shaped micelles (instead of spherical ones) that entangle like spaghetti, and viola, a gel is formed. However, too much of it causes the phenomenon called "salting out", and the surfactant solution goes runny again. 

Other than that, salt also works as an emulsion stabilizer in water-in-oil emulsions, that is when water droplets are dispersed in the outer oil (or silicone) phase. And last but not least, when salt is right at the first spot of the ingredient list (and is not dissolved), the product is usually a body scrub where salt is the physical exfoliating agent

Squalane - goodie
What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

It seems to us that squalane is in fashion and there is a reason for it. Chemically speaking, it is a saturated  (no double bonds) hydrocarbon (a molecule consisting only of carbon and hydrogen), meaning that it's a nice and stable oily liquid with a long shelf life. 

It occurs naturally in certain fish and plant oils (e.g. olive), and in the sebum (the oily stuff our skin produces) of the human skin. As f.c. puts it in his awesome blog post, squalane's main things are "emolliency, surface occlusion, and TEWL prevention all with extreme cosmetic elegance". In other words, it's a superb moisturizer that makes your skin nice and smooth, without being heavy or greasy.

Another advantage of squalane is that it is pretty much compatible with all skin types and skin conditions. It is excellent for acne-prone skin and safe to use even if you have fungi-related skin issues, like seborrhea or fungal acne.

The unsaturated (with double bonds) and hence less stable version of Squalane is Squalene, you can read about it here >> 

What-it-does: emollient

It's the triglyceride of behenic acid that works as a thickening or gelling agent, as a compacting agent for pressed powders, and improves heat stability of emulsions. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Aqua | What-it-does: solvent

Good old water, aka H2O. The most common skincare ingredient of all. You can usually find it right in the very first spot of the ingredient list, meaning it’s the biggest thing out of all the stuff that makes up the product. 

It’s mainly a solvent for ingredients that do not like to dissolve in oils but rather in water. 

Once inside the skin, it hydrates, but not from the outside - putting pure water on the skin (hello long baths!) is drying. 

One more thing: the water used in cosmetics is purified and deionized (it means that almost all of the mineral ions inside it is removed). Like this, the products can stay more stable over time. 

You may also want to take a look at...

what‑it‑does sunscreen
irritancy, com. 0, 1
A physical/inorganic sunscreen with the broadest spectrum (UVB and UVA II, less good at UVA I) protection available today. It also has good stability and also works as a skin protectant, anti-irritant. Might leave some whitish tint on the skin, though. [more]
what‑it‑does soothing
irritancy, com. 0, 0
Super common soothing ingredient. It can be found naturally in the roots & leaves of the comfrey plant, but more often than not what's in the cosmetic products is produced synthetically. It's not only soothing but it' [more]
what‑it‑does solvent
Multi-functional helper ingredient in sunscreens. It can solubilize and stabilize commonly used UV-filters and has a cosmetically elegant, emollient skin feel. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | antimicrobial/antibacterial
An often used emollient with a light and silky feel. It's very mild to both skin and eyes and spreads nicely and easily. It's often used in sunscreens as it's also an excellent solvent for sunscreen agents. 
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | emollient
A handy multi-tasking ingredient that gives the skin a nice, soft feel and also boosts the effectiveness of other preservatives. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying
The combination of glycerin + behenic acid that works as an oil-gelling, emulsion stabilizing or compacting (in pressed powders) agent. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
The combination of glycerin + two behenic acid molecules that works as an oil-gelling agent, emulsion stabilizer, and high-performance compacting agent in pressed powders.
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0, 1-2
Waxy, white, solid stuff that helps water and oil to mix together and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
Isodecyl Salicylate is an emollient and plasticizer used in cosmetics. A plasticizer is a material that helps to improve the softening and deformation of the formula giving it a nicer feel.  [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
irritancy, com. 0, 4-5
An oily liquid (ester) that makes your skin nice and smooth, aka emollient.  [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying
It's quite the multi-tasker: an emollient and water-binding ingredient but also an emulsifier and can be used for stabilization purposes. It's also often used to create liposomes.  [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
A clear, odorless, very light emollient ester that helps to achieve light textures. It has great spreadability, a good slip, and a silky skin feel. [more]
what‑it‑does solvent
A multi-functional helper ingredient that acts as a humectant and emollient. It's also a solvent and can boost the effectiveness of preservatives. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
what‑it‑does emulsifying | viscosity controlling
A plant based ingredient that helps water to mix with oil (aka W/O emulsifier).  It's especially good for soft to low-viscosity water-in-oil emulsions with non-greasy, pleasant skin feel like lip balms or thick body butters.
what‑it‑does solvent | moisturizer/humectant
A natural corn sugar derived glycol. It can be used to improve skin moisturization, as a solvent, to boost preservative efficacy or to influence the sensory properties of the end formula. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | emollient
A handy white powder that likes to absorb oily things. It has great oil and sebum absorption (aka mattifying) abilities and can also act as a thickening agent in the oil phase of a formula.
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
Sodium chloride is the fancy name of salt. Normal, everyday table salt.  If (similar to us) you are in the weird habit of reading the label on your shower gel while taking a shower, you might have noticed that sodium chloride is almost always on the ingredient list. [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | emollient
irritancy, com. 0, 1
An emollient and natural moisturizer that can be found also in the sebum (oily stuff our skin produces). It leaves a nice non-greasy, non-heavy feeling on the skin. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
thickening/gelling agent, as a compacting agent for pressed powders (ATO grade), and improves heat stability of emulsions.
what‑it‑does solvent
Normal (well kind of - it's purified and deionized) water. Usually the main solvent in cosmetic products. [more]