Sunscreen must-knows | Michelle Wong, PhD

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In Episode #234, I sit down with Michelle Wong, PhD to examine exactly why sunscreen is so important.

“Don’t believe everything you read, especially if it comes from a beauty brand.”

The Proof has covered a wide range of topics connected to health and longevity, spanning nutrition, exercise, alignment, and more. In this episode, we investigate a new territory: cosmetics and sunscreen. Taking a scientific lens to a universally important topic, we examine the evidence on products that everyone should be using.

Michelle Wong, PhD is a science educator and cosmetic chemist with a PhD in chemistry. She helps wide audiences understand the science behind beauty products through her website and social media presence, Lab Muffin Beauty Science. With an extensive education and a background in science communication, Dr Wong provides clarity and guidance on how to navigate the often-misleading industry of cosmetics.

“It is actually really tricky to pick out products that are more likely to work.”

In Episode #234, Dr Wong explains the physiology of the skin before we take a closer look at the importance of sunscreen. We cover SPF number, sun damage and aging, and chemical versus mineral sunscreen. We address “reef safe” sunscreen, the safety of cosmetic ingredients, and how to navigate misinformation and controversial claims. Dr Wong also offers her advice on choosing and applying a sunscreen to offer you the best protection.

Specifically, we discuss:

  • Intro (0:00)
  • Michelle’s Story (2:20)
  • Defining Cosmetics (4:56)
  • Understanding the Skin’s Physiology (7:44)
  • Misinformation with Products (11:20)
  • What to Look For (19:00)
  • Sunscreen & Skin cancer (22:50)
  • “Reef-safe” Sunscreen (41:45)
  • Regulation & Absorption (50:41)
  • “Contains SPF” vs Sunscreen (1:04:35)
  • Lotion vs Aerosol (1:06:04)
  • How to Apply (1:07:07)
  • How high of SPF? (1:13:01)
  • Kids Sunscreens (1:16:04)
  • Seed Oils & Sunburn (1:17:11)
  • Benzene (1:19:15)
  • Bringing it all together (1:21:18)
  • Outro (1:24:45)

This episode will equip you with the understanding of why sunscreen is so important and the knowledge to protect your skin against damage, aging, and cancer. As an important part of health that is often overlooked, I hope this conversation sheds some light on how to prioritise your skin health. Stay tuned for a follow-up episode looking more closely at skincare and haircare products.

Dr Michelle Wong’s online presence offers a wealth of information on skin care and cosmetic chemistry. You can connect with her on socials via InstagramTikTokTwitter, and YouTube. Head to Dr Wong’s website,, to learn more.

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Enjoy, friends.


More about Michelle Wong, PhD

Michelle Wong, Ph.D. is a science educator and cosmetic chemist with a PhD in chemistry. She’s behind Lab Muffin Beauty Science, where she explains the science behind beauty products for a general audience. Founded in 2011, Lab Muffin Beauty Science receives 2 million page views per year, and has an Instagram following of 384 000 and a YouTube audience of 341 000. Through her science education work, Michelle has worked with a range of brands on campaigns, including Proctor & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson. Her work has been featured in international magazines including The New York Times and Elle Magazine.

Supporting studies

  • Association of UV Radiation Exposure, Diagnostic Scrutiny, and Melanoma Incidence in US Counties • PMID: 36190719
  • Estimating Overdiagnosis of Melanoma Using Trends Among Black and White Patients in the US • PMID: 35293957
  • Seasonal influences on stratum corneum ceramide 1 fatty acids and the influence of topical essential fatty acids • PMID: 19245474
  • Stratum corneum lipids: the effect of ageing and the seasons • PMID: 8950457
  • Sunscreens and Photoaging: A Review of Current Literature • PMID: 34387824

Additional resources

  • Australian sun exposure consensus guidelines • Cancer Council
  • Chemical vs Physical Sunscreens: The Science • Lab Muffin
  • Discussion on Ade Adamson study • Twitter
  • Environmental Impact of Currently Marketed Sunscreens and Potential Human Impacts of Changes in Sunscreen Usage • National Academies
  • EU Toxicology Reports • SCCS
  • Literature review on the safety of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles in sunscreens • TGA
  • Michelle’s response to Craig Downs and Joseph DiNardo’s article on the sunscreen ingredient octocrylene • Lab Muffin
  • The study that saved our skin (Nambour Study) • Science

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