Navigating the sunscreen aisles can be incredibly daunting. With new innovative formulas and a long list of ingredients and terminology that reads like a foreign language, it’s important to know what you’re buying, especially as suncare is usually a pricey purchase too. What we do know is sunscreen is a must for protecting skin against ageing free radicals, stopping DNA damage, pigmentation, sunburn, and more serious skin issues such as skin cancer, but does one size fit all?  We asked Jennifer Rock, dermal facialist and CEO of SkinIngredients and leading dermatologist Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme to clear up the confusion and take us back to basics…

Why do I need UVA and UVB protection and what do they mean?

Sunlight contains UVA and UVB rays both of which can cause skin damage and cancer. Put simply, Dr Ejikeme explains to her clients, “an easy way to remember what they do is UV-A is ‘Ageing’ and UV-B is ‘Burning’. You need to look for suncream labelled broad-spectrum which covers both.”

How much suncream should I use?

“More than you think!” exclaims Dr Ejikeme. “The recommended amount equates to two fingers worth of sunscreen for your face. If you’re using spray sunscreen you should use three sprays on each limb and obviously remember to reapply, often. So many people I see in my clinic, use far too little to be accepted as actual sun care protection.”

How often should you apply sun cream?

Dr Ejikeme advises, “getting into the habit of topping up your sunblock once every four hours,” but it is important to read the label on your sunblock to follow the directions of use, as this differs from brand to brand and SPF. Ejikeme adds, “apply sunblock every morning, even if you are not tanning on the beach. It helps to protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays, as well as act as an anti-ageing protocol.” 

What is the best type of SPF to wear under makeup?

“The best type is one that suits your skin and that you enjoy applying, as reapplication is a must,” says Jennifer Rock, dermal facialist and CEO of Skiningredients. “There are many types of SPF available, each with their mix of pros and cons but generally a sunscreen with a light texture that absorbs and dries quickly is the holy grail when it comes to pre-makeup application.”  Jennifer advises “SPF should be your last step before applying makeup or your final step if you are not a makeup wearer, but you need to ensure that you don’t rush your application and give your sunscreen time to fully absorb before applying any makeup.”

How can you prevent SPF from making your face look greasy? 

“Firstly, make sure that you are using an SPF specially designed to be used on the face, as these will be lighter in texture and more easily absorbed than those for use on the body,” claims Jennifer. “Next, avoid sunscreens containing emollients or ‘heavier’ ingredients such as coconut, soybean and wheat germ oil or shea butter, which can clog the pores and even activate sebum production, making your skin oilier.” Another top tip from Jennifer is to add a mattifying powder on top of your SPF to help to control shine.

What are the best types of SPFs for blemish-prone skin?

“Look out for phrases such as matte or mattifying on the labels of any sunscreens you choose” advises Jennifer, “and select an SPF that is non-comedogenic (meaning it doesn’t clog the pores).” 

What is the reason SPF can cause a reaction and how to troubleshoot this?

If you have sensitive or reactive skin, rest assured that sunscreen has come a long way since the thick, chalky formulations of the past and most have a much lower potential for irritation now. If you have oily or blemish-prone skin, make sure you use oil-free and non-comedogenic formulas, there’s plenty to choose from. 

Are there ingredients and words to look out for on packaging that can increase the chance of a reaction?

To minimise the risk of a reaction, Jennifer strongly suggests to “look for formulations that are suitable for sensitive skin types. You can even opt for an SPF designed for children, because these formulas are less likely to contain ingredients that can irritate the skin, such as fragrances.” 

Some people find that chemical sunscreens (those containing ingredients such as avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate) cause irritation and allergic reactions – although this tends to be more the case with older formulations. Some prefer to use mineral formulas containing zinc oxide, titanium oxide or calamine as these are less likely to upset your skin barrier. In addition, Jennifer advises “checking the product ingredient list for fragrance, mineral oils, parabens, or high levels of alcohol if you have any kind of sensitivity, as these ingredients have the potential to cause irritation.”

What should you look for in a SPF that has additional skincare benefits?

As a self-confessed ‘skin nerd’, Jennifer believes “this depends on your skin and skin goals. If you have dry skin, look for a formula that contains nourishing ingredients such as vitamin B3 to help the skin retain moisture. Those with sensitive skin may find that sunscreens containing anti-inflammatory properties such as turmeric extract help to soothe their skin and lessen any redness.” Jennifer adds, “those looking to tackle both outdoor and indoor pollution (such as that from HEV/ blue light) should look for antioxidant rich formulas.” And lastly, “If you want to skip makeup, look for SPFs containing niacinamide to perk up the complexion and even out the skin tone.”

Here’s the best suncreams that go that extra mile…

Best lightweight formula: Vichy Solar Protective Water SPF50, £14.25

Best for acne-prone skin: ZitSticka Megashade SPF50, £35

Best for dark skins: Altruist Face Fluid Sunscreen SPF50, £9

Best sun cream/skincare hybrid: Ultra Violette Queen Screen Luminising Sun Serum SPF50, £36

The products on this page have been selected by our editorial team, however, The Handbook may make a small commission on some of the products purchased through affiliate links.


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