Sunscreen is always a hard sell, as they say. People want to spend their skincare budget on delightful serums that will plump out their skin and give them outrageous results within a month or two. So, when I turn to a client and say that the most important skincare product of them all is an SPF, they ain’t happy.
It’s not from the ground that people have picked up an aversion to sunscreen. Many people equate sunscreen with the memory in their head of being slathered in white, PVA glue consistency sun cream at the beach while they wriggled around trying to escape the clutches of the adults. Others actively want to have a tan and choose to skip sunscreen or go for a factor that is far too low for them.
In this post, I’ll be mythbusting the most common misconceptions that surround sunscreen and give you some recommendations as to the best sunscreens for different situations.
Sunscreen Is Sticky And Stays White
It isn’t the 90s anymore – trust me, I’m too aware of this little fact. Sunscreen has come a long, long way. It doesn’t take 30 minutes to dry properly anymore, it doesn’t smell like something you use to clean the toilet and it doesn’t (always) leave a ghostly cast on your skin.
The white cast is caused by mineral UV filters, aka the ingredients in sunscreen that work to actually protect the skin from the sun. In sunscreen, there can be either mineral (physical) or chemical UV filters or a bit of both. For mineral filters such as zinc dioxide and titanium dioxide, they need to sit atop the skin like a shield, as they work by reflecting UV rays from the skin as a mirror would. This is what causes the white cast – the minerals are reflecting light, making you Casper the Sun-protected Ghost.
This can be avoided by allowing your sunscreen to dry correctly, by rubbing it in properly (but still ensuring that you are using enough) and by choosing a mineral sunscreen that has a tint to it.
There are plenty of mineral sunscreens out there, which are usually more suited towards sensitive skin or congested skin, as many reactive hoomans find that more chemical based sunscreens can irritate or congest their skin.
The Neostrata Sheer Physical Protection SPF 50 (€27.30) has a paler, universal tint that adjusts to match many different skin tones, from pale to medium. It is a pure fluid (be careful, as too much WILL come out), has a satiny finish and sits beautifully beneath makeup. Inside, you’ll also find polyhydroxy acid to help to strengthen the skin’s barrier and potent antioxidants to protect from ageing environmental damage.
Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50 (€59.50) is another mineral-based one with a salmony tint to banish white cast but it dries on castless in my experience – this one is fab as it additionally protects from HEV (blue light) from screens and suits both oily types and dry types.
Alternatively, you can opt for sunscreens that contain chemical UV filters such as octinoxate or oxybenzone, alongside mineral filters, like IMAGE Skincare’s Prevention+ Daily Matte Moisturiser SPF 32 (€46.00).
The sunscreens listed are all facial ones but keep reading for body sunscreens that aren’t sticky and don’t leave a cast…
Sunscreen Doesn’t Sit On Makeup
I find that this is another reason that people can’t be convinced to wear sunscreen – the fear that it will make their makeup slip and slide away. If you’re using a sunscreen that isn’t very good or was formulated for the body, it may intermingle with your foundation to create a goop across your visage. It’s about the product you’re using and your technique.
- Pick a true facial SPF that suits your skin type (ie. mattifying or satiny and light for oily skins, hydrating for dry and dehydrated skins, mineral for those who are sensitive to chemical filters).
- When applying your skincare in the morning, leave 5-10 minutes for your serums and moisturisers to dry before putting on your sunscreen – I don’t mean sit there like a numpty, I mean use the interim to dry your hair or get dressed.
- Apply a full teaspoon to the face, neck and ears (and more on anywhere else exposed).
- Allow it a few minutes to dry in, once again, 5 – 10 minutes will do it (now brush your teeth, do your eyebrows, pack your lunch).
- Check that the surface of your skin doesn’t have a mass of product left on it and apply your makeup.
This should ensure that your sunscreen will go over your makeup beautifully. I find that sunscreen sometimes provides a better base than overly mattifying primers – it helps mineral powder foundations to cling to the skin, in my opinion.
You Only Need Sunscreen When It’s Sunny
My friends, you need sunscreen EVERYDAY, ALL DAY LONG unless it is pitch dark out – this goes for your exposed areas (ooh-er). UVA rays can damage the skin at a deeper depth than UVB rays (the rays that are heated, the ones that cause sun burn and tanning) and they are here all year round, can attack you through windows, clouds, you name it.
The difference is that you need, naturally, more sunscreen when the UVB rays are at play, when you’re on holidays and during the Summer months through to September. Using a facial sunscreen on your body is simply not cost effective and you need something thicker as your body bumps off a lot more things than your face.
I personally love the Heliocare Spray SPF 50 (€30.00, 200ml) as a body sunscreen as it is contains both chemical and mineral filters meaning that you have the chemical filters absorbing the UV rays and the mineral filters reflecting them away from the skin. Having both types of protection is ideal for the beach and hacking about in the sun. Heliocare is unique as it also contains plant-based ingredients that are naturally photo-protective (read: protect you from the sun a bit).
IMAGE also have a spray in the form of the Prevention+ Ultra Sheer Spray SPF 45 (€41.00, 118ml). It is non-sticky and dries on sheer – Team Nerd have scalp-tested it and found that it surprisingly didn’t leave them with greasy roots so there you go! The things we do in the name of nerdieness…
Avène’s Spray SPF 50+ I love also and it comes in a little bit cheaper at €25.99. It is a 200ml bottle so you will get good usage out of it too.
If you have squirmy kids that you’re worried will not have long-lasting protection (or if you are worried about yourself), go for Riemann’s P20 Seriously Reliable Suncare Spray in Factor 50 (€33.30, 200ml). It is really, really water-resistant and promises 10 hours protection. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t top up when the nippers or you get out of the water or after a couple of hours but at the very least, it’ll give you peace of mind. Word to the sensitive: this one is not for you.
If you do find yourself reactive to chemical sunscreen, a fully-mineral body sunscreen that I highly rate is the Attar MD Sheer Physical Sunscreen SPF 50 Spray (€28.00, 118.3ml) – this also comes in a non-spray version, for the sake of providing at least one bottle option.
Remember, avoid heated sunlight as much as possible regardless of sunscreen. I’m not an advocate for tanning of any form as a tan is just your skin telling you that it is in danger – but if you can’t (or won’t) avoid the sun, remember to top up frequently and get every exposed area. Have a read of how long your specific sunscreen will remain water-resistant – it’s often up to an hour and a half. Another important thing to note is that if you’re using a fully-chemical sunscreen, you have to wait about half an hour for the ingredients to start working so wait before going in the sun. Mineral filters, on the other hand, get to work straight away.
You Don’t Need Sunscreen If You Don’t Burn/If You “Get A Colour”
I don’t really know where this misconception came from. Perhaps it’s from the belief that a sunburn is the only sign of damage – make no mistake that this is not true. If you are not protecting your skin from UV damage, regardless of your skin tone, you are susceptible to the damage caused by UV rays. Both UVB and UVA rays can contribute to skin cancer and accelerated ageing. There’s a whole condition called solar elastosis where the skin’s elastin has become damaged from the rays from the sun and thus bundles into ridges – it is the stereotypical “too much sun” thickened skin and deep wrinkles.
A “base tan” does not protect your skin from damage. Those who naturally have more melanin, meaning those with darker skin tones, are more protected from the sun inherently but nowhere near enough to skip using sunscreen daily. Global warming, people, it’s a real thing!! The ozone layer does not protect us like it used to.
Some Key Points About Wearing And Applying Sunscreen:
- You need to wear it, regardless of who you are, whether you tan, whether you burn, in my eyes, it is non-negotiable
- You need to be using at least factor 30 or preferably factor 50
- No sunscreen will 100% protect you from the sun so stick in the shade and wear a big ol’ hat whenever possible
- For it to be the factor it says on the bottle, you have to top it up and you can’t mix it with a moisturiser or another skincare product
- You need a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects you from both UVA and UVB rays (look out for a little UVA symbol with a circle around it)