The Complete Guide to the Photonic™ Light Shifting Solution SPF 30 Reformulation - Safe Zinc Oxide Mineral Sunscreen for Sensitive and Acne Prone Skin

The Complete Guide to the Photonic™ Light Shifting Solution SPF 30 Reformulation - Safe Zinc Oxide Mineral Sunscreen for Sensitive and Acne Prone Skin

Finding a safe mineral sunscreen can be incredibly difficult when you have sensitive skin, acne prone skin, or skin conditions like rosacea. Chemical sunscreens can often cause rashes and have unknown health impacts over time, but even mineral sunscreens can cause acne breakouts and barrier disruptions due to the silicones and other ingredients often used to disperse zinc oxide particles.

Mineral and chemical sunscreens can both have drawbacks to how they feel on skin. Both are difficult to formulate so they stay stable over time, which can require the use of ingredients that don’t have to go in typical moisturizers.

Our goal at Blissoma is always to solve tough skincare problems for people using plant based, safe, and gentle ingredients. It’s why we created our Photonic™ mineral facial sunscreen to start with back in 2018. Before we created Photonic™ we got asked constantly for sunscreen recommendations. The list of products we could enthusiastically endorse was shockingly short. (and still is!)

Mineral sunscreens, in particular, have been known for having an oily feel on skin particularly if they have a strictly natural ingredients list. The zinc oxide and titanium dioxide often creates at least some level of ghostly white appearance. Some zinc oxide sunscreens are pasty and difficult to spread, which makes it tricky to achieve full SPF protection. Zinc oxide is oil dispersible, which means a base of pure oils will hold it, but this isn’t always the feel people want on skin all day as the amount needed to generate SPF protection is more than your typical facial oil. Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are the only two UV filters that are fully recognized as safe by the FDA, but the way they feel and apply to skin keeps people from using them.

A sunscreen is something that everyone should keep on hand. Getting some sun can be healthy, but even the most melanated skin should only be out in the sun about 60 minutes without sun protection. For people with fair-medium skin 10 to 30 minutes is the limit when damage can start accumulating. Your diet and other health factors contribute to how well your skin will handle sun exposure.

We and our customers needed a non-greasy, acne-friendly, easy-to-spread, mineral facial sunscreen that we all would actually WANT to use.

Blissoma is also an extremely customer-driven brand. Because we sell directly to many of our customers and work with hundreds of estheticians we hear when people have constructive feedback and we take note. We always put a huge amount of effort and intention into our recipes, but even something really good can get better, or evolve to meet the needs of more people.

That’s why we took the feedback we’ve gotten about Photonic™ and reformulated to deliver an even better product for you. After a full year of work behind-the-scehes we’re thrilled to finally share the updates with you.

What Changes Did We Make to Photonic™ Mineral Sunscreen?

Over several years the constructive feedback we got about Photonic™ centered around a few key issues:

  • A number of people loved the lightweight feel, but found that the needed more hydration over the course of a day
  • A handful of people reported that it balled up on their skin
  • Some customers couldn’t use anything with even a small amount of essential oils
  • We saw more allergy complications than we ultimately wanted due to the herb and oil blend
  • People wanted SPF 30 to meet dermatologist recommendations
  • We saw the astaxanthin losing its peachy color over time more than was ideal

We wanted to solve ALL of these issues while preserving the best aspects of our original formula.

Here’s what we did to accomplish that:

  • Added and tailored ingredients to boost the skin’s barrier and hydration levels more (without adding a bunch more oil and while maintaining the nonshiny finish)
  • Greatly reduced the use of the Xanthan Gum, Pullulan, and Sclerotium Gum in the formula to eliminate balling
  • Eliminated the Bergamot essential oil
  • Revised the oils to remove anything that might trigger nut allergies
  • Revised and greatly streamlined the herbs to reduce the chance of allergy problems
  • Increased the Zinc Oxide slightly to reach SPF 30
  • Removed ingredients that were conflicting with the Astaxanthin and put the product in airless packaging to keep it fresh long term

Some of these changes ended up being trickier than we initially anticipated. Our very rough estimate is that the formula is about 50% the same, and 50% different/new ingredients. We know changes are always a big deal for our clientele and we’re ready to discuss all of them thoroughly with you.

Over the course of about 40 test batches we spent hundreds of hours on research, mixing, testing, and observation. In that process we learned that reducing the gum blend was going to mean major work on our emulsion system to keep it fully stable. There are a lot of ingredient choices for that, but we very much wanted to preserve the spirit of the original Photonic™, and we know what ingredients our clients have done well with over time.

A lot of dramatic recipe failures happened along the way! Sometimes the emulsion broke immediately during mixing, sometimes it would take an hour after cooldown, and sometimes it would be weeks before we’d get to see the flaws. It was a true roller coaster.

The process of reformulating this product very much took us back to our roots in original recipe development. There were no easy answers. We very much had to embrace the true spirit of science and just experiment, evaluate, and make new hypotheses as our experience evolved.

As with the original Photonic™ our reformulated recipe is still 100% owned and developed by Blissoma. This is extremely unusual for a sunscreen product by an independent brand. Many companies simply bottle formulas that have been created by co-packers in order to reduce development expenses. The co-packer owns the recipe and the supplier list, pays for all the SPF testing, and may be selling that same recipe to multiple private label clients.

Blissoma has fully funded this project ourselves including USA and international SPF and Broad Spectrum testing, stability testing, sensitive skin patch testing, and all the labor and ingredients for research and development. Founder Julie Longyear chose each of the ingredients and suppliers to ensure the updates matched our usual quality.

While many product reformulations are notorious for being done to reduce costs and improve profitability we are actually spending MORE on ingredients and packaging than before on this product update. It’s completely worth it though!

It’s a huge achievement for a brand of our size to take on a project like this. We know all the effort will be worth it, though. The updated recipe is better because of our customers and will help many, many more people in the long run.

What Ingredients Did We Remove from Photonic™?

The reformulated Photonic™ recipe no longer contains:

  • Argan oil (can trigger nut allergies and causes slight congestion for some people)
  • Tamanu oil (love this ingredient but also can trigger nut allergies)
  • Evening Primrose oil (love this oil but we needed to prioritize long term stability)
  • Red Raspberry oil (love this oil as well, but we decided to increase Blackberry Seed Oil instead)
  • Aloe Juice (allergy concerns)
  • Bergamot essential oil (essential oil allergies)
  • All ragweed related plants (Echinacea)
  • Grain Alcohol
  • Citric Acid
  • Other herbs removed: Black Tea, Eyebright, Periwinkle, Violet Leaf, Olive Leaf, Hydrangea Root, Comfrey Leaf/Root

The streamlining of herbs was partly to ease allergy conflicts and partly to assist with avoiding regulatory problems when selling Photonic™ into international markets. We love all these herbs for other uses, but ultimately decided that we needed to focus on just a few that best addressed calming sensitive skin, providing antioxidants, and hydrating skin.

Ingredients we kept in Photonic™ Mineral Sunscreen:

  • Micronized Zinc Oxide
  • Blackberry seed oil and Organic Sesame seed oil
  • Squalane
  • Organic Gotu Kola and Milk Thistle extracts
  • Niacinamide
  • Cetearyl Wheat Straw Glycosides/Cetearyl Alcohol emulsifier
  • Xanthan Gum, Sclerotium Gum, and Pullulan
  • Lecithin
  • Astaxanthin
  • Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E)
  • Natural preservative blend of Leuconostoc Radish Root Ferment, Aspen Bark Extract, and Gluconolactone

Ingredients we added to the new Photonic™:

  • Organic Kalahari Melon seed oil and Baobab oil
  • Organic Mullein leaf and Ginkgo Biloba extracts
  • Fermented Yerba Santa glycoproteins extract
  • Pongamia Pinnata (Indian beech) seed extract
  • Ectoin®
  • Organic Rice Extract
  • Behenyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Behenate, and Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate (emulsifiers)
  • Polyhydroxystearic Acid (plant based wax)
  • Isoamyl Laurate (natural, stable, allergy friendly emollient)
  • Phenethyl Alcohol (natural preservative)

You’ll see a few oils like Safflower, Sunflower, and Soybean oil and compounds like Beta-Sitosterol and Soybean Peroxidase that are not overt additions, but come as components of other ingredients we have chosen.

What’s still NOT in Blissoma’s natural mineral face sunscreen:

  • NO silicones
  • NO butyloctyl salicylate
  • NO phenoxyethanol
  • NO propylene glycol, butylene glycol, or any glycols
  • NO PEG ingredients
  • NO petroleum ingredients
  • NO acrylates copolymer, carbomer, or other plastic based thickeners
  • NO fragrance
  • NO artificial color
  • NO hidden preservatives
  • NO animal ingredients
  • NO animal testing

The Complete New Ingredients List for Photonic™ SPF 30

Active ingredient:

Micronized, uncoated Zinc Oxide - 13.2%

Other Ingredients: 

Water, Rubus fruticosus (blackberry) Seed Oil, Sesamum indicum* (sesame) Seed Oil, Niacinamide, Isoamyl Laurate, Lactobacillus/Eriodictyon californicum (yerba santa) Ferment Extract, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Behenyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Behenate, Cetearyl Wheat Straw Glycosides, Populus tremuloides (aspen) Bark Extract, Squalane, Centella asiatica* (gotu kola) Leaf/Stem Extract, Verbascum thapsus* (great mullein) Leaf Extract, Ginkgo biloba* Leaf Extract, Silybum marianum* (milk thistle) Extract, Adansonia digitata* (baobab) seed Oil, Ectoin, Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech) Seed Extract, Haematococcus pluvialis (algae) Extract (Astaxanthin), Lecithin, Oryza sativa* (rice) extract, Glycine soja (soybean) Oil, Cetearyl Alcohol, Carthamus tinctorius (safflower) Oil, Helianthus annuus (sunflower) Seed Oil, Beta Sitosterol, Squalene, Mixed Tocopherols, Superoxide Dismutase, Soybean Peroxidase, Pullulan, Sclerotium Gum, Xanthan Gum, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Silica, Phenethyl Alcohol

Now that you’ve got the overview let’s talk details about what some of these ingredients do, and their ethical, safety, and eco-friendly credentials!

How Photonic SPF 30 Natural Face Sunscreen Gives Skin All Day Hydration

Skin hydration is a complex thing with many contributing factors. We already use beautiful, raw botanical oils and squalane that reinforce the skin’s lipid barrier, 3% niacinamide, and natural lecithin, but it clearly wasn’t doing enough for everyone.

Since the Zinc Oxide sits on the surface of the skin all day it can have a little bit of a drying feeling over time just all by itself. Zinc Oxide also has a little different Ph than skin. The pH it naturally generates when in a cream is about a 7, while your skin is a 5.5. For sensitive people even this little bit of difference can cause some discomfort.

Adding more oil wasn’t the solution. The whole goal of Photonic™ mineral sunscreen is to feel light and nongreasy, so we had to use other tactics.

We ended up settling on a combination of Ectoin®, Yerba Santa Glycoproteins, Rice Extract, an additional emulsifier, and polyhydroxystearic acid.

Ectoin® - Making Sensitive Skin Stronger

Our revamped recipe now includes Ectoin®, a special stress protective amino acid derivative. This unique molecule was discovered in “extremolytes” – organisms living in highly stressful environments such as deserts, arctic ice, exceptionally salty water, or hot springs.  It was discovered in 1985 when a German scientist was studying microorganisms he found in a salt lake in the Egyptian desert.

Organisms produce it to better adapt to their surroundings. There are numerous studies proving its benefits for stress protection and UV exposed skin to keep your skin looking and feeling youthful and resilient. It also has anti-pollution benefits, making it particularly suitable for a daytime skincare product.

Ectoin® strengthens the skin barrier, smooths skin, and boosts hydration levels. It actually works by changing how the water inside your skin behaves, better insulating your skin’s cellular structures.

Ectoin® has no preservatives or additives that would disturb sensitive skin, doesn’t conflict with any other ingredients, and is super stable. We receive and incorporate it as a powder. Photonic is one of the first sunscreens to use Ectoin®. We rarely jump on a “trend” but this ingredient was really easy to get behind because it offers fantastic benefits for our sensitive clients.

Fermented Yerba Santa Glycoproteins for Better Hydration and Pollution Protection

A fermented Yerba Santa herb extract is new to our recipe and helps us accomplish our goal of improving skin hydration long term without adding greasiness or shine. Yerba Santa is an herb native to the arid American West and has been used in native medicine for generations.

It has special glycoproteins that are concentrated by fermentation. Glycoproteins give your skin a plant-based power-up to hold more water. This extract also has potent antioxidant and anti-pollution benefits, and is in-vivo study proven to help your skin release dirt and carbon buildup better at the end of the day.

Organic Rice Extract for Increased Skin Hydration

Organic Rice extract is used as the base for the Organic Milk Thistle Extract. This is a water based extract and its hydration retention properties make it comparable to glycerin. It’s very allergy friendly and Rice is well known for helping boost skin’s hydration levels and resilience.

Ricewater has been used for hundreds of years in beauty rituals, particularly in Asia where it was part of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and South East Asian hair and skin care. Ricewater can be rich in beneficial antioxidants.

Behenyl Alcohol and Glyceryl Behenate for Skin Barrier Benefits

When we go looking for emulsifiers and structural ingredients we always investigate their mildness and skin barrier benefits. Some emulsifiers in skincare and cosmetics are actually known to negatively impact the skin barrier function. It’s ironic that applying a cream could actually cause your skin to get more dry, but that’s the reality when using many synthetic emulsifiers.

The emulsifier choice also has a tremendous impact on how the product spreads and feels on skin. We wanted to preserve the lightweight feel of Photonic™ and some emulsifier options made the recipe feel totally different on skin.

We ended up choosing a combination of Behenyl Alcohol and Glyceryl Behenate because they add structure to create a cushiony, easy-to-spread cream without making the product feel greasy. These two compounds are 100% plant-based fatty alcohols from sunflower oil and rapeseed oil.

The particular blend we use is proven to quickly restore the barrier function of skin, keep skin hydrated for 8 hours, and make active ingredients more bioavailable. These are also Cosmos approved and Vegan.

Behenyl Alcohol ranked a 1 on EWG Skin Deep Database

Glyceryl Behenate ranked 1-3 depending on use. If eyes are avoided the ranking is 1.

Polyhydroxystearic Acid Keeps SPF and Skin Hydration Up

Polyhydroxystearic Acid is a soft, plant-based wax derived from castor oil. It helps stabilize and disperse the zinc oxide particles and maintains and reinforces the lipid barrier of skin.

This was one of the first ingredients we tested adding to the recipe and we noticed right away that its “film-forming” ability helped create more hydration retention in skin, and kept the zinc oxide from becoming more noticeable through the day.

The Polyhydroxystearic Acid we are using is Vegan and biodegradable.

Ranked a 1 on EWG Skin Deep Database

Botanical Sunscreen Ingredients for Sensitive Skin, Acne, Rosacea, and Barrier Strength

As a firmly botanically based brand we chose our oils and herbs for this recipe based on how well they’d help our clients with skin irritations, environmental defense, and barrier strength.

Sun exposed skin has a particularly strong need for antioxidant and anti-irritant support since UV light directly causes inflammation and the creation of free radicals. All the botanicals we’ve included are specially suited for this particular situation. Many sunscreens are just a UV filter in a neutral base. With Photonic™ phytonutrient support is built in.

We worked directly with woman-owned Duvall Herb Farm and Oshala Farm to source regeneratively grown, organic Gotu Kola and Mullein Leaf. Each leaf was farmed and infused with great care to preserve vitality. 

Gotu Kola helps skin look firm and refreshed and is known to have stronger skin benefits than Vitamin C. Mullein leaf softens and soothes and is used in traditional herbalism on irritated skin. Ginkgo Biloba also goes into this particular trio for its antioxidant and soothing benefits.

We are macerating all three of these herbs in the Organic Sesame oil at our studio, creating a completely unique herbal ingredient that no other brand can access.  All three herbs have oil-soluble actives in them and are excellent for sensitive skin.

Pongamia Pinnata extract is also known as Karanja, and has a long history of skin use in Southeast Asia for its strong antioxidant benefits.

Milk thistle is excellent for environmental resilience too.

Whole, raw botanical oils star in our streamlined recipe. Unrefined Blackberry seed oil, Organic Kalahari Melon seed oil, Baobab oil, and Sesame oil condition and calm the skin. We chose each one for its fatty acid profile, high vitamin content, and acne-friendly qualities.

Blackberry seed oil is particularly high in antioxidant polyphenols, naturally-occurring Vitamin E, and Omega fatty acids 3 and 6. It is lightweight and great for people whose skin may have a disturbed fatty acid profile due to inflammation like in acne, eczema, and rosacea. 

The Organic Kalahari Melon and Baobab oils come directly to us from a supplier in Africa and offer just the right level of allergy-friendly conditioning without clogging the skin. All of these oils are featured in other products in our line for acne prone and irritated skin and have helped our clients create healthy skin for years.

Raw Sesame Oil Has Extensive Skin Benefits And is Safe for Acne Prone Skin

Some website sources may list Sesame oil as comedogenic. We strongly disagree about this assessment. Sesame oil has been an important oil in Ayurveda for centuries and when used in its raw, whole form it has loads of beneficial chemistry and does not clog skin. It’s totally understandable how it may have been misrated, though.

In the cosmetic industry it’s very common to use heavily refined oils. The refining process strips oils of their defensive nutrition like Vitamin E and antioxidants and can even cause partial rancidity. Rancid oils are sticky and film-forming and would absolutely cause clogging, which explains the commonly shared comedogenic rating. The study often referenced about sesame oil comedogenicity is from 1989, which in science terms is positively ancient.

(We’ve got a blog article that discusses how outdated and incorrect many comedogenicity rankings are!!)

We love sesame oil because it’s allergy friendly, a nice weight, and contains beneficial phytosterols and lignans like Sesamin, Sesamolin, and Sesamol. Sesamol has been studied for its benefits for keeping skin color looking even, and antioxidant benefits.A single application of Sesame oil has been shown to increase Stratum Corneum hydration too.Sesame oil also has a strong ability to resist UV rays - higher than many other plant oils! Sesame oil can also help you maintain a healthy microbiome.

Please don’t let outdated, incorrect comedogenic ratings prevent you from trying raw Sesame oil in skincare products! Of course, you should definitely make sure it’s a raw Sesame as the toasted form used in cooking would not be right for skin use.

Other New Natural Sunscreen Ingredient Questions Answered

We know our clients love getting the full scoop on their skincare ingredients. Here’s a bit more about the other naturally based structural ingredients we added to make Photonic™ perform well.

Isoamyl Laurate

This is a liquid, oil soluble, lightweight and nongreasy, 100% plant based emollient with excellent spreading ability. It’s made from isoamyl alcohol and lauric fatty acid using an enzymatic process.

We found it really beneficial with reducing the “soaping” effect that naturally emulsions sometimes experience. It also makes it easier to disperse the minerals and spread them on skin easily, and easy spreading is critical to ensure even sunscreen coverage. This works with the squalane and oils in our formula to make silicones unnecessary. Isoamyl laurate does not oxidize over time, so it retains its smooth feel.

The particular isoamyl laurate we are using is RSPO certified for responsible palm oil sourcing, Vegan, COSMOS and NATRUE friendly. It is biodegradable and has a low carbon footprint due to renewable raw materials and wind powered manufacturing.

Ranked a 1 on EWG Skin Deep Database

Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate

A potent emulsifying ingredient made from the plant-derived amino acid L-glutamic acid and plant fatty acids. Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate is very mild on skin, hypoallergenic, and helps keep our sunscreen cream stable. It is biodegradable, Vegan, Cosmos and Natrue certified.

Ranked a 1 on EWG Skin Deep Database

Photonic SPF 30 Packaging - Ecofriendly, Refillable Airless Bottles!

Adding more zinc oxide to get a higher SPF and restructuring our emulsion to reduce the gums made Photonic™ a little thicker. That meant we had to seek new packaging so it would pump out properly. We also wanted to completely protect our beautiful Astaxanthin, herbs, and raw oils for the life of the product.

Our search for performance packaging with an eco-friendly focus led us to an incredible airless glass bottle system. The outside of the bottle is a gorgeous, heavyweight glass with a premium pump system. Inside the bottle is a capsule filled with the sunscreen. The capsule can be replaced when you use up your initial purchase, making your new Photonic bottle refillable again and again!

Most airless bottles are 100% plastic and have to be completely discarded after one use. They protect the product but with a higher environmental cost than we’d like. This system solves that problem by minimizing plastic and allowing reuse of important parts.

Refills for Photonic are available at a reduced cost to make it easier for you to stick to your healthy skin routine. Since 3 out of 4 people repurchase with Blissoma we know this is going to be a huge hit with our very loyal clients.

We hope we’ve answered lots of questions you may have had, but if there’s anything you’re still wondering please let us know.

We are incredibly excited to start sharing the Photonic™ SPF 30 Mineral Sunscreen updates with the world. Our mission is to give everyone incredibly healthy skin and this update is a big part of that. We hope you absolutely love it!

Stock of our updated recipe will begin shipping June 21, 2024.  Until that date we are accepting preorders so you can secure your supply of our first batch, which is limited in size.

Order Your Photonic Sunscreen Now