Are you sitting at your desk now wishing you were out in the sun? ME. TOO. If you were to go out what would be one if the first things you’d do? Put on suncream, I’d imagine. Good. You’re ahead of some. However, if you’re inside now without suncream on under the illusion that a windowpane is providing a shield of any kind from the pernicious effects of the sun’s rays, let me disabuse you. No, actually, let the below man disabuse you. This 69-year-old drove a truck for 28 years, during which he sustained the sun damage you can see on the left side of his face through the window of his truck. The disparity between the two sides of his face says it all.
Now that we’ve put the quite frankly ludicrous idea of wearing sun protection only when on holiday or spending a significant amount of time outside to bed, let me add that there is no suncream on this good earth that can protect your skin if you choose to lie out day after day in strong sun. None. So it’s up to you – go for a tan now and be a victim to photoageing (pigmentation, compromised collagen and dry skin? HOT) and potentially cancer (90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and 65 percent of melanomas are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun according to the Skin Cancer Foundation), or invest in a good sun cream and a good fake tan. And a hat.
I know, I know, the topic of SPF is not sexy or glamorous and, let’s face it, the last person who probably banged on about this was your mum, but it is absolutely crucial that you wear it EVERY DAY. Just get in the habit. If you need extra moisture, pop a good antioxidant-rich cream underneath and whack sunscreen on top – the antioxidants will augment the effect of the sunscreen.
Unlike back in the day when your mum probably chased you around the garden with handfuls of sticky goo, the humble suncream has come a long way. Most now act as skincare as well as sun protection, some while masquerading as make-up, others as a body shimmer. Basically, the cosmetics industry has got it covered; all skin types and preferences are catered for. Here are some of my tried and tested favourites (and none of them form bobbles when on the skin – children of the 80s, you’ll understand the aversion to bobbling suncreams).
P.s. A little note on vitamin D. Yes, our body needs the sun to produce it. I have used an SPF every day for the past ten years and was tested for vitamin D during the deep, dark winter from which England has just emerged. I was found to have entirely sufficient vitamin D levels. This is probably because an SPF will never wipe out all the sun’s rays and it is unlikely in any case that you will be able to cover every inch of your body as often as is required to block out all the sun. Also, when considering the vitamin D argument to exposing unprotected skin to the sun, balance this with the research that links too much ultraviolet radiation to a suppressed immune system – while you may be loading up on vitamin D, you may well be compromising your health in other ways.
Best for: PIGMENTATION
An unfortunate side effect of sun damage, pigmentation is. The little splotches of brown gradually join up and leave dark patches all over the skin making it appear mottled. It’s not a good look. While pigmentation can, to some extent, be broken down (but that’s a whole other post), the best way to diminish the appearance of it and prevent future pigmentation is by wearing protection daily. These formulas combine the two – a little skincare to break down pigmentation, a little sun protection to prevent future incidents…
– Murad Essential-C Day Moisture Broad Spectrum SPF 30 PA+++, discounted to £51.30 here. The vitamin C and high PA (Protection Grade of UV) in this is make this one special. Vitamin C doesn’t only suppress pigmentation but also helps the skin to retain moisture and curbs inflammation.
– Institut Esthederm Photo Regul, £55 here. Forget SPF ratings and all that jazz – Institut Esthderm don’t work like that. What they do, in a nutshell, is optimise your skin’s defences to protect itself, including getting a bit of tan, just without the negative side effects. Sound too good to be true? I’ve tested it and can tell you that by following the directions (and, vitally, using the right product for the strength of sun I was under), I emerged from a two week holiday with no burns, a light tan and reduced pigmentation. I already have my tube at the ready for my holiday.
– Rodial X-treme SPF 30 Dark Spot Sun Filter, £45 here. Part of the super acid range, this SPF offers broad spectrum protection while the chromabright™ helps to correct uneven skin tone and prevent further damage. The probiotics in this one also help to strengthen and protect the skin.
Best for: SENSITIVE SKIN
In my recent piece on rosacea, I mentioned that the sun exacerbates the condition. It can, however, be a challenge to find a suncream that protects without irritating the skin. This is also the case for eczema/acne/other skin conditions. While sensitive skin can be extremely hard to treat and each skin responds differently to ingredients, these have been tested on myself and friends with sensitive skin. We’ve all been impressed…
– Jurlique SPF 30+, £40 here. This is a slippy suncream that feels like skincare. It is very moisturising and totally disappears into the skin to leave it soft and protected. No grease. A note on the glass bottle – beautiful/luxe etc, just not made for travelling. Decant if you can’t live without (I can’t).
– Skin Repair Protect Me SPF 30, £17.99 here. Skin Repair focus on restoring a comprised barrier which is, incidentally, the cause of many skin sensitivities and certainly a contributing factor to existing irritations. This SPF is also free from preservatives, emulsifiers, mineral oils and perfumes.
Best for: SPORT
Yah, sporty people, I hear you. You don’t have time during that tennis match to put more SPF on. Fine. But use a high SPF beforehand and don’t be sparing. Here are the high protection ones I like…
– Eve Lom Daily Protection+ SPF 50, £70 here. This new release is not cheap. It makes up for what it lacks in thriftiness in sheer beauty. Right. Let’s disseminate. It covers both UVA and UVB (only UVB filters are a legal requirement). It contains six sorts of sunscreen with no reflective zinc or titanium dioxide (those marrying this summer, this may really be THE ONE). It is infused with skincare ingredients from collagen-boosting niacinamide, smoothing lactic acid and antioxidants and vitamins. It is also a joy to use – softening and quickly absorbed.
– Dermalogica Protection 50 Sport SPF 50, £29.50 here. Very non-greasy, non-comedogenic and enriched with plenty of skin treats (hyaluronic acid = big thumbs up from me, Dermalogica), this is the thing for exposed shoulders and chests. The ‘sport’ in the title pertains to the water-resistance of this one – not an insignificant factor when you’re running around in the sun.
– Sunsense Sun Protection Ultra SPF 50+, £13.64 here. I could barely believe this was such a high SPF when I was applying it. It’s about as lightweight as an SPF can get and very water-resistant. I’ve put this in the sport category for its high factor, but those with sensitive skin, this is also a pretty good buy for your face.
Best for: SKINCARE + SPF
While providing decent sun protection from UVAS and UVBs, these are the ones that day in day out can just be plonked on your skin and left there to protect and infuse with moisture and goodness.
– Perricone MD Photo Plasma SPF 30, £57 here. £57 may seem dear, but this is an extremely good quality moisturiser and SPF in one. It’s a cracker – not only an SPF, but an environmental shield. Not only free of oil but also free of parabens, sulfates and phthalates. Not only hydrating and rich with vitamin C but also packed with Perricone’s signature Ester and Alpha Lipoic Acids to rejuvenate and bolster your skin barrier. I’ve been using this for two months and am currently unable to go a day without wanting to smooth it on.
– Sisley Sunleya Age Minimising Global Sun Care SPF 30, £158 here. Whopping title, whopping price tag, blooming wonderful product. If I could afford to slather my body in this stuff, I really would. It smells like plants (trademark Sisley). If ageing is your concern, this is it for you – Sisley skincare is unbeatable in my opinion at fighting the wilt.
Best for: BODY
I take my face SPF down my neck and décolletage (and wipe any leftovers onto the backs of my hands), but from there down, apply a different SPF where skin is exposed…
– Environ RAD SPF 35, £29.95 from salons and spas. Environ’s original RAD 15 (launched in 1992) is cult. This higher factor is set to be every bit as popular. This milky spritz is rich with vitamins C and E, carotenoids (to help neutralise free radicals) and barley seed extract to provide a boost to skin health.
– Institut Esthederm Bronz Repair Body, £63 here. All the great stuff I said about Institut Esthederm’s face cream can apply to this, minus the pigmentation element. A luxury product that is hard working and restorative.
– Piz Buin Dry Touch SPF 15, £8.50 here. While part of the Which suncream scandal earlier this year, this is still one I like using. I wouldn’t put this on for a long day out in the sun due to the low SPF but the ‘dry’ element of it makes it a good option when I’m nipping out and am concerned about incidental sun damage on my body. It really is touch dry immediately so those of you who dislike any greasiness of skin, this is well worth a try.
Best for: EVENTS
An umbrella term, granted. What I mean by events is any occasion where wearing suncream is a drag because you want to put on a bit more make-up and a nice dress.
– Hawaiian Tropic Shimmer Effect SPF 25, £15 here. This is not a big, glittery shimmer but instead a subtle sheen that would look good on a leg or arm while protecting your skin. Another victim of the Which report, the Skin Cancer Foundation has confirmed that this passes their regulations, which is good enough for me.
– Shu Uemura Under Base Mousse SPF 30, £29 here. I use this mousse before any event. It’s a primer that really effectively locks down any skincare and somehow makes skin feel free of any product. No make-up slippage and no unwanted shine post.
Best for: EXTRAS
When I said I was wild about SPF you probably didn’t realise quite how how I meant – I think it’s well worth using one of the below to cover delicate bits…
– Sisley Sun Stick Solaire SPF 30 Tinted, discounted to £60.75 here. Sisley make two of these puppies – a tinted and untinted. I opted for the former so I could use is as a light bronzer on the go (darker skin tones, this may simply blend into your skin). I always apply this to cheek bones when out in the sun.
– Korres Mandarin Lip Butter Stick in Rose SPF 15, £8 here. It’s easy to forget that your lips, too, are vulnerable to sun damage. Instead of applying a sun cream to them, use a lip balm with an SPF instead. This is the one I turn to.
– Jane Iredale Powder Me SPF 30, £35 here. Very, very, very clever little pot from the Iredale team. This powder can be patted on to dust the skin with the applicator or a brush and provides broad spectrum protection that doesn’t run. Oh, and there’s a mirror on the top of the bottle. Handy.
– Clinique Superdefense Eye Cream SPF 20, £30 here. If suncreams make your eyes water, consider using an eye cream that also provides SPF protection. I haven’t suffered from a watery eyes since I started using this.