Firstly, let’s get a few things straight: yes, you do need to wear sunscreen every day – even in winter. (The Cancer Council recommends sunscreen “on days when the UV Index is forecast to be three or above”, which is pretty much every day if you live in Australia.) Yes, you do need to reapply every two hours to be protected, and you do need to use one whole teaspoon on your face (including your neck and ears). No, the sunscreen in your make-up isn’t enough to protect you (one teaspoon of foundation would be a lot), and no, there’s no such thing as a “safe” tan. And, yes, people with darker skin tones need to wear sunscreen too.
There are a few reasons for this: firstly, there’s the big fat hole in the ozone layer over Australia, which means we have one of highest rates of skin cancer in the world. There’s also the fact that the sun is the number-one cause of accelerated skin ageing, and that damage is accumulative – that is, it doesn’t “reset” after UV exposure. It literally banks up and the damage to your skin cells and can’t be reversed. Convinced yet?
Stepping off the soapbox for just a minute, there’s some good news: sunscreen has come a long way since our mate Sid the Seagull first told us to Slip! Slop! Slap! in 1981. Nowadays there’s a formula to suit every type of skin, so there’s no reason not to make it part of your everyday routine. Here, pharmaceutical scientist and beauty writer Hannah English gives us some pointers for specific skin types.
“Look for calming ingredients and antioxidants, and go for the highest protection possible – stressed skin needs all the protection it can get,” says English. Ingredient-wise, zinc oxide is very calming, but can leave a white cast (it’s a white powder in its raw form), which can make sunscreens with zinc oxide unsuitable for dark skin tones. English also suggests looking at newer, low-allergenic organic filters (which you might know of as “chemical” filters) such as Tinosorb M (biscotrizole) or Tinosorb S (bemotrizinol); Uvinul A Plus (diethylamino hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate), Uvinul T150 (ethylhexyl triazone) and L’Oreal’s patented filters Mexoryl SX (ecamsule) and Mexoryl XL (drometrizole trisiloxane).
“Avoid anything too moisturising or with added oils – oil-free is your friend here,” says English. “And keep your layers of skincare minimal underneath your sunscreen to avoid extra shine – less is more.” On the ingredients list, look for silica (which is great for absorbing oil) and alcohol (which cuts through excess oil in the formula).
English’s picks are: La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Anti-Shine Dry Touch Facial Sunscreen SPF50+ ($29.95), which she says will really keep your skin matte and won’t move after application. She also recommends this as an SPF for eyelids, as it won’t slide into your eyes causing that infamous sunscreen sting.
You want to look for hydrating ingredients such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid and algae extract, as they’ll help retain moisture. “Dry skin is essentially skin that doesn’t retain moisture well, so anything mattifying will rob it of its moisture,” says English. “I would avoid the silica that we love for oily skin, but alcohol should be okay as it’s usually offset in sunscreen by the UV filters, which tend to be quite oily molecules.”
English’s pick: She says Ultra Violette’s Queen Screen SPF50+ Luminising Sun Serum ($47) always makes her skin look bright and moisturised.
Just as you look for skincare ingredients that target anti-ageing concerns, look for DNA repair enzymes and antioxidants (to help fight free-radical damage) in your sunscreen. “UV radiation causes free radical generation in skin, and antioxidants will help offset this so your skin isn’t overwhelmed. They work synergistically with your sunscreen’s UV filters,” says English. Additionally, iron oxides can help defend against blue-light damage from the sun.
English’s pick: “I’m yet to find a state-of-the-art sunscreen in Australia that contains all of the above, so I’d suggest a a great serum or moisturiser under your broad-spectrum 50+ sunscreen to supplement it.” She suggests Niod’s Survival 0 serum ($35) or Dermalogica’s Skin Recovery SPF50 ($108) for a high-coverage moisturiser (just make sure you apply the correct amount).
Okay, this isn’t a skin type, but finding a sunscreen that sits right under make-up – sans pilling or balling, which can turn people off regular sunscreen use – has become a Lord of the Rings-style quest for many. “I tend to match my sunscreen texture to how I want my make-up to look, so if you want to be dewy, go for ingredients suited to dry skin. If you prefer to be matte, go for those suited to oily skin,” advises English. Her other tip? Wait five minutes for the sunscreen to absorb before putting on foundation (this helps avoid pilling).
English’s pick: “The key to all sunscreen is choosing one that you like and that works for you, because at the end of the day the one you want to (and will) wear daily is the best one for you.” A couple of our favourites include: Avène Sunscreen Emulsion Face SPF50+ ($26.95) and Natio Daily Defense Moisturiser SPF50+ ($19.95).